The Ottumwa Courier

March 16, 2013

Selecting a new judge

Court Calls

JUDGE JOEL D. YATES
submitted

OTTUMWA — w/mug



Court Calls



By



For me, last week was all about merit. During the merit-selection process for a new district associate judge, I helped guide an 18-member joint judicial magistrate commission drawn from Appanoose, Mahaska and Poweshiek counties. We met in Oskaloosa to interview all 11 applicants. Three were selected as finalists from the pool of 11. The three finalists were then re-interviewed by the District 8-A district judges, and Mahaska County Attorney Rose Anne Mefford was unanimously selected. She will begin her duties on April 1.

This was a tremendous experience to investigate the leadership background, professional experience and public-service calling of the candidates. A diverse group of citizen commissioners from the three counties presented probing questions like, “What in your prior experience would allow you to establish a proper courtroom setting for both litigants and attorneys?” The applicants were quizzed about their philosophies of public service and how they would handle difficult situations. My favorite question was, “What in your background qualifies you to make and write juvenile decisions?”

All the applicants for the judgeship had distinguished themselves in civic leadership and are well-regarded in their communities and highly respected by their legal colleagues. In addition to being successful lawyers, each was a unique individual. One is a firefighter, one a high-school sports official, another a college sports official, another a church officer, one was a former French tutor, still another was a bank teller at age 15.

There is no magical formula to becoming a judge. The commission looked for individuals who are outstanding as a lawyer and who are leaders, servants, scholars and who have many experiences in their world outside the legal profession. The state of Iowa can be proud of the talented individuals who stepped forward to be considered for this judicial opening. This opening was created by Gov. Terry Branstand’s recent appointment of Randy S. DeGeest to the district court bench.

Judge Mefford will hold court regularly in Oskaloosa, Montezuma and Centerville and may be assigned to other locations in District 8-A on occasion. She will handle indictable criminal cases, juvenile issues, some magistrate duties, civil disputes of $10,000 or less and mental-impairment and substance-abuse cases.

All Iowans are well served by the merit-selection process we use to select our judges.

Judge Yates, from Sigourney, is a district-court judge and chairs the Poweshiek County Judicial Nominating Commission, in addition to the Keokuk County Judicial Nominating Commission. He may be reached at joel.yates@iowacourts.gov.