Could an Iowan soon sit on the nation’s highest court?

By: Administrator on February 15th, 2016

By Ryan Koopmans

I join the the legal community and the country in mourning the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia.  I applied to law school because I thought it’d help me get a job as a Wall Street banker; I decided to become a lawyer, in large part, because of Justice Scalia.  If you read just a little bit of the coverage of his death, you’ll see that he had that effect on hundreds and possibly thousands.  And those are just the students and lawyers who observed him from afar and read his opinions.  He had a more profound effect on those who knew him (even the ones who disagreed with him).  Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein had this to say:

Antonin Scalia was witty, warm, funny, and full of life. He was not only one of the most important justices in the nation’s history; he was also among the greatest. With Oliver Wendell Holmes and Robert Jackson, he counts as one of the court’s three best writers. Who else would say, in a complex case involving the meaning of a statute, that Congress does not “hide elephants in mouseholes”?

But his greatness does not lie solely in his way with words. Nor does it have anything to do with conventional divisions between liberals and conservatives (or abortion, or same-sex marriage). Instead it lies in his abiding commitment to one ideal above any other: the rule of law. . . . 

Volumes can and will be written about Scalia’s approach to the law. Even those of us who disagreed with him (as I often did, sometimes intensely) owe him an immense debt, because the clarity and power of his arguments forced us to do better.

But most of all, I mourn his loss as a person.

Those kinds of tributes are pouring in and will likely continue for weeks and months.

At the same time, the country is wondering who will replace Justice Scalia and when it will happen.  The who obviously depends, to some extent, on the when: before or after the presidential election? 

An interesting tidbit, that some might miss, is that regardless of the answer–regardless of when and regardless of which party controls the presidency–it’s likely that an Iowan will be on the list of potential nominees.  

Already, dozens of articles are listing Judge Jane Kelly as a potential Obama shortlister.  (Here’s one example, and another, and another.)  But if the appointment isn’t made until after the election, and if a Republican is doing the appointing, then those same prognosticators will almost certainly be putting another Iowan on the list: Judge Steven Colloton.  Indeed, that already happened during the last election when the discussion turned to likely Romney nominees.

So it’s possible that the next Supreme Court nominee could be an Iowan.  And what better time than when there’s an Iowan at the helm of the Senate Judiciary Committee.   

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On Brief

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On Brief is devoted to appellate litigation, with a focus on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
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