UPDATES & ANALYSIS

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Iowa Supreme Court expected to release opinions in seven cases Friday

by Rox Laird | June 17, 2021

Opinions in seven cases are expected to be released by the Iowa Supreme Court Friday, June 18. Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page and click on the “Cases Argued” tab to see which cases that were argued this term remain to be decided this term, which ends June 30.

Following are On Brief’s previously published summaries of the seven cases scheduled for release June 18.

State v. Wright

Argued Sept. 17, 2020

Question: Does a police search of a suspect’s trash violate the Fourth Amendment?

Nicholas Wright seeks reversal of a Feb. 5 Iowa Court of Appeals decision affirming a Cerro Gordo District Court ruling that a Clear Lake police officer did not violate the Fourth Amendment by searching a suspect’s trash bags removed from his garbage cans next to the alley behind his home. Wright argues the Court of Appeals incorrectly concluded that he had no expectation of privacy, based on a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in dismissing his motion to suppress evidence of illegal drug possession derived from his garbage. Wright, citing a more recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, argues that his garbage bags and trash cans are personal “effects” under the Fourth Amendment’s protection of “persons, houses, papers and effects” from unreasonable searches and seizures.

State v. Kilby

Argued Oct. 15, 9 2020

Issue: Should a defendant’s refusal to submit to breath tests be admitted at OWI trial?

Hannah Marie Kilby appeals the Polk County District Court’s denial of her pre-trial motion to declare as inadmissible evidence of her refusal to submit to breath tests. The trial court took into account Kilby’s refusal of breath tests in finding her guilty of driving while intoxicated. Kilby argues she had a right under the Iowa Constitution to withhold consent to the breath tests, and she asks the Court to reverse her conviction, remand the case, and direct that the State is prohibited from using her refusal as evidence against her at trial.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement v. State of Iowa

Argued Dec. 16, 2020

Question: Do plaintiffs have standing to sue the State over the Raccoon River’s water quality, and is this a political question rather than one for the courts?

The State appeals a Polk County District Court ruling denying the State’s motion to dismiss Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food and Water Watch’s suit claiming the State failed to safeguard the interest of Iowans by allowing nitrogen and phosphorus discharges from agricultural sources to impair the Raccoon River. The State asserts the plaintiffs lack standing, their claims are not justiciable, and they failed to exhaust remedies under the Iowa Administrative Procedure Act. The State argues it is well-established that “courts will not intervene or attempt to adjudicate a challenge that involves a ‘political question’,” a principle rooted in the separation-of-powers doctrine. [For more background, go to On Brief’s earlier analysis of this appeal.]

This appeal has drawn interest from parties on both sides of the question who filed amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs with the Supreme Court.

State v. Hahn

Submitted to the Court without oral argument March 24, 2021

Issue: Did a search of trash taken from a trash can violate the Fourth Amendment?

Ryan Joseph Hahn appeals the Scott County District Court’s dismissal of his motion to suppress evidence obtained from a search of trash taken from a closed trash can on his property. Hahn was convicted by a Scott County jury of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. Scott County deputies obtained a search warrant based on evidence seized from trash taken from a can on Hahn’s property. Hahn argued the deputies entered his property to seize the trash. The District Court accepted the deputies’ testimony that they did not have to enter Hahn’s property to obtain the trash, and held that the seizure and subsequent search of Hahn’s garbage was constitutionally permissible. Hahn urges the Supreme Court to vacate his conviction on the basis that the trash search was conducted in violation of his right against unreasonable searches and seizures under the federal and state constitutions.

Association of Business and Industry v. City of Waterloo

Argued April 14, 2021

Issue: Does the City of Waterloo’s ordinance barring employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history exceed state and federal law?

The Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) appeals a Black Hawk County District Court ruling dismissing on summary judgment ABI’s claim that state and federal law preempt a Waterloo city ordinance that prohibits employers in the city from asking about criminal history on a job application, prohibits employers from making any inquiry into an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional offer of employment has been made, and prohibits employers from making adverse hiring decisions based solely on certain criminal records. ABI argues that Waterloo’s ordinance is invalid under Iowa Code Section 364.3(12), which states that a city may not adopt an ordinance that provides for “any terms or conditions of employment” that exceed or conflict with state or federal law relating to hiring practices. ABI states that neither state nor federal law contain prohibitions such as Waterloo’s.

Amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in support of appellee City of Waterloo were filed with the Court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP.

Anderson v. State

Argued April 8, 2021

Issues: Does the Supreme Court have jurisdiction to hear an appeal filed after a deadline?

John Lewis Arthur Anderson appeals a Polk County District Court’s decision dismissing Anderson’s petition for post-conviction relief following his conviction for first-degree robbery and burglary. Anderson urges the Court to reverse the District Court regarding his claim of actual innocence based on newly discovered evidence. The questions before the Supreme Court are whether Anderson’s appeal of the District Court’s order denying post-conviction relief should be heard at all, since it was filed after the 30-day deadline, and whether the newly discovered evidence should be admitted.

Guge and McDonald v. Kassel Enterprises

Argued Dec. 16, 2020

Question: Did the District Court properly determine the fair value of a farm corporation in a judicial dissolution case?

Kassel Enterprises Inc. appeals a Palo Alto County District Court determination of the fair value of plaintiffs Susan Guge and Peggy McDonald’s common stock in Kassel Enterprises Inc. Guge and McDonald, minority shareholders in the farming corporation, petitioned for judicial dissolution of the corporation. Kassel Enterprises also argues the trial court abused its discretion by assessing attorney and expert witness fees against it. Guge and McDonald cross-appeal on the fair-value determination.

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