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April 29th, 2011

Merit Another Chance?

By Nathan Tucker

Twenty-six lawyers applied for the seat on the Iowa Court of Appeals vacated by Edward Mansfield when Governor Branstad recently appointed him to the Iowa Supreme Court. Of those, all but seven had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court following the unprecedented removal of three siting justices in November’s election. Their application material can still be found on the Iowa Judicial Branch’s website.

Of those reapplying, only Judge Mullins had been one of the nine nominees forwarded to the Governor by the State Judicial Nominating Commission. Despite the fact that they undisputedly “merited” another chance, none of the other five nominees passed over by the Governor in February decided to try their luck another time.

Eight of the twenty-six applicants had applied for an appellate judgeship before this year, six of which had applied on multiple occasions with varying degrees of success. Yet another applicant, Craig Ament, also has a pending nomination for the trial court judgeship in the 1st Judicial District vacated by Bruce Zager when he was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court by Governor Branstad.

The Commission will interview the applicants on May 9th and 10th in the Supreme Court Courtroom on the 4th floor of the Iowa Judicial Branch Building. Though the interviews are open to the public, it appears that they will not be live-streamed over the Internet as they were in January.

Immediately after the interviews have concluded, the Commission will select three nominees to forward to the Governor, who will then have thirty days to appoint one as the new judge. Comments must be submitted to the State Court Administrator, who serves as the commission secretary, by May 6, 2011. Comments may be e-mailed to SupCtNom@iowacourts.gov.

The names and a short description of the applicants can be found below:

1. Craig Charles Ament, Cedar Falls, Age 55
• Attorney—Ament Law Firm
• J.D., 1980, University of Iowa
• Though a registered Republican, Ament has contributed $100 to Democratic Iowa House candidate David Odekirk.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January and has a pending nomination for the trial court judgeship in the 1st Judicial District vacated by Bruce Zager when he was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court by Governor Branstad.

2. Steven August Berger, Bettendorf, Age 51
• Attorney— Wehr, Berger, Lane and Stevens
• J.D., 1985, University of Iowa
• Berger has given has given $250 to Democratic Governor Chet Culver, $400 to Dollars for Democrats, $250 to Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, and $400 to the Iowa Democratic Party.

3. John William Bernau, Manchester, Age 48
• Delaware County Attorney
• J.D., 1990, University of Iowa
• Bernau is a registered Republican.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January.

4. Nathan Alden Callahan, Cedar Falls, Age 58
• District Associate Judge (appointed 2000)—First District
• J.D., 1984, Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark College
• Callahan is a registered Democrat.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January.

5. Susan Christensen, Harlan, Age 49
• District Associate Judge (appointed 2007)—Fourth Judicial District
• J.D., 1991, Creighton University
• She had applied for an appellate judgeship in October of 2006, but was not one of the finalists selected by the Commission.

6. George F. Davison, Jr., Des Moines, Age 60
• Attorney—Davison Law
• J.D., 1979, Drake University
• Though a registered Republican, Davison has given $500 to Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley, $50 Democratic Governor Chet Culver, $50 to Democratic state representative Eric Palmer, and $100 to the Iowa Bar Association’s PAC.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January. He had also applied for an appellate judgeship in March of 2010, August of 2009, February, May, July, and December of 2008, and October of 2006. The Commission has yet to deem him merited enough to select him as a finalist, though the ninth time may be the charm.

7. Diane Linda Dornburg, Urbandale, Age 59
• Attorney—Carney and Appleby, PLC
• J.D., 1976, University of Michigan
• Dornburg is a registered Democrat.
• She had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January.

8. Thomas James Duff, Des Moines, Age 47
• Attorney—Duff Law Firm, P.L.C.
• J.D., 1988, Drake University
• Duff was a former president of the Iowa Trial Lawyer’s Association.
• A registered Democrat, Duff has contributed $2,000 to Democratic Senate Candidate Roxanne Conlin, $3,500 to Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley, $500 to the Iowa Democratic Party, $100 to Republican Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen, and $200 to Republican state representative Thomas Sands. Duff has also donated to Planned Parenthood of Iowa.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January.

9. Sharon Soorholtz Greer, Marshalltown, Age 55
• Attorney—Cartwright, Druker & Ryden, Marshalltown
• J.D., 1982, University of Iowa
• Greer has given $750 to Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley.

10. David James Hanson, Fayette, Age 49
• Attorney—Hoffmeyer & Hanson PC
• J.D., 1987, Drake University
• A registered Republican, Hanson has given $606 to Republican senate candidate Bill Salier, $200 to Republican House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, $100 to Republican state senator Bill Dix, and $100 to the Iowa Family PAC.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January.

11. Peter Christopher Hart, Emmetsburg, Age 58
• Palo Alto County Attorney
• J.D., 1979, DePaul University
• Hart is the former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party Platform Committee and former co-chair of the Palo Alto County Democratic Central Committee.
• Hart is a registered Democrat who has given $95 to the Palo Alto County Democratic Central Committee and $25 to the Iowa Democratic Party.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January.

12. Patrick J. Hopkins, Urbandale, Age 60
• Attorney—Hopkins Law Office, P.L.C.
• J.D., 1975, Creighton University

13. Michael Ray Keller, Des Moines, Age 50
• Attorney—Schott Mauss & Associates, PC
• J.D., 1987, University of Virginia
• Keller, who is in a gay marriage, wrote a 2009 Des Moines Register op-ed that praised the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision in Varnum v. Brien (2009).
• Though his party affiliation is unknown, Keller has given $250 to Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell, $500 to Democratic senate candidate roxanne Conlin, $200 to Democrat Governor Chet Culver, $250 to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (D), and $285 to the Iowa Democratic Party.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January.

14. Bruce Kempkes, Earlham, Age 55
• Assistant Attorney General
• J.D., 1980, University of Iowa
• Kempkes is a registered Democrat.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January. He was a finalist in 2006 for a position on the Iowa Court of Appeals, but has yet to be selected again despite having applied in February, May, July, and December of 2008, August of 2009, and March of 2010.

15. David L. Leitner, Johnston, Age 54
• Attorney—Leitner Law Office
• J.D., 1979, University of Iowa
• Leitner is a registered Democrat.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January.

16. Kellyann M. Lekar, Waterloo, Age 43
• District Judge (appointed 2005)—First Judicial District
• J.D., 1993, University of Iowa

17. Don Richard McGuire Jr., Algona, Age 52
• General Counsel—Pharmacists Mutual Insurance Company
• J.D., 1993, University of Indiana
• McGuire is a registered Republican.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January.

18. James Paul Moriarty, Cedar Rapids, Age, 55
• Attorney—James P. Moriarty, PC
• J.D., 1982, Suffolk University
• Moriarty is a registered Democrat.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January, but later withdrew his name from consideration.

19. Michael R. Mullins, Washington, Age 58
• District Judge (appointed 2002)—Eighth Judicial District
• J.D., 1982, Drake University
• Mullins is a registered Republican.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January and was selected by the Commission as one of the nine finalists. He was also a finalist for the Iowa Court of Appeals in both 2009 and in a 2010. He had also applied for the Supreme Court in February of 2008, but was not chosen as a finalist.

20. Iris J. Post, Des Moines, Age 54
• Attorney—Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, P.C.
• J.D., 1980, University of Iowa
• Post is a registered Democrat.
• She had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January.

21. Elisabeth S. Reynoldson, Osceola, Age 43
• Assistant Attorney General
• J.D., 1992, University of Iowa
• Reynoldson has previously served on the State Judicial Nominating Commission and the local nominating commission in Judicial District 5B.
• A registered Independent, Reynoldson has given $200 to the Iowa Republican Party.
• She had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January. Though never selected as a finalist, she had also applied for an appellate judgeship in October of 2006, May, July, and December of 2008, and August of 2009.

22. Frank Cal Tenuta, Sioux City, Age 51
• Managing Attorney, Iowa Legal Aid
• J.D., 1985, University of Minnesota
• A registered Democrat, Tenuta has given $110 to Democratic Iowa senate candidate Rick Mullin.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January. Though never selected as a finalist, he had also applied for an appellate judgeship in October of 2006, May, July, and December of 2008, and August of 2009.

23. Greta Truman, Waukee, Age 40
• Assistant State Public Defender
• J.D., 1996, University of Iowa

24. Janece Valentine, Fort Dodge, Age 43
• Attorney—Valentine Law Office, P.C.
• J.D., 1992, University of Iowa
• Valentine has given $3,000 to Congressman Braley and several thousand dollars to the Iowa Trial Lawyer Association’s Political Action Committee.
• She had twice applied for a position on the Iowa Court of Appeals in 2008 and both times was selected as a finalist.

25. Jeanie Kunkle Vaudt, West Des Moines, Age 56
• Assistant Attorney General
• J.D., 1991, Drake University
• Though a registered Republican, Vaudt has given $50 to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (D).
• She had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January. She had also applied for a position on the Iowa Court of Appeals in February 2008.

26. ConGarry D. Williams, West Des Moines, Age 44
• Assistant Public Defender
• J.D., 2000, Drake University
• A registered Democrat, Williams has given $50 to Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack.
• He had applied for a position on the Iowa Supreme Court in January.

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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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