Marsha Ternus





Drake University, J.D. with Honors, Order of the Coif and editor in chief of the Drake Law Review (1977)

University of Iowa, B.A. with Honors and with High Distinction, Phi Beta Kappa (1972)

Professional Development

  • Certificate in Arbitration Skills Training:  Minnesota State Bar Association (2013)
  • Mediation Training: Calkins Mediation Services (2011)
  • Bar admission: Iowa 1977 (active); Arizona 1984 (inactive)



1993 – 2010: Iowa Supreme Court

  • 1993 – 2006:  Associate Justice
  • 2006 – 2010: Chief Justice



 2011 – present:

  • General private practice with focus on arbitration, consultation on appeals and expert witness testimony
  • Adjunct faculty member, Grinnell College, taught restorative justice (spring 2013)

1977 – 1993:  Shareholder in Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, P.C., Des Moines, with focus on general litigation and insurance coverage



  • American Academy of ADR Attorneys
  • C. Edwin Moore Inn of the American Inns of Court
  • American Judicature Society



  • Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame (2015)
  • John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award (2012)
  • Iowa Children’s Justice Award (2011)
  • Coe College Honorary Degree (2011)
  • Outstanding Contribution to the Well-Being of Children & Youth Award from Youth & Shelter Services, Inc. (2011)
  • Louise Noun Civil Liberties Award from the Iowa ACLU (2011)
  • Simpson College Honorary Degree (2010)
  • Business Record Women of Influence (2009)
  • Iowa Wesleyan Honorary Degree (2005)
  • Drake University Law School Outstanding Alumnus Award (1995)



  • Merit Selection Panel for Appointment of the U.S. Magistrate for the Southern District of Iowa (2013)
  • Bar Admissions Committee of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (2008-2012)
  • Judicial Conference Committee on Federal-State Jurisdiction (appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts, served 2009-2010)
  • Board of Directors, Conference of Chief Justices (2008-2010)
  • Advanced Leadership Institute in Judicial Education: University of Memphis (2005)
  • Board of Governors, Iowa State Bar Association (1985-1989)



  • Drake University Board of Trustees (2011-2013)
  • Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize Selection Committee (2011-2013)
  • Board of Counselors, Drake University Law School (1990-1993)
  • Board of Directors, American Red Cross, Central Iowa Chapter (1985-1991)
  • Board of Directors, Polk County Legal Aid Society (1982-1984)



“Politics on the Bench—A Judge’s View of Partisanship at Play,” National Law Journal (Jan. 20, 2014)

“Do Americans Still Value an Independent Judiciary?”  The Book of the States 200 (2011).



“Effective Use of Arbitration in Iowa,” Annual Fall Seminar, American Academy of ADR Attorneys, Des Moines, Iowa, September 17, 2015.

Judicial Independence From a State Court Perspective,” National Judicial College, Washington, D.C., July 30, 2015.

The Ethics of Judicial Selection, Campaigning & Decision-making,” University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, February 21, 2014.

Restoring Justice in the United States,” University of Iowa Notable Iowan Lecture, Iowa City, Iowa, November 12, 2013.

Restorative Justice,” Rosenfield Lecture, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, April 15, 2013.

The Politicization of the Judiciary and Its Impact on Judicial Independence,” Doyle Inn of Court & University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison, Wisconsin, March 20, 2013.

The Politicization of Justice,” Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois, February 28, 2013.

When Worlds Collide: Judicial Independence and the Democratic Process,” International Bar Association Annual Meeting, Dublin Ireland, October 1, 2012.

Courts and Constitutional Rights,” Women’s Equality Day, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, August 26, 2012.

Judicial Independence in Peril,” North Carolina Bar Association Annual Meeting, Wilmington, North Carolina. June 22, 2012.

Judicial Selection: Can Accountability Be Balanced With Independence?” Harvard Law Review Spring Forum, Boston, Massachusetts, April 16, 2012.

The Constitution, Courts & Judicial Independence,” University Club, Iowa City, Iowa, November 8, 2011.

The Politicization of Judicial Elections,” Mid-Year Conference of California Judges Association, Palm Springs, California, April 9, 2011.

Glickstein Civil Rights & Public Policy Lecture, Touro Law Center, Central Islip, New York, April 6, 2011.

Remarks, State Constitutional Commentary Symposium: Great Women, Great Chiefs, Albany Law School, Albany, New York, February 16, 2011.

How an ALJ Can Facilitate Judicial Review,” Iowa Association of Administrative Law Judges, Des Moines, Iowa, April 20, 2009.

Women in Law,” Katherine Finn Milleman Memorial Award Luncheon, Iowa City, Iowa, November 7, 2008.

“Appellate Oral Advocacy,” Iowa State Bar Association Traveling Seminar, November 13-15, 2007.

Liberty Under Law: Empowering Youth, Assuring Democracy,” Black Hawk County Bar Association, Waterloo, Iowa, May 3, 2007.




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