News Center

January 27th, 2011

Commission Picks 9 Nominees

By Nathan Tucker

On Thursday, the State Judicial Nominating Commission has released the names of 9 nominees it has chosen to replace the 3 justices who were voted out of office by voters in November.  The Governor has 30 days to appoint 3 of them to the bench.

Governor Branstad has indicated that he will ask the nominees if they will exercise judicial restraint, and IJW trusts that he will make their responses publicly available.  If a nominee refuses to answer, then, as former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) wrote in his 2000 autobiography Passion for Truth: “In my judgment, the [Governor] should resist, if not refuse to confirm, Supreme Court nominees who refuse to answer questions on fundamental issues.”

The nominees are:

1.  Robert James Blink, West Des Moines, Age 60

■         District Judge (appointed 1995)—Fifth Judicial District
■         J.D., 1975, Drake University
■         Application Summary Resume
■         Personal Data Questionnaire
■         Writing Samples
■         Commission Interview
■         Blink is a registered Republican.
■         REFUSED TO COMPLETE OUR QUESTIONNAIRE.

2.  Arthur E. Gamble, Clive, Age 58

■         District Judge (appointed 1983), Chief Judge (appointed 1995)—Fifth Judicial District
■         J.D., 1978, University of Iowa
■         Application Summary Resume
■         Personal Data Questionnaire
■         Writing Samples
■         Commission Interview
■         He was a 2001 and 2006 finalist for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court.
■         Gamble is a registered Democrat.
■         REFUSED TO COMPLETE OUR QUESTIONNAIRE.

3.  John C. Gray, Sioux City, Age 56

■         Attorney—Heidman Law Firm
■         J.D., 1981, University of Iowa
■         Applicant Summary Resume
■         Personal Data Questionnaire
■         Writing Samples
■         Commission Interview.  In his interview, Gray stated that he was disappointed and shocked by the retention results and the subsequent attacks on the judicial selection process.  He expressed his desire to make “fair” decisions.
■         A registered Democrat, Gray has contributed $250 to former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack’s bid for the Democratic nomination for president, $1,500 to Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell, $250 to Senator Tom Harkin (D), and $970 to the Iowa Democratic Party.  Among many state Democratic candidates he supported, Gray contributed $1,175 to Democratic Governor Chet Culver.
■         REFUSED TO COMPLETE OUR QUESTIONNAIRE.

4.  Steven Verne Lawyer, New Virginia, Age 45

■         Attorney—Law Firm of Steven V. Lawyer & Associates, PLC
■         J.D., 1991, Drake University
■         Applicant Summary Resume
■         Personal Data Questionnaire
■         Writing Samples
■         Commission Interview
■         Though a registered Republican, Lawyer has given $5,400 to Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley, $500 to John Edwards bid for the Democratic nomination for president, and several hundred dollars to the Iowa Trial Lawyer’s Association PAC.
■         REFUSED TO COMPLETE OUR QUESTIONNAIRE.

5.  Edward M. Mansfield, Des Moines, Age 53

■         Iowa Court of Appeals Judge (appointed 2009)
■         J.D., 1982, Yale
■         Applicant Summary Resume
■         Personal Data Questionnaire
■         Writing Samples
■         Commission Interview
■         Though a registered Republican, Mansfield’s wife has donated good and services to Planned Parenthood.
■         Mansfield has partially completed IJW’s questionnaire.

6.  Michael R. Mullins, Washington, Age 58

■         District Judge (appointed 2002)—Eighth Judicial District
■         J.D., 1982, Drake University
■         Applicant Summary Resume
■         Personal Data Questionnaire
■         Writing Samples
■         Commission Interview.  Mullins stated in his interview that he was a man of compassion, perhaps echoing President Obama’s desire for empathy in the courts.
■         Mullins is a registered Republican.
■         REFUSED TO COMPLETE OUR QUESTIONNAIRE.

7.  Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Grinnell, Age 37

■         Professor of Law, University of Iowa
■         J.D., 1997, University of Michigan
■         Applicant Summary Resume
■         Personal Data Questionnaire.  In answering the question of how her appointment would enhance the court, she responded, in part:

“Second, I bring important racial and gender diversity to the court…Judges/justices are neutral decisionmakers; however, they arrive at the table with their own individual experiences, which may influence their approaches to the facts and the law. For this reason, it is important for the court to include both female and racial minority justices.

“Third…I also am the American born daughter of legal immigrants to the United States, and in that respect, the lens through which I may see and approach matters may be more global, a factor that is increasingly becoming more important in a world that is becoming more globally interdependent.”
■         Writing Samples
■         Commission Interview
■         Filled a brief with the Iowa Supreme Court in Varnum v. Brien (2009) supporting homosexual marriage.
■         Wrote a law review article entitled “Representative Government, Representative Court? The Supreme Court as a Representative Body.”
■         She is not currently an attorney licensed in the State of Iowa.
■         Onwuachi-Willig is a registered Democrat.
■         REFUSED TO COMPLETE OUR QUESTIONNAIRE.

8.  Thomas Dana Waterman, Pleasant Valley, Age 51

■         Attorney—Lane & Waterman L.L.P.
■         J.D., 1984, University of Iowa
■         Applicant Summary Resume
■         Personal Data Questionnaire.  In his questionnaire, Waterman wrote that the law cannot remain static.
■         Writing Samples
■         Commission Interview.  During his interview, Waterman said that the retention vote was a shock to the judicial branch.
■         1st batch of letters in support of, or opposition to, Thomas Waterman
■         2nd batch of letters in support of, or opposition to, Thomas Waterman
■         Waterman has previously served on the State Judicial Nominating Commission.
■         He was a finalist in 2008 for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court.
■         A registered Republican, Waterman has given $500 to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R), $250 to Republican Ben Lange’s bid for Congress in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, $450 to former Republican Congressman Jim Leach, $7,500 to Republican Governor Terry Branstad, and $200 to Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack.
■         REFUSED TO COMPLETE OUR QUESTIONNAIRE.

9.  Bruce B. Zager, Waterloo, Age 58

■         District Judge (appointed 1999)—First Judicial District
■         J.D., 1980, Drake University
■         Applicant Summary Resume
■         Personal Data Questionnaire.  In his application, Zager wrote, in part, “I consider myself a progressive thinker…I also have a deep appreciation of the real-world implications of an appellate decision…Most importantly, I also realize that both as a trial judge and as an appellate judge, we are dealing with people’s lives.”
■         Writing Samples
■         Commission Interview
■         He was both a 2008 and a 2009 finalist for a seat on the Iowa Court of Appeals.
■         Zager is a registered Republican.
■         REFUSED TO COMPLETE OUR QUESTIONNAIRE.

Party affiliation was obtained through a search of voting records maintained by the Iowa Secretary of State.  Political contributions were found by searching both Iowa and federal campaign contribution databases.

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About the Author

Nathan W. Tucker
Nathan W. Tucker is a Davenport attorney and author of We The People: The Only Cure to Judicial Activism. He can be contacted at nathanwt@juno.com.




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