Reynolds appoints campaign donor to judicial commission
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday named a corporate attorney who has donated money to her campaign to a state commission that nominates candidates for positions on the Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa Court of Appeals.
Reynolds named Dan Huitink to the state judicial nominating commission.
Huitink is a lawyer for Vermeer Corp. in Pella and is a former assistant U.S. attorney. His father, Terry Huitink, was an Iowa Court of Appeals justice from 1994 to 2008.
“Watching my father serve on the district court and court of appeals has given me a tremendous respect for Iowa’s independent judiciary,” Huitink said in a statement.
His appointment was made possible by a bill Reynolds signed on Wednesday that gave her the authority to appoint nine commissioners to the 17-member state commission. Lawyers will elect eight.
Previously, the governor and lawyers each chose eight state commission members and the 17th member was the senior justice on the Iowa Supreme Court who wasn’t the chief justice. That was the system established by a constitutional amendment passed in 1962 until Republican lawmakers insisted on changing it this year.
The law removes the justice from the state commission, which means Justice David Wiggins, who was the group’s chairman, is taken off the commission and the members must elect a new leader.
Wiggins will remain on the court. He was appointed by Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack in 2003.
State campaign contribution records indicate that Huitink gave the Reynolds campaign $250 in October of 2017 and another $250 last September. He has also contributed to the Republican Party in his county and gave $500 to Adam Gregg, the current lieutenant governor, during his unsuccessful campaign for attorney general in 2014.
Democrats accused Republicans of trying to stack the courts in their favor with the law that changes the procedure for nominating members to judicial selection committee. The Iowa Supreme Court has rejected Republican-passed abortion and same-sex marriage laws in recent years, angering conservatives.
Iowa is among at least four states where Republican lawmakers moved to lessen the role of attorneys on judicial nominating panels.
The commission nominates finalists for the Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa Court of Appeals and submits them to the governor, who makes the final choice.
Reynolds says Huitink “will best represent the people of Iowa in their judicial selection process.”
Justice Not Politics, a nonpartisan coalition of organizations advocating for a court system free of political influence said Reynolds’ signing the law “has injected politics more directly into our courts than at any time in the last 50 years.”