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The Other Side of the Ballot: Judge Retention

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Iowa courts are considered among the best in the nation, largely because of the way we appoint our judges. In Iowa, we do not elect our judges. They are appointed by the Governor, who chooses from a list of names given to him by a panel of lawyers and citizens. 

Judges don’t campaign in Iowa, they don’t ask for campaign contributions, and they don’t buy TV ads. Iowa’s system is considered a model because it is not political, and you don’t need to worry whether a judge accepted campaign contributions from a lawyer appearing before him/her in court. 

However, every six years (eight years for Iowa Supreme Court Justices), judges are on the ballot in what is called a retention election. In a retention election, judges do not have opponents. Instead, voters decide whether or not to keep the judge in office. If a judge receives a majority of “yes” votes, the judge will continue to serve. If not, the judge will leave office and the Governor appoints a new judge.

It can be hard to decide what to do about judge retention. Most Iowans don't know much about the judges, and may skip this section of the ballot.  But that can leave the decision to keep or throw out a judge in the hands of a very few people.  There are many available resources to learn more about Iowa’s system for judicial retention, the judges appearing on your ballot, and links to information about each of those judges.

For information about Iowa’s system for judge retention:

A list judges up for retention in 2014 can be found here:  Judicial evaluations conducted by the Iowa Bar Association can be found here: