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Iowa Supreme Court opinions expected in three cases Friday

by Rox Laird | March 5, 2021

The Iowa Supreme Court is expected to release opinions in three cases Friday, March 5. Below 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 the appeals.

Wermerskirchen v. Canadian National Railroad, et al. (On Brief’s Dec. 11, 2020, summary here)

Argued Dec. 15, 2020

Issue: Does federal railroad safety law preempt common-law damage claims?

Richard Wermerskirchen, who was injured when his road grader was struck at a crossing by a freight train, seeks further review of a Feb. 19, 2020, Iowa Court of Appeals decision regarding a Black Hawk County District Court ruling dismissing on summary judgment two of Wermerskirchen’s claims against the railroad as preempted by the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The trial court submitted Wermerskirchen’s third claim to a jury, which found no negligence. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the District Court’s summary judgment ruling but affirmed the jury verdict.

State v. Swift (On Brief’s Nov. 16, 2020, summary here)

Argued Nov 17, 2020

Issue: When may a prosecutor introduce inconsistent or hearsay evidence to impeach the prosecution’s own witness?

Derris Swift who was convicted of a weapons charge and attempted murder seeks further review of a May 13, 2020, decision of the Iowa Court of Appeals affirming the Scott County District Court’s ruling allowing admission of witness statements he challenged as inconsistent and hearsay. Swift cites the Iowa Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in State v. Turecek, which said the State cannot put on a witness expected to give unfavorable testimony and then impeach that witness with otherwise inadmissible evidence.

State v. Warren (On Brief’s Oct. 13, 2020, summary here)

Argued Oct. 15, 2020

Issue: Is a seizure lawful based on an officer’s observation of a parking violation?

Jasmaine R. Warren seeks further review of a May 13, 2020, decision of a divided eight-member Iowa Court of Appeals panel affirming in part, reversing in part, and remanding her conviction in Polk County District Court of second-offense operating while intoxicated (OWI) and driving with a revoked license. Warren argues on appeal that she was subjected to an unlawful seizure when she was detained by police officers on the basis of a parking violation. The question raised by Warren on further review is a case of first impression for the Iowa Supreme Court: “whether a police officer who has observed a parking violation has occurred can seize an individual for the purpose of investigation.”

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