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.


Court of Appeals Chief Judge Danilson to retire in January

By: Rox Laird on November 14th, 2018

David Danilson, chief judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals, has announced his retirement effective Jan. 4, 2019. Danilson said he hopes to continue to serve as a senior judge on the appeals court after retiring, according to a press release from the Iowa Judicial Branch.

Danilson has served the Iowa judiciary for more than 30 years. Before joining the appeals court, Danilson was a judicial magistrate, district associate judge and district court judge in the Second Judicial District. He was appointed to the nine-member Court of Appeals in 2009 and selected chief judge in 2013.


The Iowa Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in five cases Nov. 13 and 14

By: Rox Laird on November 9th, 2018

The Iowa Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in five cases Nov. 13 and 14. Five other cases will be submitted to the Court without oral argument. Following are summaries of the November cases. Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the briefs filed with the Court in these cases.

Service Employees International Union, Local 199 v. State and Iowa Board of Regents

Scheduled for argument Nov. 13, 9 a.m.

The Service Employees International Union appeals a Polk County District Court ruling that a proposed collective-bargaining agreement with the Iowa Board of Regents was not final because it had not been ratified by the Board. The union that represents University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics employees argues that a final offer made on behalf of the Board of Regents by its bargaining representative constituted an enforceable agreement once it was ratified by the union membership.

UE Local 893/IUP v. State of Iowa

Scheduled for argument Nov. 13, 9 a.m.

The State appeals a ruling from Polk County District Court granting summary judgment to the UE Local 893/IUP state employees’ union. The District Court held that a collective-bargaining agreement between the union and the State was valid and enforceable. The State argues that the proposed agreement was not final because the State had withdrawn its offer while it awaited action pending in the Iowa General Assembly that would affect the public employment collective bargaining law.


Iowa Supreme Court: DOT Motor Vehicle Enforcement officers exceeded their authority on traffic citations

By: Rox Laird on October 25th, 2018

Iowa Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Enforcement officers are authorized to issue traffic citations to drivers only for statutory regulations relating to vehicle operating authority, registration, size, weight, and load, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Oct. 18.

That authority does not include issuing citations for other violations, such as speeding, the Court held in a unanimous decision written by Justice Edward Mansfield. Nor were such citations by DOT officers authorized by the “citizen’s arrest” provision of the Iowa Code.

Rickie Rilea and Timothy Riley separately appealed their speeding citations issued by DOT enforcement officers in Warren County, which were upheld by the department. Polk County District Judge Eliza Ovrom, however, overruled the DOT in Rilea and Riley’s consolidated appeals.

Affirming Judge Ovrom’s ruling, the Supreme Court read the language of the Iowa Code to empower DOT Motor Vehicle Enforcement officers to enforce only specific traffic regulations related to vehicle size, weight and registration.


Slot-machine-like gaming machines are subject to gambling law, Iowa Supreme Court rules

By: Rox Laird on October 17th, 2018

Video games resembling slot machines that award prizes will not be showing up in laundromats or convenience stores anytime soon, as a result of an Oct. 12 ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court in Banilla Games v. Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.

The Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice David Wiggins, upheld a decision by the Polk County District Court affirming the State’s interpretation of the gambling statute that Banilla’s video gaming machines must be registered with the department as gambling devices.

Banilla Games, a North Carolina company, manufactures and sells electronic games that resemble touch-screen slot machines. Players purchase credits, with one cent equaling one credit, and are challenged to match or complete sets of images on the screen. Winners receive a ticket or voucher worth up to $50 that can be redeemed for merchandise within the commercial establishment where the game is played.


Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in five cases Oct. 16 and 17

By: Rox Laird on October 12th, 2018

The Iowa Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in five cases Oct. 16 and 17, and nine cases will be submitted to the court without oral argument. Following are summaries of the October cases. [Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the briefs filed with the Court in these cases.]

State v. Gordon

Scheduled for argument Oct. 16, 9 a.m.

The State appeals a ruling of the Iowa Court of Appeals ordering that Sean David Gordon be resentenced because the Floyd County District Court relied on results of sex-offender risk-assessment instruments not specifically authorized by statute or rule in sentencing him to up to 10 years prison for statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl.

Gordon argues the sentencing court violated his constitutional due-process rights by using statistical tools to assess his potential to reoffend. The Court of Appeals declined to reach the constitutional question, ruling instead that the trial court erred because no state statute or rule authorizes the use of the risk-assessment instruments in deciding whether to sentence a sex offender to prison or some other type of supervision.

The Court of Appeals, hearing the case en banc, was split 5-4 and produced two separate dissenting opinions. The appeals court noted that some critics, including other state courts, have questioned the validity of assessing recidivism risk based on group data as opposed to data specific to high-risk offenders. The Iowa Supreme Court has not yet weighed in on the issue, and this case and two others to be submitted on Oct. 16, will be an opportunity to do so.


Iowa Supreme Court heads to Red Oak to hear arguments on whether a jury was swayed by social media

By: Rox Laird on October 5th, 2018

The Iowa Supreme Court goes on the road on Oct. 9 to hear oral arguments in Red Oak in a case that deals with the effect of social media on jurors in criminal trials. The argument is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Wilson Performing Arts Center.

The Court will hear arguments in State v. Christensen. In this appeal, the State seeks further review of a ruling of the Iowa Court of Appeals, which ordered a new trial on the basis of juror misconduct.


U.S. Supreme Court rejects appeal from an Iowa surrogate mother seeking custody of the child

By: Rox Laird on October 3rd, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal of an Iowa Supreme Court ruling on the enforceability of a contract signed by a woman who acted as a surrogate mother for an Iowa couple unable to conceive a child of their own.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 16 that the contract was valid, that the surrogate mother and her husband are not the child’s genetic parents and that the District Court correctly awarded custody of the child to the biological father.


U.S. Supreme Court to consider an appeal from an Iowa surrogate mother seeking custody of the child

By: Rox Laird on September 20th, 2018

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider whether to accept the appeal of an Iowa Supreme Court ruling on the enforceability of a contract signed by a woman who acted as a surrogate mother for an Iowa couple unable to conceive a child of their own.

The surrogate mother, identified as T.B. in court documents, was impregnated with embryos fertilized with the intended biological father’s sperm and ova from an anonymous donor. She changed her mind after the child was born, and sued the Cedar Rapids couple in Linn County District Court, arguing that the surrogacy contract was unconstitutional and that her parental rights should not have been terminated.


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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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