Federal lawsuit tries to stop gender requirements on committee selecting judicial nominees

Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 8:50 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - An Iowa City man and a woman from western Iowa are suing over gender-based restrictions to serve on the State Judicial Nominating Commission.

The commission helps pick judges to serve on the Iowa Court of Appeals and the Iowa Supreme Court. Iowa law requires lawyers to vote for a man and woman in each congressional district.

This lawsuit, which a California-based libertarian law firm helped file, claims those gender requirements violate the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.

“Gender balancing is not an important government interest that can sustain a gender classification under the Equal Protection Clause,” the lawsuit states.

Wen Fa, who is a senior attorney for the California-based firm called the Pacific Legal Foundation, said in an interview on Thursday he believes gender requirements limit opportunities for people to participate in public life.

“This is a clear example of how a fixation with gender balance and the imposition of gender quotas limit individual opportunities,” he said.

The lawsuit also asks a federal judge to stop a state court administrator from enforcing the gender requirement along with expenses like attorney fees.

Micah Broekemeier, who lives in Iowa City, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He said he was surprised he couldn’t become a candidate to get on the board because he was a man and the first congressional district needed a woman.

“You’d like to think in this day of age that were not going to have laws precluding somebody from a position on gender along regardless of qualifications,” Broekemeier said. “And so like I said more shock.”

The other plaintiff in the case is a woman from Correctionville in Woodbury County. She couldn’t become a candidate for the board because the fourth congressional district needed a man to fill the opening.

In 2009, a new state law required all political subdivisions of the slate to be gender-balanced in their appointments to municipal commissions, committees, boards and councils. The law went into effect in 2012

Tiffany O’Donnell, who is the chief executive officer with Women Lead Change, said she believes many boards aren’t following those laws. She said those laws might have to be reviewed to see their consequences over the past 10 years.

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