2012] IOWA’S ALL-MALE SUPREME COURT 423
In November 2010, voters chose not to retain three Iowa Supreme
Court justices.1 One of these justices was a woman—the only woman serving
on the court at the time.2 Faced with three vacancies on the court, the state
nominating commission submitted nine nominees to the governor for
potential appointment.3 Of those nine applicants, only one was a woman.4
The governor appointed three male nominees to fill the vacancies and,
while the candidates chosen by the governor were doubtlessly well-qualified,
the appointments left Iowa with an entirely male Supreme Court.5 With this
turn of events, Iowa became one of only three states without a female justice
on the state court of last resort.6 Unfortunately, this development was
unsurprising, in light of the fact that only two women in Iowa’s history have
reached the state’s highest court.7
Based on Iowa’s impressive early history of promoting women lawyers,
one would expect women to be represented on the Iowa Supreme Court. In
1869, Iowa became the first state to admit a woman to the bar, a very
progressive notion at the time.8 The next year, Iowa removed the words
“white male” from its statute controlling qualifications to practice law.9 The
University of Iowa College of Law graduated its first female student soon
1. Grant Schulte, Iowans Dismiss Three Justices, DES MOINES REG. (Nov. 3, 2010, 4:26 AM),
2. See infra Part II.A.2.
3. See infra Appendix A.
4. See infra Appendix A.
5. See infra Part II.A.2.
6. 2010 Representation of United States State Court Women Judges, NAT’L ASS’N OF WOMEN
JUDGES, http://www.nawj.org/us_state_court_statistics_2010.asp (last updated May 2, 2010)
(citing THE AMERICAN BENCH: JUDGES OF THE NATION (Marie T. Finn et al. eds., 20th ed.
7. See infra Part II.A.2.
8. RICHARD ACTON & PATRICIA NASSIF ACTON, TO GO FREE: A TREASURY OF IOWA’S LEGAL
HERITAGE 132 (1995).
9. Id. A news article discussing the change noted: “The woman of Iowa soon can be a
lawyer, if she cannot be a voter.” Id. (quoting DAILY IOWA ST. REG., March 5, 1870). Iowa’s
position on women lawyers stood in stark contrast to the national tone. In 1873, the U.S.
Supreme Court affirmed the Illinois Supreme Court’s refusal to grant a woman a license to
practice law. In his concurring opinion, Justice Bradley commented:
The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex
evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life. . . . The harmony, not to
say identity, of interests and views which belong, or should belong, to the family
institution is repugnant to the idea of a woman adopting a distinct and
independent career from that of her husband.
Bradwell v. Illinois, 83 U.S. 130, 141 (1872) (Bradley, J., concurring).