Only all-male state Supreme Court set to get female justice

Only all-male state Supreme Court set to get female justice
© Getty

The only state Supreme Court in the nation with an all-male lineup is about to get a woman on the bench.

An Iowa panel tasked with recommending judicial appointees selected three women as finalists to take over for retiring Supreme Court Justice Bruce Zager. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is set to pick from the finalists within the next month.

Reynolds will choose between Kellyann Lekar, a chief district judge in Waterloo; Susan Christensen, a district judge in Harlan; and Terri Combs, an attorney in West Des Moines.


Iowa’s high court has been completely male since 2010, when voters recalled Chief Justice Marsha Ternus over a 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. Only one other woman had served on the state Supreme Court before Ternus’s time in office.

While women have made inroads in elected offices in states around the country, Iowa has been slower to adapt.

Reynolds, who ascended to the governorship when her predecessor, Terry Branstad (R), left to become President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE’s ambassador to China, is Iowa’s first female governor. Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstPush for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 Ivanka Trump to meet with GOP senators to discuss paid family leave legislation On The Money: Negotiators aiming to reach deal Monday night | Why border talks stalled | Treasury calls reports on dip in tax refunds 'misleading' | Cuomo, Trump to discuss SALT deduction cap MORE (R) is the first woman Iowa has ever elected to Congress.

Women hold about one-fifth of all seats in the House and 23 out of 100 seats in the Senate. There are only six female governors, and women account for about a quarter of the state legislative seats across the country, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

But women have had much more success running for or winning appointment to state Supreme Court seats. Some 120 of the 332 state Supreme Court seats are held by women, according to an analysis from Eric Ostermeier, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota.

Wisconsin has a higher percentage of women on its state bench than any other state; there, six of seven justices are women. A majority of justices in Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland and Vermont are also women, Ostermeier found.