UI alum named chief judge in 4th District

BY SAM LANE | JANUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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Law administration runs in Jeffrey Larson’s blood.

Larson’s father, Jerry Larson, served on the Iowa Supreme Court from 1978 to 2008, making him the longest-serving member on the bench in the court’s history.

Larson, who received his law degree from the UI College of Law, was named the chief judge of Iowa’s 4th District on Jan. 20. The appointment comes just days after Charles L. Smith, the former chief judge, retired.

“It was a real honor,” Larson said. “I appreciate the opportunity. I look forward to it.”

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and State Court Administrator David Boyd chose Larson from three applicants — the others were 4th District Judges Greg Steensland and James Richardson — based on his experience.

“Judge Larson will make a fine chief judge,” Ternus said in a press release. “He has experience on the bench, he respects the views of others, and the court is confident that he will be a strong leader in the 4th Judicial District through the state’s current financial crisis.”

Larson said he is ready to take on the new challenges he will face as a chief judge.

A native of Harlan, Iowa, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Dakota in 1982. He then made his way to Iowa City and received his law degree from the UI in 1985.

“I had a great experience at the University of Iowa,” he said. “The law school is top-notch. It has prepared me well for my career.”

Larson is one of more than 170 judges or magistrates in the Iowa judiciary who attended the UI either for their undergraduate education or for law school.

“He comes from a judicial family,” said N. William Hines, a dean emeritus at the UI law school. “I’m very pleased for the people out in the 4th Judicial District. It’s good to have newer Iowa graduates being appointed to these positions.”

Carolyn Jones, the outgoing dean of the law school, agreed that Larson’s appointment is an indication of the college’s success.

“We’re really proud of him,” she said. “All I can say is that it’s just terrific. I’m very proud of all our judicial graduates.”

Following law school, Larson went into private practice in Harlan from 1985 to 2003. He also served as Shelby County county attorney from 1987 to 2003 before being appointed to the bench in the 4th District in 2003.

“We face some difficult times in the judicial branch, like most sectors of the work force,” Larson said. “The way we do business has changed, just as it has in any field. Hopefully, we can use this change to help us do our jobs better.”

Larson’s peers said they are excited about the new leadership.

“Judge Larson has shown himself to be thorough and thoughtful in his approach to his work on the bench,” said Kent Wirth, the 4th District court administrator. “I assume he’ll carry that to his work as a chief also.”

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