Iowa Supreme Court

susan christensen
Katarina Sostaric/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed District Court Judge Susan Christensen to the Iowa Supreme Court Wednesday to take the place of retiring Justice Bruce Zager.

Christensen, 56, lives in Harlan and works in Iowa’s Fourth Judicial District. She has worked in family and juvenile law and has served as an assistant county attorney.

Iowa Public Radio

A former justice is warning a lack of diversity on Iowa’s Supreme Court could undermine its legitimacy. With an upcoming vacancy on the bench, state officials could have a chance to consider the issue. The judicial nominating commission began interviewing applicants Monday.

suzanna de baca
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a law Friday requiring women seeking abortions to wait 72 hours between an initial appointment and getting the procedure.

In a 5-2 decision, the court ruled the waiting period violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says diversity alone will not be enough to win an upcoming vacancy on the state’s Supreme Court. Justice Bruce Zager is retiring on September 3, 2018 and Reynolds is slated to name his replacement. It could be an opportunity to diversify a judiciary overwhelmingly made up of white men.

supreme court
John Pemble/IPR file photo

Twenty-two Iowans have applied to become the state’s newest Supreme Court justice.

The State Judicial Nominating Commission will interview applicants July 9 to start the process of choosing a replacement for Justice Bruce Zager. He is retiring effective Sept. 3.

This is the first Iowa Supreme Court vacancy since 2011. Some court watchers see it as an opportunity to diversify the state’s highest court because all seven justices are currently white men.

CTF83/Wikimedia Commons

The Iowa Supreme Court has considered several questions recently, including: When do hugs between a student and a school employee add up to illegal sexual contact? Also, if a neglected property becomes an eyesore, can the city take it without paying the owner a dime?

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with legal expert Todd Pettys about the stories behind several Iowa Supreme Court cases. Pettys also shares his thoughts on whether Iowa’s new fetal heartbeat law will be struck down.

Pettys is the H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation at the University of Iowa College of Law.

Cases discussed this hour include:

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Jill Meadows v. Kimberly K. Reynolds ex rel. State of Iowa and Iowa Board of Medicine

More information: https://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts/supreme-court/supreme-court-oral-argument-schedule/case/17-1579

traffic camera
Adrian Pingstone / Wikipedia

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Iowa Department of Transportation does not have the authority to regulate cities’ traffic cameras.

In a 6-0 opinion, Supreme Court justices agreed the IDOT cannot order Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine to remove or relocate traffic cameras. The state legislature would have to pass a law specifically granting the IDOT the authority to make and enforce rules for cities’ traffic cameras.

traffic camera
Adrian Pingstone / Wikipedia

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in one of four cases involving traffic cameras.

Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine argue the Iowa Department of Transportation doesn’t have the authority to regulate how cities enforce their traffic laws.

In 2015, the IDOT ordered the three cities to remove some of their speed cameras. The cities sued, and in 2017, a district court upheld the IDOT order. The cities appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

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John Pemble/IPR file photo

The Iowa Supreme Court has made it possible for people who plead guilty to a crime to later claim innocence and challenge their conviction.

In a 4-3 opinion issued Friday, the court overturned its previous interpretation of Iowa law concerning post-conviction relief for those who plead guilty.

iowa judicial branch building
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case in which two women are suing a Pella church for failing to supervise a pastor who sexually exploited them.

The Bandstra family argues they should be allowed to sue the Board of Elders of the Covenant Reformed Church for negligent supervision and defamation.

Valerie and Anne Bandstra say statements from the church board accused them of adultery for their sexual contact with former pastor Patrick Edouard, who was convicted of four counts of sexual exploitation by a counselor in 2012.

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Michael Zamora / The Des Moines Register

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit over a state-mandated, three-day waiting period for women seeking abortions.

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John Pemble / IPR

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Monday that would require a supermajority of Iowa Supreme Court justices to declare a law unconstitutional.

Five of the Supreme Court’s seven justices would have to agree in order to declare an Iowa statute unconstitutional.

Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, said he feels the Iowa Supreme Court has “overstepped its bounds.”

John Pemble/IPR

The Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Mark Cady Wednesday painted a worsening picture of the condition of the Iowa justice system, after years of declining or status quo budgets for the judicial branch.  

In his Condition of the Judiciary Address, Justice Cady said that insufficient resources are beginning to “tear at the fabric of the mission of the courts” to provide justice for all Iowans.  

The judicial branch workforce was cut this year by 10 percent and there are over 115 unfilled positions, including 11 district court judgeships.

Photo by John Pemble

This week, the Iowa Supreme Court decided that enforcement of a new Iowa law requiring a three-day waiting period for an abortion will remain on hold.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with law professor Todd Pettys, H. Blair & Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation at the University of Iowa, about what the court is considering.

He says that one of the issues before the Iowa Supreme Court is the question of whether the Iowa Constitution provides more protection for women than the U.S. Constitution.

supreme court
John Pemble/IPR file photo

People convicted of sex crimes are still required to register as sex offenders in Iowa even if they’re appealing their convictions, according to today's ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court.

The case centers on the appeal of Brian James Maxwell, who was hired as a youth coordinator for two churches in the Winterset area in March 2014. That month he inappropriately touched a 16-year-old girl who he met through this job.

Jasper County Sheriff's Department photo

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday evening in a case that looks at how far a person’s right to privacy extends during a warrantless search by law enforcement.

In October 2015, Bion Ingram was driving a car that wasn’t his. When he was pulled over by a Jasper County Sheriff’s deputy, the deputy noticed the registration did not correspond to the car’s license plate.

Flickr / Marc Treble

The Iowa Supreme Court’s “Access to Justice Commission” has released a report that outlines steps to remove barriers to civil justice for low-income and disadvantaged Iowans.

At the beginning of the report, the commission notes the Iowa State Bar Association says that nearly half of all Iowans have difficulty affording a lawyer for basic legal needs.

FLICKR / LEONIEKE AALDERS

Due to a statewide hiring freeze Iowa’s Judicial Branch has the fewest employees since the state court system unified in 1987, with more than 150 vacant positions. 

A press release states the Iowa Legislature appropriated to the Judicial Branch an operating budget of $175.7 million for fiscal year 2018. This is the same amount as 2017, after a mid-year deappropriation, but "more than $3 million short of the legislature's FY 16 appropriation," the release concluded.

Wikimedia

Boards of Supervisors in two Iowa counties have voted to get rid of bans on weapons in their courthouses, ahead of a new firearms law going into effect July 1.   

The votes are in conflict with an order by Chief Justice Mark Cady banning weapons in courthouses in all 99 counties.  

Woodbury County has banned weapons in the courthouse since 2014.  

But the new state firearms law says local governments can be sued over weapons restrictions, so supervisors voted Tuesday 3 to 1 to lift the ban.    

Jon Pemble/IPR file

In a unanimous ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court says sentencing a juvenile to lifetime parole is not a cruel and unusual punishment.

When he was a 17-year-old, Bradley Graham committed statutory rape by having sex with a 13-year-old. In addition to incarceration, Graham was given a lifetime sentence of parole.

Graham says the lifetime aspect of his punishment is cruel and unusual, because he was a juvenile when he committed the crime.

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

The Iowa Supreme Court has issued a temporary injunction that immediately blocks a provision of a newly signed law that mandates a three-day waiting period between two appointments before having an abortion.

After a lower court denied a request for an injunction on Thursday afternoon, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Iowa successfully appealed to the state's high court. The injunction was granted Friday morning, a couple hours after Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill into law.

Flickr / Ted Murphy

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission can consider the economic impact of a potential new casino on existing gambling operations, before approving the new casino’s application. That's according to the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled that commission was acting within its authority.

FLICKR / KATY WARNER

A case pending before the Iowa Supreme Court could result in the deportation of many immigrants who currently have legal status. It considers whether Muscatine County is interfering with federal immigration policy by prosecuting a woman for identity fraud and forgery.

Flickr / Farragutful

The Iowa Supreme Court says a valid traffic stop can’t be prolonged without reasonable suspicion, once the original cause for that stop is resolved. As a result a man's aggravated misdemeanor conviction has been overturned. 

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR

Iowa's chief justice is warning lawmakers that problems are already beginning to emerge due to a lack of funding to the state judicial branch. In his State of the Judiciary address this morning, Chief Justice Mark Cady told legislators to invest in critical judicial services, even in "a time of scarce financial resources."

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

Over a million people voted in the judicial retention elections of three Iowa Supreme Court justices. Chief Justice Mark Cady, Justice Brent Appel and Justice Daryl Hecht were each retained with more than 64 percent of the vote.

Though almost half of registered Iowa voters participated in the election, the number who cast their ballots for or against retention of the justices was nearly half-a-million fewer than the number of Iowans who voted in the presidential race. 

Flickr / Katy Warner

A Muscatine woman argued at the Iowa Supreme Court that since the employment of immigrants is regulated by the federal government, she’s protected from state identity theft charges. How the high court rules has significant implications for Iowa's undocumented immigrant community. 

In 1997, 11-year-old Martha Martinez came to the US as an undocumented immigrant. In 2014 she was charged with using a fake identity to gain employment.

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

The City of Des Moines’s water utility is trying to sue 10 drainage districts in northwest Iowa in federal court, accusing the districts of polluting the Raccoon River. But first, Des Moines Water Works must convince the state Supreme Court that drainage districts can be held liable.

The drainage districts assert that for over a century, the Iowa Supreme Court has held that they can’t be sued for a civil wrong due to their limited authority. Attorney Michael Reck told the court during oral arguments Wednesday that it should stand by its previous rulings.

Flickr / Leonieke Aalders

The Iowa State Bar Association is recommending that voters retain all 63 Iowa judges and the three state supreme court justices who are facing judicial retention elections this November. The ISBA is basing this recommendation on the 2016 Judicial Performance Review survey. 

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

The Iowa Attorney General Office argued Friday at the state Supreme Court that justices should overturn a ruling from six years ago. 

In Iowa, when someone is arrested, law enforcement have 45 days to press charges. Back in December 2010, the court ruled six-to-one in State v. Wing, that when a person reasonably believes they are under arrest, law enforcement must still adhere to the 45-day deadline. That's even if an individual isn't actually under arrest. 

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