UPDATES & ANALYSIS

5.06

Iowa Supreme Court expected to release opinions in four cases Friday

by Rox Laird | May 6, 2021

Opinions in four cases are expected to be released by the Iowa Supreme Court Friday, May 7. Following are On Brief’s previously published summaries of the cases. Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read briefs filed with the Court in these appeals.

Holmes v. Pomeroy

 Submitted to the Court April 14 without oral argument.

Issue: Should evidence of defendant’s cell phone use both before and after a car accident be allowed to show habit?

Matthew Holmes seeks further review of a Sept. 23, 2020, Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming the Warren County District Court’s denial of Holmes’ motion for a new trial following a jury verdict for the defendant Miranda Pomeroy, who Holmes claimed was at fault for a collision between her car and his bicycle. Among the issues raised in his application for further review, Holmes argues the trial court should have admitted evidence of Pomeroy’s cell phone use while driving — both before and after the collision — to establish Pomeroy’s habit of cell phone use while driving. The trial court excluded evidence of Pomeroy’s post-collision cell phone use based on the defendant’s objection that the post-collision evidence was not relevant to establish an inference of habit or routine. Holmes argues that post-collision conduct is equally relevant because it is evidence of habit and that a reasonable juror may conclude that the defendant was operating her cell phone at the time of the collision.

State v. Fetner

 Submitted to the Court without oral argument March 23

Issue: Was a prison sentence based on an impermissible sentencing factor?

William Fetner seeks further review of a Sept. 23, 2020, Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming his sentence to two consecutive two-year prison terms by the Cerro Gordo County District Court following his guilty plea to possession of marijuana and driving while barred. Fetner argued that the District Court considered an impermissible sentencing factor based on Fetner’s trial attorney’s statement in court that Fetner worked at a daycare center. The trial judge expressed the opinion that “It’s not safe for you to be caring for children if you’re under the influence.” Feltner argues that, because there was no sworn testimony regarding whether he worked at a daycare center while under the influence of marijuana, that allegation based on speculation was an impermissible sentencing factor.

State v. Tucker

 Issue: Was appellant’s guilty plea knowing and voluntary; and, are legislative limits on appeals unconstitutional?

Argued Oct. 14

Tyjaun Levell Tucker appeals his sentence after pleading guilty in Polk County District Court to second-degree theft, arguing that his plea was not knowing and voluntary. Tucker asks the Court to find that the Iowa General Assembly breached constitutional separation-of-powers with 2019 legislation that curtailed defendants’ right to appeal judgments and sentences based on guilty pleas in certain prosecutions, and which prohibits Iowa appellate courts from deciding an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim on direct appeal in a criminal proceeding.

Xenia Water District v. City of Johnston

 Argued April 15.

Issues: The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, which is hearing a case involving a dispute between Xenia Water District and the City of Johnston regarding two water service areas, mostly within two miles of Johnston’s municipal boundaries, certified three questions to the Iowa Supreme Court on Iowa state law:

1.Whether an Iowa Code Section 357A.2 rural water district, before amendments to Section 357A.2(4) in 2014, had a legal right to provide water service to portions of an area described in its county board of supervisors resolution (see Iowa Code Section 357A.2(1)), when those portions were also within two miles of the limits of a municipality, (see Section 357A.2(3)), and when the municipality had not waived its rights to provide water service to the area (see § 357A.2(4)).

  1. Whether Iowa Code Section 357A.2(4), as amended by the Iowa legislature in 2014: (a) exempts a rural water district from following notice-of-intent procedures when the area the district seeks to serve is within the district’s boundaries as designated in the county board of supervisors’ resolution creating the water district, and/or (b) otherwise provides the rural water district a legal right to serve such areas when the municipality has not waived its rights. If so, whether the 2014 amendment to § 357A.2(4) had retroactive effect.
  2. Whether an Iowa Code Section 504A nonprofit corporation created in 1977 had a legal right to provide water service anywhere within the state of Iowa. If so, whether a Section 504A nonprofit corporation that reincorporated (including through articles of dissolution for the Section 504A entity) as a Section 357A.2 rural water district in 1990 retained the legal right to provide water service anywhere within the state of Iowa (including outside its boundaries as specified in its county board of supervisors resolution and within two miles of a municipality), prior to and following the 1991 amendment to Section 357A.2.
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