This Week at the Iowa Supreme Court

By: Administrator on March 10th, 2014

By Ryan Koopmans

It’s a busy two days for the Iowa Supreme Court.  Today, the justices will hear argument in eight cases, and tomorrow they’ll travel to Clarinda where they’ll take in two more cases and visit several Southwest Iowa schools.

A few cases to highlight:

(1) In Shumate v. Drake University, the Court will decide whether a public accommodation or public facility (in this case, Drake law school) can be sued in a civil action for violating a statute that makes it a misdemeanor to deny access to service dogs and service dogs in training.  The district court said no, the Court of Appeals said yes.  Our earlier coverage is here.

(2) In Freeman v. Grain Processing Corporation, the Court will decide whether the federal Clean Air Act preempts state common-law nuisance claims.  The case has generated several amicus briefs (law professors, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Environmental Law & Policy Center, among others) and will be closely watched nationally, since two federal courts of appeals (the Third and Fourth Circuits) have split on the issue.  The district court ruled in favor of Grain Processors based on preemption.  Grain Processors and the National Association of Manufacturers also argue that the lawsuit is barred under the political-question doctrine.

(3) In Smith v. Iowa State University, the Court is being asked to decide whether claims for emotional distress are barred by the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act.  The Court will also decide whether the plaintiff, Dennis Smith, proved that ISU retaliated against him after he reported  discrepancies in the College of Engineering’s billing practices. Our earlier coverage is here.

(4) In Rhoades v. State, the Court is interpreting Iowa’s HIV-transmission statute, which makes it a crime for an HIV-positive person  to intentionally expose someone to their bodily fluid in a manner that can transmit the disease.  Nick Rhoades pled guilty after having sexual contact without disclosing his HIV status.  He’s now arguing, in post-conviction proceedings, that his attorney was constitutionally ineffective for failing to tell him that statute requires intent.  Rhoades  used protection, so he argues that there was no intent. The Court of Appeals denied Rhoades’s claim. The Court of Appeals’ decision is here; Rhoades’s briefs are here; and the State’s resistance to further review is here. Last month, I spoke to  Ben Kieffer about this case and others on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River. The segment is available here.

(5) In State v. Short, the Court will decide whether police must get a warrant to search a probationer’s house if he’s already signed a consent-to-search agreement as part of his probation.  The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, under the U.S. Constitution, that the waiver negates the need for a warrant, but the Iowa Supreme Court can come to the opposite outcome under the Iowa Constitution, which it has done several times the last ten years in search-and-seizure cases.

(6) Finally, in In re Guardianship and Conservatorship of Stuart Kennedy, the Court must decide whether a 21-year old mentally handicapped man was “denied due process when his mother, who is also his guardian and conservator, arranged for a vasectomy without a hearing.”  The ACLU filed an amicus brief, which is available online here.

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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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