Candidate Profile
Thomas Waterman

Non-Partisan , Iowa


Thomas Waterman
Supreme Court (retention of Waterman)

Panel Rating

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Selected Contributions


Chuck Grassley (2010), Local, County, and District Republican Organizations (2009), Pat Grassley (2006)







Other Information

Judge Voter Guide gives this candidate a rating of 9 out of 10.

Justice Thomas Waterman was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court by Governor Terry Branstad in 2010. When Governor Branstad appointed Justice Waterman, he said, “My goal was to choose Supreme Court justices…who are most likely to faithfully interpret the laws and Constitution, and respect the separation of powers.” Quad-City times reported that “Waterman had contributed $7,500 to Branstad's 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Waterman gave the money before there were any vacancies on the bench."

Justice Waterman joined a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court in Good v. Iowa Department of Human Services (2019): “In 2007, the Iowa legislature amended…the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA)—to add 'gender identity' to the list of protected characteristics…We must now determine whether the language of Iowa Administrative Code rule 441—78.1(4) pertaining to the prohibition of Iowa Medicaid coverage of surgical procedures related to ‘gender identity disorders’ violates the ICRA or the Iowa Constitution…we affirm the judgment of the district court because the rule violates the ICRA’s prohibition against gender-identity discrimination. Because of this, we adhere to the doctrine of constitutional avoidance and do not address the constitutional claim.”

Justice Waterman wrote the Iowa Supreme Court’s majority opinion in AFSCME Iowa Council 61 v. State (2019): “[This case] presents constitutional challenges to the 2017 amendments to the Public Employment Relations Act, Iowa Code chapter 20. The amendments…result in many public employees losing significant statutory bargaining rights compared to other public employees with arguably similar jobs… The plaintiffs allege the amendments violate the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution and violate their right to freedom of association…We conclude the 2017 amendments withstand the constitutional challenges.” Justices Cady, Wiggins, and Appel dissented.

Justice Waterman joined a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Iowa Board of Medicine (2015). The Court wrote, “In 2013, the Iowa Board of Medicine passed a rule establishing standards of practice for physicians who prescribe or administer abortion-inducing drugs. These standards require the physician to personally perform a physical examination and to be physically present when the abortion-inducing drug is provided…the Board’s rule violates the controlling ‘undue burden’ test announced by the United States Supreme Court [in Planned Parenthood v. Casey].”

Justice Waterman dissented in Planned Parenthood v. Reynolds (2015). The majority of the Iowa Supreme Court said, “we must decide if the constitutional right of women to choose to terminate a pregnancy is unreasonably restricted by a statute that prohibits the exercise of the right for a period of seventy-two hours after going to a doctor…In carefully considering the case, we conclude the statute enacted by our legislature, while intended as a reasonable regulation, violates both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution because its restrictions on women are not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest of the State.” Justice joined the dissent, which said, “After considering the text, original meaning, and subsequent interpretation of the constitutional provisions at issue, the record in this case, the district court’s carefully written decision, and abortion cases from around the country, I conclude that the waiting period in Senate File 471 does not violate either article I, section 9 or article I, section 6 of the Iowa Constitution.”

Justice Waterman joined the Court majority in Nelson v. Knight (2013): “Can a male employer terminate a long-time female employee because the employer’s wife, due to no fault of the employee, is concerned about the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employee?...For the reasons stated herein, we ultimately conclude the conduct does not amount to unlawful sex discrimination in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act… when an employer takes an adverse employment action against a person or persons because of a gender-specific characteristic, that can violate the civil rights laws. The record in this case, however, does not support such an allegation.”

Justice Waterman joined the Court majority in Griffin v. Pate (2016), which said, “This appeal requires us to decide if the crime of delivery of a controlled substance is an ‘infamous crime’…The district court held the crime is an infamous crime, and a conviction thereof disqualifies persons from voting in Iowa…The term ‘infamous crime’ was generally recognized to include felony crimes at the time our constitution was adopted. This meaning has not sufficiently changed or evolved to give rise to a different meaning today.” Justices Wiggins, Hecht, and Appel dissented.

Justice Waterman dissented in State v. Lyle (2014). The Court majority said, “[W]e hold a statute mandating a sentence of incarceration in a prison for juvenile offenders with no opportunity for parole until a minimum period of time has been served is unconstitutional under article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution.” Justice Zager wrote in his dissent, “I do not believe a seven-year mandatory minimum sentence imposed on an individual who was a juvenile at the time the offense was committed is cruel and unusual punishment under either the Federal or our Iowa Constitution.” Justice Waterman agreed fully with Justice Zager’s dissent and wrote a separate dissent offering several other reasons that he disagreed with the Court majority.


Please note: Responses are entered electronically by the candidate and are listed verbatim.

Religious Liberty

Religious liberty is at risk in the United States and deserves the highest level of protection in the law.

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The Ten Commandments should not be displayed in public school buildings or court houses.

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What does "separation of church and state" mean to you?

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Judeo-Christian values established a framework of morality which is necessary for our system of limited government.

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George Washington's comment that “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society” is still true today.

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Briefly describe your spiritual beliefs and values.

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In light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County, which justice’s opinion most closely aligns with your opinion of whether the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be extended to the LGBTQ community?

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What types of pro bono work have you done?

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I voted in these primaries and general elections:

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When you consider your views on a wide range of issues from economic and social matters to foreign policy and immigration, which of the following best describes you overall?

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Please provide publicly available information validating your answer to the previous question.

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What education or experience qualifies you to hold the office for which you seek election?

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In what areas of law have you practiced?

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Have you ever been convicted of a felony or been penalized for sexual misconduct? If so, please explain.

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Why should the voters choose you?

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Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

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Judicial Philosophy

The U.S. Constitution and my state constitution should be interpreted as living documents, rather than using a strict constructionist or originalist approach in judicial decisions.

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There are times when American judges should alter U.S. case law in order to comply with foreign case law.

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Which current U.S. Supreme Court justice best reflects your judicial philosophy?

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What is the proper use of legislative history in interpreting statutory law?

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What possibilities should a judge exhaust before departing from precedent?

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How should a judge determine which rights are protected by the Constitution even though they are not specifically mentioned?

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Work & Military
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