Iowa Supreme Court adds a case on jurisdiction over criminal cases at Meskwaki Settlement

By: Uncategorized on July 9th, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court scheduled an additional oral argument on July 10 in an appeal that raises questions about whether jurisdiction over criminal cases on the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County belongs to the Tribe, to the State of Iowa or to the federal government.

The State appeals a ruling by the Tama County District Court dismissing for lack of jurisdiction criminal charges against Jessica Rae Stanton for trespassing, possession of drug paraphernalia and violation of a no-contact order. The charges were filed by a Meskwaki Nation Police officer at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel in Tama.

Acting sua sponte, or on the court’s own motion, Judicial Magistrate Richard Vander Mey dismissed the charges, saying neither tribal police nor the State had jurisdiction to bring the charges in State court for criminal violations on the Meskwaki Settlement. “Any charges for conduct upon the Meskwaki Settlement can be pursued in tribal court or federal court,” the judge wrote.

Eighth Circuit case on food-stamp records to be argued at U.S. Supreme Court April 22

By: Rox Laird on April 19th, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Monday in a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that likely will decide whether a Sioux Falls, S.D., newspaper should have access to food-stamp spending at specific retail stores.

Considerable interest has been generated by this case. More than a dozen organizations – representing the retail industry, public interest groups and First Amendment advocates – have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the case. (Go to the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket page to read the briefs and lower court rulings in the case.)

The U.S. Solicitor General, who represents the government in cases before the Supreme Court, filed a brief in support of the Food Marketing Institute and the retailers. The Solicitor General will also participate in Monday’s oral arguments.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for records that show how much federal money was paid to reimburse individual food retailers for purchases made by participants in the department’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the new name for what was known as the food-stamp program.

The final round of oral arguments for the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2018-19 term set for April 9

By: Rox Laird on April 8th, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in five cases on April 9, and nine other cases will be submitted to the court without oral argument. Three cases will be argued beginning at 9 a.m., and two will be argued beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Go to the On Brief Cases in the Pipeline page to read briefs in these cases.

With the submission of the final 14 cases in April, the Court will have heard a total of 104 cases, including 12 attorney discipline cases. As of April 5, the justices had decided 54 cases. Assuming no last-minute cases are added between now and the end of the term, there will be 50 cases to be decided, or an average of about 4 decisions per day over the 12 decision days remaining on the calendar.

Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could affect future wind power regulation

By: Rox Laird on April 1st, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Forest City April 2 in a case that raises for the first time a question about how Iowa law regulating approval of electric generating facilities applies to wind energy projects.

The argument, which is open to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. in the Boman Fine Arts Center in Forest City.

The Court will hear arguments in two cases, both of which involve Palo Alto County residents’ challenge to a plan by Palo Alto Wind Energy and MidAmerican Energy to build a 170-turbine wind farm spread over 100 square miles. Bertha Mathis and Stephen Mathis appealed decisions by the Palo Alto County District Court dismissing the plaintiffs’ lawsuits, one against the Iowa Utilities Board and a second against the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors.

Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in eight cases March 5 and 6

By: Rox Laird on March 1st, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court entered the home stretch of its 2018-19 term March 1, with four months remaining before the administrative term begins in July.

The Court has disposed of 38 of the 90 cases submitted thus far this term. The Court has scheduled five more days to hear arguments in March and April.

The Court will hear arguments in eight cases March 5 and 6, and two cases will be submitted without oral argument. Following are summaries of those cases.

Following are summaries of the March 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. Baker

Scheduled for oral argument March 5, 9 a.m.

Justin Andre Baker seeks further review of a decision by the Iowa Court of Appeals affirming his conviction and sentences by the Black Hawk County District Court for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. Baker argues the police seizure of his vehicle was not supported by articulable reasonable suspicion and challenges the legality of a search warrant based on evidence from that seizure. The Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s denial of Baker’s motion to suppress in an opinion written by Chief Judge Gayle Nelson Vogel and joined by Judge Patrick Carr. Judge Mary Tabor dissented, saying the lower court should have granted Baker’s suppression motion.

Iowa Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in five cases Feb. 12 and 13

By: Rox Laird on February 11th, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in five cases Feb. 12 and 13, and four other cases will be submitted to the Court without oral argument. Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the briefs in these cases.

Ames 2304 v. City of Ames, Zoning Board of Adjustment

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 12, 9 a.m.

The City of Ames and the Ames Zoning Board of Adjustment seek further review of a decision by the Iowa Court of Appeals reversing and remanding a Story County District Court ruling upholding a decision of the Zoning Board of Adjustment denying Ames 2304’s application for a permit for an interior remodeling that would convert a 4-unit apartment building with four bedrooms into four units with a total of seven bedrooms. The zoning board held that increasing the number of bedrooms in the nonconforming apartment building would violate the City’s zoning ordinance by increasing its “intensity.” The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court, holding that the only definition of the term “intensity” in the zoning ordinance is in a section that refers only to commercial and industrial property, not residential.

[Disclosure: Nyemaster Goode attorney Debra Hulett is the attorney for Ames 2304 in this case.]

Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in a police-shooting case in an evening session Feb. 5

By: Rox Laird on February 4th, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral argument Feb. 5 in an interlocutory appeal in a civil suit brought by a Cedar Rapids man who was shot by a Cedar Rapids police officer during a 2016 traffic stop, which left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Oral argument in Mitchell v. City of Cedar Rapids, will be held in an evening session beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Supreme Court Chambers at the Judicial Branch Building as part of the Court’s effort to make oral arguments accessible to the general public. The argument also will be livestreamed on the Judicial Branch website (

Plaintiff-appellee Jerime Mitchell sued the City of Cedar Rapids and Police Officer Lucas Jones claiming, among other things, negligence and assault and battery. The city and Jones sought an order from the court protecting certain documents produced during discovery – including “peace officers’ investigative reports” – from public disclosure.

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.

Iowa Supreme Court set to hear arguments in four cases next week

By: Rox Laird on December 8th, 2017

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in four cases on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 12 and 13, in appeals that ask the Court to settle a dispute over a baby born of a surrogate mother, an asbestos liability suit brought by the estate of a lung-cancer victim, and a question of whether the State can withdraw tax credits awarded to a film project four years after approving them. Three other cases will be submitted to the court without oral argument.

Following are summaries of three of the cases set for argument:

P.M. and C.M. v. T.B. and D.B.

Scheduled for oral argument 1:30 p.m. Dec. 13.

The appellees in this case, identified as P.M. and C.M., are a couple who entered into a contract with the appellant, T.B., to carry to term anonymously donated ova fertilized by P.M.’s sperm. T.B. gave birth to twins 13 weeks prematurely, and one twin died eight days later. T.B did not inform the Ms of the births and, after bonding with the surviving infant for two months, she changed her mind about giving up the child.

The Ms sued to enforce the “gestational surrogacy” contract and to terminate T.B.’s parental rights, arguing that P.M. is the biological father as confirmed by genetic test results that ruled out T.B. as a biological parent. The Linn County District Court ruled in their favor.

In her appeal, T.B. argues that she is legally the mother of the child – as a matter of biological and scientific fact – that the contract with the Ms is unenforceable absent an Iowa statute recognizing such gestational surrogacy contracts. She further argues that enforcing the contract would violate her constitutional rights of due process and equal protection and those of the child.

Shari Kinseth and Ricky Kinseth v. Weil-McLain

Scheduled for argument 9 a.m. Dec. 12.

Larry Kinseth died in 2009 of lung cancer related to asbestos exposure from a long career of installing insulated boilers. A Wright County jury awarded the estate a $6.5 verdict, including $2.5 million in punitive damages. In this appeal, Indiana-based boiler manufacturer Weil-McLain asks the Court to reverse the District Court’s judgment, bar punitive damages and remand for a new trial.

The defendant-appellants argue the trial court erred by not submitting a question to the jury regarding fault shared by three other companies, that punitive damages are precluded by Iowa law in this case and that the jury was tainted by inadmissible evidence, including an earlier citation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration against Weil-McLain, and the plaintiff’s asbestos exposure that occurred after the statute of limitations expired.

The Kinseth estate argues that the lower court properly ruled that fault could not be shared with third parties absent evidence that the decedent could be compensated for exposure harm by other parties. It argues that all challenged evidence was admissible, and that punitive damages are supported in this case by the trial record and by Iowa law because McLain’s practices were not consistent with other manufacturers.

Iowa Department of Economic Development v. Ghost Player LLC and CH Investors LLC

Scheduled to be submitted to the Court without oral argument at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 12. 

Ghost Players sued the State of Iowa after the Iowa Department of Economic Development revoked tax credits awarded four years earlier for a movie, “Field of Dreams Ghost Players,” on grounds that the movie producers inflated the value of state tax credits by submitting phony evidence of in-kind contributions that were not, in fact, made to the project.

Ghost Players argues that the Polk County District Court got it right when it ruled that the agency lacked authority to revoke the tax credits. Ghost Players argues that the State cannot unilaterally vacate a final agency action four years after the fact on the basis of information that was available from the beginning.

The Department of Economic Development, in urging the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court, argues that it did not vacate a final agency action but issued a new one based on new evidence that the tax-credits applicant fabricated information about the scope of the film’s financial support.

Oral argument recap: Justices hear the case for and against prosecuting a child as an adult

By: Rox Laird on November 16th, 2017

Justices of the Iowa Supreme Court grappled in an oral argument Tuesday with the question of prosecuting a 13-year-old as an adult under Iowa’s youthful offender statute.

Noah Crooks, who was convicted of killing his mother when he was 13, was waived by a Mitchell County District judge to be tried in adult court as a youthful offender. Crooks was held at the State Training School until he was 18, at which point he returned to District Court where he was sentenced to up to 50 years in prison. (Read our preview of State v. Noah Crooks here.)

Crooks’ appellate counsel, Assistant State Appellate Defender Martha Lucey, argued that the youthful offender statute does not allow for prosecution of an offender as young as 13. And if it does, it would violate the Iowa Constitution’s equivalent of the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Justice Brent Appel questioned Lucey’s reading of the statute. “You interpret that to mean there is a 14-year-old floor, but the statute doesn’t say that.”

Lucey: “It doesn’t set a ceiling, either. We know it is 18 because you don’t have to waive at age 18. Does it mean birth to 18? Would we allow a small child to be punished as an adult?”

Justice Thomas Waterman wondered how youthful offenders are treated differently than juveniles who are sent directly to be tried in adult court.

Lucey explained that youthful offenders are treated as juvenile offenders until they reach age 18, at which point they return to adult court for sentencing, which could range from discharge or a deferred sentence to prison.

Justice Bruce Zager: “It seems to me that is a logical and reasonable way to handle it. A child gets the benefit of the juvenile system, and then is looked at again at age 18.”

Justice Edward Mansfield echoed Zager’s opinion: “This case is consistent with our juvenile jurisprudence. What is wrong with that?”

Lucey: The question is how much a child of 13 benefits from the delay. In this case, she said, Crooks “did really well” while at the Training School.

Zager said that was not a unanimous opinion, however, noting that Crooks’ father testified that Noah hadn’t come to grips with murdering his mother. “That would give me some pause,” Zager said. “That’s what the District Court indicated at sentencing.”

Arguing the case for the State, Assistant Attorney General Bridget Chambers disagreed with the appellant’s premise: Waiver of a youthful offender into adult court is not punishment, she said, and if it were, it surely is not cruel and unusual.

Appel again questioned the under-age-15 Iowa Code language: Is there no floor? Can a child of any age be prosecuted in adult court?

Chambers: “I struggle to see how it is ambiguous,” she said. The floor is provided by other things, including mens rea (that is, the “guilty mind”), and the prosecutor’s discretion not to prosecute below a certain age.

Waterman asked if the sentencing factors required for juveniles under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama were applied in the Crooks sentencing.

Chambers: The Miller factors were not applied because no minimum sentence was contemplated.

Waterman: “It was still a very individualized hearing, right?”

Chambers: “It was very individualized.”

Appel observed that the sentencing judge thought prison would be beneficial and that Crooks would benefit from services provided in prison. And, there is the potential for early release if he showed maturity. On the other hand, Appel noted that research on juvenile sentencing suggests that it could be cruel and unusual punishment if an offender is sentenced to prison as a juvenile and does not get services.

In her rebuttal argument, Lucey weighed the option of sending youthful offenders to prison or to some alternative where they may receive help transitioning to society: “Are we looking at rehabilitation or retribution?”

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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.