Court Hears Case Against Governor Branstad

Feb 25, 2015

Attorneys in a lawsuit over the closing of the Iowa Juvenile Home for Girls in Toledo presented oral arguments before the Iowa Supreme Court.   

The president of the state’s largest public employees union and four Democratic lawmakers sued the governor for closing the home when the legislature had appropriated money for it to operate.  The governor is appealing a district court order granting a preliminary injunction to reopen the home.     

Justice David Wiggins asks what the critics hope to achieve with their suit, now that the home is closed.

“What does that get you?” Wiggins asks.

 Mark Hedberg, an attorney for the Democrats, agrees it’s not likely the home will reopen, but he says he wants to clarify the powers of the governor.

“What it gets me is the understanding of what the executive can or can’t do next,” Hedberg says.  

 Hedberg calls the closing unconstitutional and questions the governor’s current plan to also close two state mental health institutions.      

Justices questioned whether the union chief and the lawmakers have what’s called standing in the case, asking how they were harmed by the governor’s action.     

“This seems to be an argument between the governor and the legislature,” Justice Wiggins says.  “Why should the courts get in the middle of it?”

An attorney for the governor Jeffrey Thompson responds, “In this case, I don’t know that the court should.”

The justices  will rule in 90 days on whether a district court should have granted an injunction to reopen the home.