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.


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.


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.


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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