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Iowa Supreme Court Mourns the Passing of Former Chief Justice W. Ward Reynoldson

March 28, 2016

Des Moines, March 28, 2016— The justices of the Iowa Supreme Court, former colleagues, and friends remember Chief Justice W. Ward Reynoldson today as a dedicated public servant whose career combined a profound respect for the rule of law, an unwavering support for fair and impartial courts, and a deep love of the Iowa Judicial Branch. Chief Justice Reynoldson served 16 years on the Iowa Supreme Court, including nine as chief justice.

"The Iowa court family is saddened by the passing of former Chief Justice Ward Reynoldson," Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady said. "The nationally recognized court system we have in Iowa today is the result of his vision and leadership in establishing state funding for the courts and creating a system of court administration. He always projected the highest standards in everything he did. Our sympathies go out to his wife, Pat, and his family."

Chief Justice Reynoldson served on the Iowa Supreme Court from May 1, 1971, to October 1, 1987. From August 3, 1978, until his retirement, he served as Chief Justice. He became a senior judge following his retirement. In 1983, under his leadership as chief justice, the legislature approved and the governor signed into law the Court Reorganization Act. The Act, which was originally proposed by the Iowa Supreme Court, transferred the expense of operating the court system (except the costs of district court facilities) from the counties to the state. Funding for juvenile court officers, court attendants (bailiffs), clerks of court offices, and indigent defense was taken over by the state in phases. The purpose of the transfer was to unify the Iowa court system administratively, to provide property tax relief, and to equalize trial court resources throughout the state.

Also during his tenure as chief justice, the supreme court approved a one-year pilot project to allow cameras in the courtroom. The pilot project began January 1, 1980, and proved successful so the supreme court extended the project for an additional year. Expanded News Media Coverage of the courts became a permanent part of the court rules December 22, 1981. The Iowa Lawyer Trust Account Commission (1984) and the Interest on Lawyers' Trust Account program (IOLTA) (1985) were also created while he was chief justice.

Chief Justice Reynoldson (1920—2016) was born at St. Edward, Nebraska, May 17, 1920. He graduated from the State Teachers College at Wayne, Nebraska, in 1942. Following service in the United States Navy during World War II (1942-1946) he graduated from the University of Iowa Law School in 1948. In that year he engaged in private practice at Osceola, Iowa, where he continued until his appointment to the supreme court by Governor Robert D. Ray. From 1953 to 1957 he was County Attorney of Clarke County. He was a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He was also president of the Conference of Chief Justices and the National Center for State Courts, 1984-1985 and played a significant role in the establishment of the State Justice Institute (SJI). Chief Justice Reynoldson authored 493 majority opinions, 33 dissenting opinions, and 17 concurring opinions.

For More Information:

Steve Davis, Court Communications Director, (515)725-8058 or

Iowa Supreme Court 
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Des Moines, IA 50319 

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