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Cady was ideal chief justice

His legal knowledge, caring demeanor leave a lasting legacy

Students in the Introduction to Criminal Justice class at St. Edmond High School had a special guest instructor one day last March.

He spoke to the students at length and when one of them had a question, it was clear that this instructor listened carefully and gave a thorough answer. His knowledge of the law and his appreciation for it were reflected in all his comments.

That classroom session was an example of how Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady approached his work.

The average Iowan may think of a chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court as an abstract kind of figure that they are unlikely to meet, no less have a serious conversation with.

Cady shattered that stereotype. Although he had reached the highest level in the state’s judicial system, he never lost the desire to talk to people.

Following Cady’s shocking death Friday, lawyers praised both his knowledge of the law and his caring approach to those who found themselves in the courtrooms in which he presided over cases since he was named to the bench as a district associate judge in 1983.

“Mark’s abilities were recognized immediately by those of us that he worked with,” said Albert Habhab, a former Fort Dodge mayor who later became the chief judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals. “If he was given a legal problem that needed resolving, he accepted that responsibility wholeheartedly.”

Fort Dodge attorney Mark Crimmins added: “He cared. He cared about the law, he cared about the courts and everybody that passed before him.”

Cady weathered some tough criticism over the years, especially after he wrote the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v. Brien decision that legalized same sex marriage. But he never lost sight of his dedication to the law, to his state and community, and most importantly, to his family.

Iowa has lost a true champion of equal justice under the law.