FOI Council mourns death of former chief justice

The Iowa Freedom of Information Council joins with Iowa court officials, lawyers and others in mourning the death of one of the towering figures in the history of Iowa’s judicial system, W. Ward Reynoldson.

The retired chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court died Monday, March 28, at the age of 95.

The current chief justice, Mark Cady, said in a statement, “The Iowa court family is saddened by the passing of former Chief Justice Ward Reynoldson. 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.”

Through the years, officials of the Iowa FOI Council worked closely with Reynoldson in establishing and operating the expanded news media coverage program, which allows television and newspaper photographers to work in Iowa’s courtrooms.

As the chief justice, Reynoldson was instrumental in allowing cameras in courtrooms. The presence of cameras in courtrooms began in 1980 as a one-year pilot project. With the success from the first year, the Supreme Court extended the project for an additional year. Expanded news media coverage became a permanent part of the court rules in December 1981.

Reynoldson was a native of Nebraska. After serving in World War II, he entered the University of Iowa College of Law. He moved to Osceola after graduating and practiced law there until Gov. Robert Ray appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1971.

Reynoldson was chief justice from 1978 until his retirement in 1987.

Under his leadership as chief justice, the expense of operating the court system shifted from the counties to the state. Unification of the courts provided property tax relief and equalized court resources throughout Iowa.

During Reynoldson’s time on the court, he authored 493 majority opinions, 33 dissenting opinions and 17 concurring opinions.

You can read more about Reynoldson by clicking here.