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Iowa Supreme Court expected to release opinions in three cases Wednesday

by Rox Laird | June 29, 2021

Opinions in three cases are expected to be released by the Iowa Supreme Court Wednesday, June 30, the final day of the 2020-21 term. Following are On Brief’s previously published summaries of those three cases.

 

Godfrey v. State of Iowa, Terry Branstad, in his official capacity as Governor, and Brenna Findley, in her official capacity as Legal Counsel to the Governor

 Argued March 24, 2021.

Issue: Did an appointed state officer assert legally viable claims against the former governor and his aides? [Disclaimer: Nyemaster Goode attorneys Frank Harty, Debra Hulett, Katie Graham, and David Bower represent the appellants in this case.]

Former Gov. Terry Branstad and other defendants appeal from a Polk County District Court judgment of $1.5 million in a 2012 civil suit filed against the governor and other Republican state officials by former Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Christopher Godfrey after the governor reduced his salary to the lowest amount allowed by statute. The jury considered Godfrey’s civil rights claims of sexual‐orientation discrimination and retaliation as well as a constitutional‐tort claim against the State, Branstad (in his official capacity), and two members of his staff (in their official capacities). Godfrey claimed a property interest in maintaining the salary established by Branstad’s predecessor, and alleged that the defendants denied him due process because he was a Democrat by asking him to resign and reducing his salary. The defendants make six assertions on appeal: The district court should have directed a verdict on all claims; evidentiary errors deprived defendants of a fair trial; the jury instructions materially misstated the law and allowed the jury to find defendants liable and award damages on legally improper grounds; rulings regarding Godfrey’s medical condition denied defendants their right to present a full and fair defense; the $1,500,000 damages award is excessive and the product of passion and prejudice; and, in response to Godfrey’s misconduct refusing to proceed with his case‐in‐chief, the District Judge forced an illegal venue change, denying defendants a fair trial.

 

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Kim Reynolds

Argued March 23, 2021.

Issue: Does barring abortion providers from teaching sex education violate equal protection?

The State of Iowa appeals a Polk County District Court summary judgment decision declaring unconstitutional an act of the Iowa Legislature that bars Planned Parenthood from receiving public money to conduct sexual education programs for teens. The legislation applies to organizations that perform, or advocate for access to, abortions. The District Court held that the act violated Planned Parenthood’s equal protection rights under the Iowa Constitution. The State argues that Planned Parenthood, which performs 95 percent of all abortions in Iowa, is not similarly situated to non-abortion providers because contracting with the state’s largest abortion provider to deliver sexual education creates the perception that the State “at least implicitly approves of Planned Parenthood’s performance of and advocacy in favor of abortions.” An amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in support of the State’s position was filed by The Family Leader Foundation.

 

Lukken v. Mount Crescent Ski Area, and Challenge Quest, et al.

 Argued March 24, 2021.

Issue: Did the installer of a zipline brake owe a duty to an injured party after it had earlier transferred the zipline to its owner?

Thomas Lukken appeals a Pottawattamie County District Court ruling on summary judgment dismissing his negligence suit against Mount Pleasant Ski Area and Challenge Quest for injuries he sustained in a zipline accident when he collided with a wooden pole at the base of the zipline and fractured his neck. The District Court granted summary judgment motions for both Mount Pleasant and Challenge Quest. Among Lukken’s arguments on appeal: The District Court erred in finding that the installation of a new zipline braking system was a superseding event that interrupted the chain of causality and liability; and, the trial court incorrectly found that Challenge Quest had no duty to Lukken after it completed its work and transferred control of the zipline to Mount Crescent.

 

 

 

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