Tuesday, March 6, 2001

On his way out, he gets one last perk - chairing the District 3A commission meeting March 7 that will screen applicants to pick two nominees. Straub then forwards the two names to Governor Vilsack who is authorized to appoint one of the two as his replacement. Judge Straub enjoys a heavy hand in the process of choosing his replacement.

In the last six years this commission has met twice before to nominate judicial candidates in NW Iowa. Both times the commission was asked to open their closed door meetings in the spirit of the open meetings law. They refused then and are refusing again this time. (There is little governing law over these commissions and it is something the legislature needs to look into.)

But it gets worse. The previous commissions released the names of all the applicants to the media well in advance of their vote, as well they should. This allowed the public an opportunity to lobby their local commission member(s) for or against any applicant they desired.

This time the commission, with Straub at the helm, has decided not to release the names of the applicants until after the vote. In commission rules adopted recently they state that "letters of recommendation to all the Commissioners will be welcome." Yet in the same breath they refuse to inform the public who the applicants are until after the vote is over.

How can we send a letter of recommendation prior to the vote, if the commission won't tell the public who has applied until after the vote?

Is it any wonder the public looks to the courts with ever-increasing mistrust?


Paul R. Dorr