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As sole Iowa Supreme Court justice appointed by a Democrat retires, here are the candidates to replace him

Justice Brent Appel will retire from the Iowa Supreme Court on Wednesday, July 13 after reaching the court's mandatory retirement age of 72.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The sole Democrat-appointed justice on the Iowa Supreme Court will retire in mid-July after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 72.

Justice Brent Appel was first appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court by Gov. Tom Vilsack in 2006. He retires on Wednesday, July 13.

Appel's retirement means Gov. Kim Reynolds will appoint her fifth justice to the high court, ultimately creating a court comprised solely of Republican-appointed justices.

This week, the Iowa Judicial Branch released the names of the five people who are hoping to fill this seat:

  • Patrick Tott, Chief District Court Judge, Third Judicial District, Sioux City
  • Timothy Gartin, Attorney, Hastings, Gartin & Boettger LLP, Ames
  • William Miller, Attorney, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Des Moines
  • Alan Heavens, District Court Judge, First Judicial District, Garnavillo
  • David May, Judge, Iowa Court of Appeals, Polk City

Appel's retirement comes as the Iowa Supreme Court recently reversed a decision from just four years ago that guaranteed the right to abortion under the Iowa Constitution. The decison clears the way for lawmakers to severely limit or even ban abortion in the state. 

The court, now composed almost entirely of Republican appointees, concluded that a less conservative court wrongly decided that abortion is among the fundamental privacy rights guaranteed by the Iowa Constitution and federal law.

This was a 5-2 decision, with Appel writing the dissenting opinion saying, "the right to reproductive autonomy should not be eviscerated by narrow textualism.” 

The State Judicial Nominating Commission will interview the five applicants hoping to replace Appel starting next week. From there, the commission will select a slate of three nominees and forward them to Reynolds. 

She will have 30 days to appoint the new justice. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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