Iowa Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in eight cases Jan. 23 and 24

by Rox Laird | January 22, 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.

State v. Covel

Will be submitted Jan. 23 without oral argument.

Christopher Ryan Covel appeals a Dickinson County District Court order revoking his probation and deferred judgment for second-degree sexual abuse, and sentencing him to serve 25 years in prison. Covel also argues that he should not have been ordered to pay court costs and court-appointed attorney fees because he lacked the “reasonable ability” to pay while incarcerated.

State v. Petty

Will be submitted Jan. 23 without oral argument.

Kenneth Edward Petty appeals his convictions in Pottawattamie District Court for lascivious acts with a child and sexual exploitation of a minor, arguing he was not fully informed of the consequences of his guilty pleas in terms of potential fines, prison time and lifetime parole. Petty also challenges the District Court’s imposition of a sexual-abuse surcharge, and the trial court erred in ordering Petty to pay the cost of his court-appointed legal representation without a determination of his “reasonable ability” to pay.

State v. Smith

Will be submitted Jan. 23 without oral argument.

Bernard Anthony Smith appeals his conviction in Iowa Story County District Court for second-degree burglary as a habitual offender, arguing the trial court failed to adequately advise that he had a right to challenge his admission to a prior conviction. Smith also asks the Court to vacate the trial court’s order that he pay for court-appointed attorney’s fees without specifying the amount to be paid and without a finding that the defendant has a “reasonable ability” to pay the fees.

Carroll Airport Commission v. Danner

Scheduled for oral argument Jan. 23, 1:30 p.m.

Loren and Pan Danner seek further review of a ruling by the Iowa Court of Appeals affirming a decision of the Carroll County District Court’s that the Danners must remove or reduce by 60 feet a 127-foot-tall grain elevator on their farm near the airport’s runway. The Carroll Airport Commission petitioned the District Court to have the structure, which lies within its protected airspace, declared a nuisance and abated. The Danners argue on appeal that, under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, enforcement of state and local airport hazard laws is pre-empted by a determination by the Federal Aviation Administration that the grain tower would not constitute a hazard provided it is painted and equipped with red warning lights. The Court of Appeals, however, ruled that the doctrine of federal pre-emption does not apply in this case because the FAA’s minimum standards may be exceeded by local jurisdictions, they do not conflict with local statutes and they are not evidence of congressional intent to pre-empt enforcement of local statutes.

State v. West

Scheduled for oral argument Jan. 23, 1:30 p.m.

Travis Raymond Wayne West seeks further review of a ruling by the Iowa Court of Appeals affirming his convictions by a Polk County District Court jury of involuntary manslaughter and delivery of a controlled substance. West argues the State’s evidence was insufficient to support the finding that he supplied the heroin used by the victim of a fatal drug overdose, and that the District Court erred in admitting challenged evidence and by failing to merge the two convictions at sentencing.

Good and Beal v. Department of Human Services

Scheduled for oral argument Jan. 24, 9 a.m.

The Iowa Department of Human Services appeals a ruling by the Polk County District Court reversing the DHS’s decision denying Medicaid coverage to petitioners Eerieanna Good and Carol Beal for sex-reassignment surgeries.

Under the Department’s administrative rule, “cosmetic, reconstructive, or plastic surgery” intended “primarily to improve physical appearance or which is performed primarily for psychological purposes” is excluded from Iowa Medicaid coverage. The District Court ruled that the DHS regulation denying coverage violates the Iowa Civil Rights Act and the equal-protection provision of the Iowa Constitution.

Among the issues presented to the Court by the State in this appeal: Whether the DHS administrative rule treats transgender Medicaid beneficiaries differently from similarly situated Medicaid beneficiaries; whether the DHS is a public accommodation under the Iowa Civil Rights Act when it makes benefits determinations under Iowa Medicaid; whether the administrative rule violates the Iowa Constitution’s equal protection provision; whether the rule has a disproportionate negative impact on private rights; whether the rule is a reasonable measure to limit surgeries for primarily psychological purposes and to curb costs.

This case has attracted six amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in support of the petitioners, including one submitted by the American Medical Association and other medical and mental-health professionals.

Linn v. State

Scheduled for oral argument Jan. 24, 9 a.m.

Cathryn Ann Linn seeks further review of an Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming the Muscatine County District Court’s dismissal on summary judgment of her petition for post-conviction relief following her conviction of first-degree murder. First, Linn argues that the District Court erred in ruling that her trial counsel was not ineffective and dismissing her defense based on Battered Woman Syndrome; second, she argues her post-conviction-relief counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to failing to retain an expert on Battered Woman Syndrome.

Metlife Auto v. Auto-Owners Insurance

Scheduled for oral argument Jan 24, 1:30 p.m.

Auto-Owners Mutual Insurance Co. appeals a Polk County District Court judgment of $450,000 in favor of Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co. against Auto-Owners arising from a dispute over the applicability of Metropolitan’s insurance policies to the injuries suffered by the injured party in an accidental death that occurred on property insured by Auto-Owners Insurance.

United Electrical v. Public Employment Relations Board

Scheduled for oral argument Jan 24, 1:30 p.m.

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America appeals a ruling of the Polk County District Court upholding a decision by the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board that limited the scope of United Electrical’s ability to negotiate a “base wage” for employees in the bargaining unit. The union argues that the PER Board erred in defining “base wages” in determining that it may bargain only for new bargaining unit members, and not for the vast majority of experienced individual members of the bargaining unit, and that an arbitrator may consider the wages paid in past collective-bargaining agreements in determining an award on the subject of base wages.

State v. Williams

Will be submitted Jan. 24 without oral argument.

Antoine Williams appeals his conviction for second-degree murder by a Floyd County jury. Williams, an African-American, argues African-Americans were under-represented in the pool from which his jury was picked, and thus was not a fair cross-section of the community in violation of his constitutional rights. He also argues that Iowa’s “Stand Your Ground” law – which went into effect just hours after murder he was accused of committing occurred – should apply to his case because the bill’s provisions were in effect at the time Williams was charged.


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March 2024 Opinion Roundup

The Iowa Supreme Court entered opinions in ten cases during March 2024. These opinions are summarized below.

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Lasondra Johnson was tried for first-degree murder for the shooting death of Jada Young-Mills outside a Waterloo residence. Johnson argued she acted in self defense and the shooting was justified under Iowa’s “stand your ground” law that says a person is justified in the use of reasonable force in the belief that such …



On Brief: Iowa’s Appellate Blog is devoted to appellate litigation with a focus on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.


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