"Judges are not politicians who can promise to do certain things in exchange for votes."

Chief Justice John Roberts
U.S. Supreme Court

Iowa's Merit Selection System

Iowa's judges are considered fair and impartial. The key reason is our merit
system for the selection of judges which:

  • Emphasizes the selection of judges based upon their professional qualifications

  • Gives voters the final say about who serves as a judge - through the retention election process

  • Has been proven to be the most effective way to ensure that a state has fair and impartial courts

Fair and Impartial

The merit selection system involves a nonpartisan commission that reviews the qualifications of applicants for judicial office. The commission is comprised of an equal number of lawyers and non-lawyers, with the senior judge in the district serving as the chair. Applicants provide the commission with extensive information about their education, professional career, and qualifications. In addition, the commission conducts background investigations and interviews all the candidates. Once the commission screens and interviews applicants, it forwards a slate of nominees to the governor.

The governor appoints supreme court justices, court of appeals judges and district judges. The district judges appoint associate judges for a judicial district.

We are fortunate in Iowa that our merit system has produced some of the most fair and impartial judges in the country.   To keep it that way - Iowans need to be informed voters in the retention process.

Iowa's Fair and Impartial Courts
Fair and impartial judges help ensure that you will get a fair hearing on your issue regardless of your financial status, your gender, your ethnic background, or your political affiliation and contributions. Having a fair and impartial system means judges rule on cases based on the state's constitution and laws, not on their personal biases or beliefs.

Iowa's Supreme Court has long been a leader in making fair and impartial landmark decisions. In 1868, for example, Iowa's Supreme Court ruled that Iowa's Constitution guarantees the right of public education to all citizens regardless of their color in the landmark case Clark v. Board of Education. The court's ruling preceded the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education by 86 years.

Expectations of our Courts

  • A judge is expected to make a decision only after hearing all the evidence, arguments and facts.

  • Examine the facts and apply the law in a fair and impartial manner.

  • We expect that when we bring our disputes to court, they will be heard.

  • We expect our courts and judges to be free of political influence when making decisions.

  • We expect our courts and judges to make decisions on the facts and merits of the case not based on public opinion.

  • We expect our courts to be accountable to the constitution.

  • These expectations provides for a fair and impartial review of our disputes.