Thursday, August 11, 2022

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Civic Skinny

Odd questions for would-be judges.


The 17-member Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission met last week to interview the 22 persons who want to succeed Larry Eisenhauer on the Iowa Court of Appeals. It sent three names to Gov. Terry Branstad, who will pick the judge from among those three. The three are Assistant Attorney General Jeanie Vaudt of West Des Moines, district judge Christopher McDonald of Des Moines, and lawyer Sharon Greer of Marshalltown.

The interviews were streamed live on the Iowa Supreme Court’s website. The questions sometimes made a person wonder what post the applicant was applying for.

Each applicant made an opening statement, then took questions. While citing her credentials and her passion for being on the court, Vaudt noted that her husband, longtime state auditor David Vaudt, had recently taken a job in Connecticut.

“My spouse is now employed 1,600 miles east of here, in Norwalk, Connecticut,” she mentioned. “You may have wondered, ‘Why didn’t she go with him?’ Or, ‘Surely she’s going to follow him at some point.’ There’s a very simple answer to that question….My judicial aspirations are here. I want to be a judge on the Iowa Court of Appeals. I am happy to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to ensure that I can perform my duties in an exceptional manner.”

Which prompted a bizarre — there’s no other word for it — question from Commission Member Scott Bailey of Otley:

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“Did you make [marriage] covenant vows with your husband that you feel you’ve kept or that you’re breaking?”

And when lawyer Jennifer Miller of Springville appeared, she noted that as a new Iowan she didn’t immediately complete her application to join the Iowa bar. She said that at the time her husband was sick, her son was in the hospital and she was caring for an elderly mother-in-law.

That prompted a question from Des Moines lawyer Connie Diekeman: “How do you equate your juggling (of personal issues) skills with…being appointed to the court?”

Another Des Moines lawyer doubts anyone would ever ask a man that question.

Elizabeth Doll of Council Bluffs also had a — well, bizarre — question for Miller: “I wonder if you would comment on your methodology in choosing a place of worship.”

If the questions were aimed at determining whether Vaudt and Miller had the required judicial temperament, both passed the test. …

Department of coincidences: On Wednesday, Aug. 14, Cityview reported that Eric Branstad, the governor’s son, was sued by Associated Anesthesiologists for not paying a medical bill. He ignored the suit and was found guilty by default. He ignored demands for payment. The day after the story ran, Associated Anesthesiologists went to court to report that the bill “has been paid off and satisfied in full.” …

Today’s quiz:

Nancy Brady was an instructor at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy at Camp Dodge. Last year, she wrote an email to the academy director, Arlen Ciechanowski, complaining about a lot of things at the academy, including the actions of assistant director Michael Quinn. In the email, she told Ciechanowski he needed “to grow a pair” (of balls) and deal with “serious issues” at the academy. She later allegedly — she disputes this — made a statement during a private conversation outside the office that was considered to be a threat to Ciechanowski.

Quinn, the assistant director, commented about his sex life when he introduced himself to a class of cadets. He talked about his vasectomy — “I got my nuts cut and have them on ice” — and in discussing techniques of interviewing victims of sexual assault, he asked female cadets (but not male cadets) whether penis-size mattered. And he told Brady that he would “slit her throat” if she didn’t stay away from the front desk.

The quiz: Which person was given a letter of reprimand for the file “in lieu of a suspension without pay.” Which person was suspended and then fired?

Quinn got the letter. Brady got the axe.

The letter to Quinn — written by Ciechanowski almost a year ago, first reported by the Associated Press a few days ago and obtained by Cityview over the weekend — says he violated the department’s affirmative action, anti-discrimination, equal opportunity and violence-free-workplace policies.

But it was Brady, not Quinn, who was punished for a violation of the violence-in-the-workplace policy — because of her disputed off-site comment. Quinn, who concedes the “slit-your-throat” comment, was simply told that a comment like that “is a statement that doesn’t foster an environment of respect and professionalism.”

Brady has filed grievances and complaints with various agencies. A lawsuit could be next. …

Four organizations ended up submitting proposals for a 450-room hotel near the convention center last week. Three are very good, and two of those are very, very good, according to two people who have seen them. “These are big-time, reputable names,” said one of the people. The land has been assembled, state aid legislation has been passed, the county and city seem ready to ante up, so the project probably will happen….

The Des Moines numbers are in for the July TV ratings period. Brian Williams and Scott Pelley are still neck-and-neck at 5:30. Channel 8’s Kevin Cooney holds a comfortable lead over Channel 13’s Dan Winters at 10, though they are virtually tied if you just count viewers in the key demographic of 18 to 49 years old. The same is true of the 6 p.m. news.

Channel 5, which is barely a presence in news, does win with its 11 a.m. news hour, when 6,500 of the market’s 431,000 households tune in. Neither Channel 8 nor Channel 13 has news at that hour, however. …

Skinny joins those mourning Otto Knauth, the smart and kindly retired Register editor and writer who died last week at 97. He loved Iowa, and he loved nature. CV


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