Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Justice David May as her newest Iowa Supreme Court appointment.
May is replacing retiring-Justice Brent Appel, who was appointed in 2006 by Gov. Tom Vilsack. Iowa code requires judges to retire at 72, and Appel hit that mark on July 12.
All of Iowa’s current Supreme Court Justices have now been appointed by Republican governors, with the majority appointed by Kim Reynolds, even though she’s only been in the office since 2017.
May is her fifth appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court. Two others were appointed in 2011 by Gov. Terry Branstad.
“Good justices understand the role of the courts is to interpret and apply the law, not to create or rewrite it. Above all, their loyalty is to the law as it is, not as they want it to be,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said May stood out because of his “commitment to judicial restraint.”
“He understands that in our system of government, laws are made by those who are directly accountable to the people, and as a result judges should respect the democratic process whenever possible,” she said.
May was previously on the Iowa Court of Appeals and was a finalist for a different Supreme Court vacancy in 2020.
He was first appointed by Reynolds to the Iowa Court of Appeals in 2019. There, he authored approximately 300 opinions and voted on more. May was a district judge from 2016-19 who was appointed by Branstad. Before becoming a judge, May worked in Des Moines law firms. He’s handled a mix of civil, criminal and family law cases.
May has said a major challenge facing the courts is perceived politicization, and he said justices should defer to the Legislature whenever they can.
At his announcement, May thanked the governor, the judicial nominating commission, and his family. He called this appointment an honor.
“Our job is to decide legal disputes, we call them cases, when those cases are properly brought before us by the parties,” he said. “And we decide those cases based on the law as it is written, and consistent with our oath to support the constitution of the United States, to support the constitution of the state of Iowa without fear or affection or looking for reward or other personal concerns.”
These are likely pushbacks to the justices who, in 2009, unanimously found the right to same-sex marriage was protected by the Iowa Constitution, and to the late Chief Justice Mark Cady who found the right to abortion was protected in the Iowa Constitution in a 5-2 ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court.
Three of the judges who decided the marriage equality case were voted out in retention elections in 2010.
Special attention is on the Iowa Supreme Court now since the justices ruled Iowa’s Constitution doesn’t guarantee a right to abortion and the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June and sent the question back to the states.
Reynolds and other Iowa Republicans have been clear about wanting to greatly restrict abortion access in Iowa, and even outright ban the procedure. The Iowa Supreme Court will be a key part of whether those attempts go into place.
The Iowa Supreme Court in the past has blocked many restrictive abortion laws from going into effect including a 72-hour waiting period bill, a 24-hour waiting period, and a bill that would ban abortion at six weeks before most women know they’re pregnant.
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