Iowa Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel visits West


Dani Reitz

Justice Appel explained his daily responsibilities to students.

Georgia Witt, Reporter

On Thursday Oct. 12, West was visited by Iowa Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel. During his visit at West, students were given the opportunity to learn more about the Supreme Court System, and a few were given the opportunity  to ask a few questions.

Justice Brent Appel is a Dubuque native who received his bachelors and masters degree from Stanford University in California. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of California Berkeley a few years later. Following law school, he has served as a court law clerk for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was also appointed as Iowa First Assistant Attorney General, and later in 1983, he became Iowa Deputy Attorney General. He joined the Iowa Supreme Court in 2006, succeeding James H. Carter on the court.

Being apart of the Iowa Supreme Court is very important and has many functions along with it. Besides Appel, the other members of the Court are: Chief Justice Mark Cady, Justice David Wiggins, Justice Daryl Hecht, Justice Thomas Waterman, Justice Edward Mansfield and Justice Bruce Zager. They are all apart of the Iowa Supreme Court, which is the highest court system in the state of Iowa. Any decisions made by them must be followed by any lower courts below them. They are also the ones who approve of rules of practice and procedure throughout the state.

Students brought along questions for Justice Appel, and he answered their questions with certain clarity.

“All of the cases we deal with throughout the year are pretty big. They are picked out from a list of 2000 and narrowed down to a slim 100,” Justice Appel said.

“One case that was pretty big was the landlord tenant case. Some cases, however, have more implications than others. This makes them more complicated than the others and makes them more important,” Appel said.

“It was cool to learn about the different cases that go on. I didn’t know that these certain cases happened, and it was interesting to get a bit of insight on them,” sophomore Andrew Dooley said.

Students were able to learn about the different cases that the Supreme Court deals with on a daily basis. Students were in awe to learn about cases that cause big issues in the court.

“Getting on the Supreme Court is not as difficult as it seems. The judges actually go through a self-nominating process before being selected overall,” Justice Appel said.

Students also listened as Justice Appel told them about the way they select judges to be apart of the Supreme Court. Students were surprised to find out that the selection is based off of self nomination.

“I found it quite interesting to find out how they select judges in a supreme court environment. I didn’t think that they practically chose who was selected to be on the Supreme Court,” sophomore Aaron Lang said.

“Being a lawyer is a necessary thing if you are trying to become a member of the Supreme Court,” Appel said.

You can not become a judge or justice without first becoming a lawyer. There is a process when graduating law school that you must go through before becoming your end result as a justice or judge.

“Speaking with the other justices before the cases is generally not something that we do, and we save all the speaking until after the cases,” Appel said.

“I found it interesting how they did the conferences after each case. I also liked how they chose what they’re going through after each case and how they make the decisions,” sophomore Cheyann Ulman said.

Justice Appel explained how after each case, the justices would meet in a conference room and discuss that day’s case. They would stay in this room until reaching a verdict.

When it comes to disobeying the constitution or the recent controversy with the NFL Justice Appel says that judges should not veer away from following the constitution as it is written.

“When the constitution was written, the founders couldn’t imagine a female as something like a president or even lawyer. Though they stated in the constitution that “he” shall be president, we live in a time where it is more normal to have a female in the governmental system, “ Justice Appel said.

Appel was able to open up and give students a good look at what the life of a judge is like while simultaneously educating students on the court system. Students were able to take away a lot of information that will potentially help them in their government classes.