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In Memoriam Chief Justice Cady

Chief Justice Mark Cady

headshot of chief justice mark cadyThe Iowa Judicial Branch is saddened to report that Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady has passed away. He was a wonderful individual and exceptional judge, respected and beloved by his fellow jurists. His passing is a great loss to the court and the state he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife Becky and his family.

Chief Justice Cady, Ft. Dodge, was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1998.  The members of the court selected him as chief justice in 2011.

For information on Chief Justice Cady's Celebration of Life go to Celebration of Life Arrangements Announced for Chief Justice Cady 

For more information on Chief Justice Cady’s career, go to Iowa Judicial Branch Mourns the Passing of Chief Justice Cady.

Statements from the Supreme Court Regarding the Death of Chief Justice Mark Cady

picture of supreme court bench with a black banner in front of late chief justice mark cady's seatChief Justice Cady was my very good friend as well as colleague and I am deeply saddened by his passing. It was an honor to serve on the supreme court with him for 16 years and, during his eight years as chief justice, he led the court with a clear vision and one overriding goal: to be the best court system in the country. His dedication to the judicial branch and true caring for all of its people could be seen in the courthouses I visited and the staff I spoke to around the state. He is one of the giants and leaves a lasting legacy of honor, integrity, and kindness. I will miss him greatly.

Justice David Wiggins

I am truly devastated by our loss of Chief Justice Cady. I’m devastated for his family, for the court, for the entire judicial branch, and for the people of Iowa. Mark had all the qualities you would want in a Chief Justice. He had an outstanding legal mind, he was a strong leader who led by example, he was deliberative in all his decisions, and he loved the Iowa Judicial Branch.  As a friend, he was compassionate, warm, and very personable. We may have disagreed on some cases, but he encouraged collaboration, and deeply valued collegiality. He was respected not just in Iowa, but he was recognized nationally for his work as Iowa’s chief justice.

Justice Brent Appel

I am shaken and profoundly saddened by the death of Chief Justice Mark Cady.  He led our Judicial Branch with an infectious missionary zeal to be the best we can be.  To that end he gave his last full measure of devotion.  I will miss his gentle, caring manner, his eloquence, his words of wisdom.  He brought our supreme court to the people we serve throughout Iowa.  And he brought his Iowa-nice values to lead the chief justices of every other state.  His legacy inspires us.

Justice Thomas Waterman

I owe my career as a judge to Chief Justice Cady.  About 20 years ago, when he was relatively new to the supreme court and I was relatively new to the state, he and my former spouse struck up a conversation at an event.  I then got to meet him and he encouraged me in the process of applying and reapplying in the face of rejection until things lined up just right and I was appointed to the court of appeals in 2009.  I cherish my adopted state and cherish him for thinking I might be someone who could serve it.

Chief Justice Cady was the most careful decisionmaker during our time together on the court.  He pondered every case, often being the last to cast his vote.  When you circulated a draft opinion, he would typically question you about it at conference and make you explain it further.  This would often lead to a rewrite.  The final product was better.

Chief Justice Cady cared only about achieving greater justice in our state.  He didn’t mind who got the credit – in fact, he wanted the credit dispersed among everyone in the judiciary.  He was relentless, though, and if you didn’t share his vision he kept trying.  He had a way of appealing to basic principles of justice that I think has caught on in the court’s opinions generally.  “Oftentimes,” he wrote, “it is important that the spirit of the law not be lost in the application of the law.”

For Chief Justice Cady, it was “no Iowan left behind.”  But this wasn’t just something he championed in his legal rulings- although he certainly did that.  He lived the same way.  No matter what your job or position or how he came to meet you or whether you agreed with him, he looked directly into your eyes and saw great value in you.  He had a disarming way of tapping his hand on the back of your shoulder at the end of a meeting that conveyed simply and powerfully, “You matter to me.”

In most of the United States, federal courts are considered the primary guardians of our civil rights.  In Iowa, thanks to Chief Justice Cady, the state courts have achieved that role.

Justice Edward Mansfield

I feel honored to have had the opportunity to serve with Chief Justice Mark Cady for the past 15 months.  I felt an immediate connection with the Chief because, in his prior judicial life, he was a juvenile court judge and a district court judge.  Not long after I joined the court, I told the Chief I was interested in a particular issue regarding child welfare issues.  His facial expression told me everything--not only did he like my idea, he said "You have my full backing.  Let's make it happen"  The Chief didn't just utter those encouraging words--he backed it up with consistent interest in my progress and ensuring access to information and assistance in an effort to reach our goal.  That is true leadership.  Chief Cady's entire professional life has been devoted to Iowa's judiciary, and I am proud to have had an opportunity to serve with him.  My sympathies are extended to Becky and his family.

Justice Susan Christensen

Chief Justice Cady was a selfless and dedicated public servant.  For almost forty years, he served the citizens of this state as a thoughtful and fair-minded jurist.  He was a compassionate man who cared deeply about this state, his community, his family, his friends, and his colleagues.  His passing is a loss for all of us.  Stacey and I send our condolences, thoughts, and prayers to his family.  May God give them strength and bless them in the coming days as they seek peace and understanding.

Justice Christopher McDonald

I first met Mark in law school and have enjoyed his friendship ever since.  Throughout his life, Mark was a kind, compassionate, and honorable person.  He treated everyone with respect and dignity.  He was genuine and had a ready smile.  As a judge, Mark was committed to the rule of law, and approached every case with the sole goal of applying the law with fairness and intellectual integrity.  He worked tirelessly to bring the courts to the people and to ensure that Iowans received the court services they needed.  Iowa has lost a very special person.

Marsha Ternus, Chief Justice (Ret.), Iowa Supreme Court (1993-2010)

When I heard that Chief Justice Mark Cady had passed away, my immediate response was one of deep shock and sadness.  A career cut short at a time when his leadership was so desperately needed. He had so much more to give. He took us through some very tough times for the judiciary with grace, honor, humility, wisdom and compassion.   In years to come his landmark decisions on some very controversy issues will be looked upon as adding to the Court’s rich history of protecting rights of Iowa citizens.  I am grateful and proud to have served with him.

Louis A. Lavorato, Chief Justice (Ret.), Iowa Supreme Court (1986-2006)

I am profoundly saddened by the news of Chief Justice Mark Cady’s untimely death.  And surely my sadness is shared by all who were privileged to serve with him in Iowa’s judiciary.  He was a fair and thoughtful jurist, kind to a fault and a wonderful colleague.  Ever mindful of the importance of judicial independence, Justice Cady led the Court with strength and humility when challenged by those who questioned its constitutional authority.  His lifelong work on behalf of the citizens of Iowa will be forever remembered for his fidelity to the ideal of equal justice under the law for all persons.

Linda Neuman, Justice (Ret.) Iowa Supreme Court (1986-2003)

Chief Justice Cady's death is an inestimable loss to our state judiciary and the citizens of Iowa.  A modest and scholarly man, he led with vision and reason.  He was compassionate yet firm in applying mandates of the law, while writing with clarity and precision. I mourn the passing of an outstanding jurist and a remarkably good person.

Robert G. Allbee, Justice (Ret.) Iowa Supreme Court (1978-1982)

In his emails to the judicial branch or at the close of meetings with judicial branch personnel Chief Justice Mark Cady often signed off with the statement "Thank you for all that you do."  He has now left us much too soon, but his legacy of compassion, fairness  and equality for all people is solidly fixed.  So rest in peace our friend until we meet again, and thank you for all that you have done. 

Kurt Wilke, Chief Judge, Iowa Second Judicial District

Chief Justice Cady earned a reputation as a national leader who was dedicated to fairness, access and transparency in the justice system. Our hearts go out to his entire family, and especially his wife Becky.

Mary McQueen, President of the National Center for State Courts

On behalf of all of his colleagues in the Conference of Chief Justices, we send our condolences to Mark’s wife, children and grandchildren. Mark was recognized nationally for both his intellect as a jurist, and for his commitment to making the court system a place where everyone could get the justice they sought. In addition to serving as President of CCJ, Chief Justice Cady also served as the Chair of its committee on Courts, Children and Families, and as a member of the committee on Judicial Selection and Compensation. He also recently chaired a major national effort, the Family Justice Initiative, and served as co-chair of a workgroup on Children and Families for the National Judicial Opioid Task Force.

Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht of Texas. President-elect of Council of Chief Justices

I was proud to call Mark Cady not just a colleague but a friend. You simply won’t find a kinder, gentler soul than Mark.

Chief Justice Paul L. Reiber of Vermont,
who preceded Cady as President of Council of Chief Justices

Our justice system was made better because of Chief Justice Cady’s tireless commitment to making the courts a place where justice would be done, particularly for children and families.

Joseph Baxter of Rhode Island, President of the Conference of State Court Administrators

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