Kitchen nominated for judicial vacancy
WASHINGTON, Iowa (GTNS) — Daniel Kitchen, magistrate judge for Washington County, should find out in about two weeks if he will be appointed to take over an Eighth Judicial District Judge’s position.
Kitchen and Judge Randy DeGeest were selected Jan. 3 by the 8A Judicial Nominating Commission as nominees to fill a judicial vacancy in Ottumwa. Gov. Terry Branstad is expected to appoint one of the nominees to the position within 30 days of the interviews.
“Judge [James] Blomgren was our chief judge, and he recently retired,” Kitchen said. “He served really well during a tough time for the judicial branch. He retired from being a judge. The decision was made to not delay hiring a new judge by six months, which they have done because of budget problems in the past.”
Blomgren’s last day was Dec. 6. People who believe themselves qualified were asked to apply for the position. The 8A Judicial Nominating Commission, made up of five attorneys, five non-attorneys and the senior judge of the district, interviewed those who applied and selected the two finalists.
Kitchen said the commission asked him about his experience. He said they also were interested in his temperament. He explained he felt it is the duty of the judge to ensure the dignity of everyone involved in the process.
Serving as the magistrate judge since 2003, Kitchen said he has been lucky to preside over several jury trials. He said many magistrate judges in Iowa do not.
“One of the jobs of a judge is to reflect the community they live in,” Kitchen said. “Laws are the will of the people put into a book. Judges’s jobs are to interpret and apply those. Knowing your community and knowing the behavior your community deems acceptable and not acceptable makes a big difference.”
A magistrate judge works part time and hears such things as small claims cases, evictions, simple misdemeanors and traffic offenses. If appointed, Kitchen said the judge position will become full time. He would have to close his private practice. He said he would have to travel to different counties to hear cases.
Once the position is filled, there will be six judges to cover 10 counties.
Kitchen said work as a magistrate is good training for the judge’s position.
Growing up in Nevada, Iowa, Kitchen received his law degree from the University of Iowa after graduating with minors in philosophy, political science and majoring in English. He graduated from University of Iowa College of Law in 1994. While in law school, he clerked for two law firms.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to serve the state full time,” he said. “Every day is different in this job, and I love being in a county seat town. It lets me have a diverse opportunity to do different things. I really hope the governor will see I’m interested in serving the state. I hope to serve the state for a couple of decades as a judge and this would give me the opportunity to do that.”