Cedar Rapids Federal Attorney Recommended for Federal Judgeship

By James Q. Lynch, Reporter

A group of about 300 joggers and walkers head south of 29th Street NE on the Cedar River Trail at the start of the "take back the trail" event Wednesday, June 29, 2005. The event marked the one-year anniversary of when Jane Kelly of Cedar Rapids was brutally attacked near the same site on the trail. Kelly led the group.


By Liz Blood

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A federal defender in the U.S. Attorney's Office who was the victim of a mugging on a Cedar Rapids running trail eight years ago has been recommended for a federal judgeship.

Jane Kelly, a federal defender in the Northern District of Iowa, is one of two people Sen. Tom Harkin has recommended to President Obama to fill a vacancy for a circuit judge on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mary Tabor, a judge on the Iowa Court of Appeals, is Harkin’s other recommendation to succeed Judge Michael Melloy, who has notified the president Obama he intends to retire from regular service Jan. 30.

Harkin said he recommended Tabor and Kelly after consulting with members of the Iowa bar and the community and interviewing a number of highly-qualified candidates.

“I am confident that Ms. Tabor and Ms. Kelly are the most qualified based on their character, experiences and expertise,” he said.

“Federal judges play a crucial role in our judicial system, ensuring the rule of law, promoting justice, and protecting critical constitutional values,” Harkin said.

Tabor, who grew up in Maquoketa, has served as an Iowa appeal court judge since May 2010. From 1993 until 2010, she worked in the Criminal Appeals Bureau of the Iowa Department of Justice, the last 10 years as the Appeals Division’s director. She supervised an office that opened nearly 800 new cases each year and filed about 375 briefs annually, including both state direct appeals and federal habeas cases. Tabor also represented the state in defending the constitutionality of numerous statutes.

Kelly, who grew up in Greencastle, Ind., worked as a law clerk on both the U.S. District Court of South Dakota and on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Since 1994, she has served as a federal defender in the Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids. She has spent her career working on behalf of the most underprivileged persons in society and fought tirelessly to ensure the rights of all Iowans were protected, Harkin said. Kelly has a reputation as an extremely talented lawyer with a great sense of compassion and fairness.

In June 2004, while jogging on the Cedar River Trail in Cedar Rapids, Kelly was attacked by a man and dragged into a nearby creek. Two walkers found her and called police.

Kelly did not recognize her attacker and police have not made an arrest.

Whoever is nominated and confirmed by the Senate will replace Melloy. He was appointed to the appellate bench by President George W. Bush in 2002.

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