University of Denver

IAALS Remembers Chief Justice Mark Cady, Champion of Judicial Independence and Family Justice Reform

Executive Director
Director of Special Projects

We at IAALS are among the many saddened by the untimely passing last week of Mark Cady, Iowa’s Chief Justice. He had served as a judge for some 33 years—on Iowa’s district court from 1986–1994, on the state court of appeals from 1994–1998, and then on Iowa’s Supreme Court, where he became Chief Justice in 2011.

Chief Justice Cady impressed all who knew him with his commitment to fair justice and the rule of law, his soft-spoken manner, and his fundamental kindness and decency. His jurisprudence had national impact in the areas of marriage equality, family law, juvenile justice, and criminal law.  Among state chief justices, he was a model and a leader, as reflected by his serving on the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) Board of Directors, as chair of the Family Justice Initiative, and this past year as CCJ’s President. He and Scott became friends by working together on the CCJ Board and other projects.

IAALS had the good fortune to work with Chief Justice Cady in many ways. At a 2011 IAALS conference, he eloquently defended the importance of judicial independence and civic education and warned of the dangers when judges are unfairly attacked by those disagreeing with particular decisions. In 2018, he supported an IAALS partnership with the Iowa Judicial Branch to hold a user-focused design sprint workshop in Des Moines, to engage court users in conversations and ideas around family justice reform.  And it was under his vision and leadership that the CCJ Committee on Courts, Children and Families undertook the comprehensive, national Family Justice Initiative project to improve our nation’s state family courts.   

Chief Justice Cady worked tirelessly to improve justice for people in Iowa and across our nation.  He was an exemplary judge and human being, and we are privileged to have known him.