Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) appointed attorney Dana Oxley to the Iowa Supreme Court on January 28, 2020. Oxley succeeded Chief Justice Mark Cady, who died of a heart attack on November 15, 2019. Oxley was Gov. Reynolds’ third nominee to the seven-member supreme court.
Oxley is an attorney with Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.L.C. in Cedar Rapids and an adjunct law professor at the University of Iowa College of Law. She previously served as a law clerk for Judge David R. Hansen on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.
Oxley obtained a B.A. in accounting from the University of Northern Iowa in 1990. She earned a J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law, where she was Order of the Coif, in 1998. During her legal studies, Oxley was a member of the Journal of Corporation Law, serving as an articles editor from 1997 to 1998.
Selection of state supreme court justices in Iowa occurs through gubernatorial appointment with input from the state Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC). Within 60 days of receiving notice of the vacancy from the secretary of state, the commission submits the names of three nominees to the governor, who appoints one nominee to the court. Newly appointed judges serve for one year. They must run in a yes-no retention election (occurring during the regularly scheduled general election) if they wish to continue serving.
The JNC is a 17-member body that evaluates candidates who apply for a state supreme court vacancy. The group includes one chairperson (the senior associate justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, other than the chief justice), eight lawyers selected by licensed Iowa lawyers, and eight non-lawyers appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Iowa State Senate.
Founded in 1846, the Iowa Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. As of Oxley’s appointment, the court had the following other members:
• Brent Appel – Appointed by Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) in 2006
• Susan Christensen – Appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) in 2018
• Edward Mansfield – Appointed by Gov. Terry E. Branstad (R) in 2011
• Christopher McDonald – Appointed by Gov. Reynolds in 2019
• Thomas Waterman – Appointed by Gov. Branstad in 2011
• David Wiggins – Appointed by Gov. Vilsack in 2003
In 2019, there were 22 supreme court vacancies across 14 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Retirements caused 14 of the vacancies. Two former justices took jobs in the private sector. One vacancy occurred when a justice was elevated to chief justice of the court, one occurred when a chief justice died, and four vacancies occurred when the justices were elevated to federal judicial positions.
In 2020, there have been six supreme court vacancies in five of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements. Gov. Reynolds will appoint a fourth member of the Iowa Supreme Court in 2020 following Justice David Wiggins’ retirement in March.
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Iowa Supreme Court justice vacancy (March 2020)
Iowa Supreme Court
Judicial selection in Iowa
Judges appointed by Kim Reynolds
State supreme court vacancies, 2019
State supreme court vacancies, 2020