Iowa Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in eight cases Jan. 23 and 24

By: Rox Laird on January 22nd, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in eight cases Jan. 23 and 24. Four other cases will be submitted to the Court without oral argument.

Among the cases set for argument is an appeal by two transgender women challenging a decision by the Iowa Department of Human Services denying Medicaid coverage for sex-reassignment surgeries. A woman accused of murder wants to cite a “Battered Woman Syndrome” defense, and four cases before the Court raise the issue of offenders’ “reasonable ability” to pay court costs, court-appointed attorney fees and restitution.

Following are summaries of the January oral arguments. Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the briefs filed with the Court in these cases.

State v. Albright

Scheduled for oral argument Jan. 23, 9 a.m.

Charles Raymond Albright appeals his conviction in Franklin County District Court for first-degree kidnapping and the beating of his live-in girlfriend, arguing that the standard for proving kidnapping in the first degree was not met by the State. Albright also challenges the District Court’s order that he pay restitution for the cost of court-appointed legal assistance without considering his “reasonable ability” to pay those costs prior to entering judgment.


Judge Vogel elected Iowa Court of Appeals chief judge

By: Rox Laird on January 17th, 2019

The nine-member Iowa Court of Appeals elected Judge Gayle Nelson Vogel chief judge, replacing Chief Judge David Danilson, who retired Jan. 4.

Vogel, of Spirit Lake, has served on the Court of Appeals since 1996. She becomes the ninth chief judge since the Iowa Legislature established the Iowa Court of Appeals in 1976.


Federal courts open for business at least one more week

By: Rox Laird on January 17th, 2019

Federal court operations will continue as normal for at least one more week, federal judicial branch officials said in a news release this week.

The court administration had said court operations would continue through Jan. 18 during the federal government shutdown. Thanks to cost-saving measures, however, that has now been extended another week, until Jan. 25.


Federal courts mostly unaffected by government shutdown – at least for now

By: Rox Laird on January 8th, 2019

Federal courts in Iowa will operate mostly as usual at least through next week, despite the partial government shutdown, according to statements released this week by federal court administrators.

The federal judiciary is on course to continue operating through Jan. 11 using fees and unspent fund balances, court officials around the country were told this week by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. For now, clerks’ offices remain open and electronic case filing and access remains in operation.

The goal is to stretch that through Jan. 18, but the courts will have to pare back nonessential spending. That would allow the court personnel to receive regular paychecks through the end of the month.

Although criminal cases are expected to proceed uninterrupted, some federal courts have issued orders – posted on court internet sites – suspending civil cases in which the government is a party.


U.S. Senate confirms Iowa native for seat on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals

By: Rox Laird on December 17th, 2018

President Donald Trump’s appointment of Sioux City native Jonathan Kobes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Dec. 11. The vote was split 50-50 with Vice President Mike Pence supplying the tie-breaking vote.

Kobes will replace Judge Roger Wollman, who has taken senior status. Wollman, who was appointed to the Eighth Circuit in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan, turned 84 this year.

Kobes, 44, graduated from Dordt College in Sioux Center in 1996, Harvard Law School in 2000 and clerked for Judge Wollman after graduation.

Kobes has had a varied legal career: He worked for the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota and the Sioux Falls office of Murphy, Goldammer and Prendergast where he was a litigation associate.


The Iowa Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in eight cases Dec. 11 and 12

By: Rox Laird on December 7th, 2018

The Iowa Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in eight cases Dec. 11 and 12. Four other cases will be submitted to the Court without oral argument.

Among the cases set for argument are two appeals brought by state and local government employee unions arguing that amendments made by the Iowa General Assembly in 2017 to Iowa’s public-employee bargaining law violate the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.

Following are summaries of the December cases. Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the briefs filed with the Court in these cases.


U.S. Supreme Court denies Iowan’s appeal challenging Fourth Amendment exception

By: Rox Laird on December 4th, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from an Iowa man who argued that his drunk-driving conviction was the product of an unconstitutional search and seizure.

The Court on Monday issued a list of cases considered at the justices’ Nov. 30 conference, and no new cases were accepted for review.


Iowa Supreme Court: Truncated phone hearing on parental rights violated jailed mother’s constitutional rights

By: Rox Laird on December 3rd, 2018

A parent who is incarcerated and unable to attend a termination of parental rights hearing in person has a due process right to participate by telephone in the entire hearing, not just to give testimony, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Nov. 30.

The ruling contains explicit new requirements for juvenile court judges to follow in such cases, including taking the initiative to work with prison officials if necessary to assure that the parent is able to participation in the full hearing by telephone, and delaying the hearing in the event the parent is unable to participate by phone until a transcript of prior testimony is prepared for the parent to review.

The Court said, “the role of a juvenile judge to seek cooperation in managing the hearing becomes part of due process. Judges are leaders and must at times exercise leadership to achieve justice. This leadership means juvenile judges may need to confer with prison officials prior to termination hearings to explain the importance of the court procedures and he need for their cooperation to help assure procedural justice. It also can be found by creating an understanding of justice for others to see and respond. Justice, in the end, is not just for courts to give people. It is for all, and for all to give.”


Fleeing criminal suspect who rams cop cars must pay for the damage, Iowa Supreme Court rules

By: Rox Laird on December 3rd, 2018

A criminal suspect who runs into police cars while fleeing law-enforcement officers can be ordered to pay restitution for damage to the government’s vehicles, the Iowa Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling handed down Nov. 30.

Darryl B. Shears Jr. was fleeing several Davenport police officers who tried and failed to stop him using spike strips before using squad cars to block his vehicle. Shears subsequently pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and eluding an officer, and the city filed a restitution claim for $7,093 for the police vehicles damaged by Shears.

Shears argued that the damage to the vehicles was caused not by his criminal conduct but by police officers who placed their cars in his path. However, the Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice Brent Appel, held that there was a sufficient link between Shears’s actions leading police on a high-speed chase and the resulting damage to the two squad cars.


Iowan seeks to limit a Fourth Amendment exception in appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

By: Rox Laird on November 28th, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday will consider whether it will hear an appeal from an Iowa man who argues his drunk-driving conviction was the product of an unconstitutional search and seizure.

The appeal focuses on the reach of what’s known as a “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment in situations where, as in Coffman’s case, a law-enforcement officer stops to assist a motorist. The exception allows a warrantless seizure based on an officer’s reasonable belief that an emergency exists or an individual needs assistance.

Coffman’s drunk-driving arrest occurred after a Story County deputy sheriff pulled behind Coffman’s vehicle stopped on the shoulder of a rural highway in the early morning hours. The officer switched on his flashing lights, approached the vehicle to see if the occupants needed assistance and initiated the arrest after smelling alcohol in the car.


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On Brief is devoted to appellate litigation, with a focus on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.



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