UPDATES & ANALYSIS

2.19

Iowa Supreme Court to hear arguments in 11 cases Feb. 19-21

by Rox Laird | February 19, 2024

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in 11 cases Feb. 19-21. Go to On Brief’s “Cases in the Pipeline” page to read briefs filed in these cases. Following are brief summaries of the February cases.

 

State v. Starr

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 19, 7 p.m.

Question: Does a state statute requiring that a person in custody be allowed to make a phone call provide an exception to allow for a search for possible hidden weapons?

The State appeals a Woodbury County District Court’s suppression of evidence obtained in a Sioux City police officer’s interview with Faron Starr following his arrest for domestic abuse assault and related weapons charges. Iowa Code section 804.20 requires that a person in custody shall “without unnecessary delay” be allowed to “call, consult, and see a member of the person’s family or an attorney of the person’s choice, or both.” The State argues the statute allows delays necessary to protect public safety and that, in this case, the delay in allowing Starr to make a call to his father was necessarily delayed because authorities were searching for possible weapons Starr might have left behind while officers were searching for him prior to his arrest. The trial court said that while it did not disagree with the State’s interpretation, the court could find no previously recognized authority for reaching that conclusion, leaving it to the appellate courts to decide.

 

State v. Lee

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 20, 9 a.m.

Question: Should a robbery of two people in their home have counted as two robberies for sentencing purposes?

Brandon Lee appeals his conviction by a Linn County jury on two counts of first-degree robbery and related willful injury charges for a robbery of a couple in their home and sentenced to two consecutive 25-year sentences for each robbery conviction. Lee argues on appeal that he should have been charged with only one robbery, and to the extent that the Iowa Supreme Court’s Copenhaver decision in 2014 allows for two charges, it should be overturned and the single-larceny rule readopted.

 

Bridgestone Americas and Old Republic Insurance Co. v. Anderson

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 20, 9 a.m.

Question: Should a workers’ compensation claimant’s benefits be paid based on a state statute as amended by the Legislature in 2017?

Bridgestone Americas and Old Republic Insurance Co. appeal a Polk County District Court ruling affirming a final decision by the Iowa Insurance Commissioner finding that appellee Charles Anderson sustained workplace injuries to his right shoulder and arm and that each injury resulted in permanent disability. On appeal, Bridgestone Americas and Old Republic Insurance Co. argue Anderson failed to show that his injuries were work-related, and they argue Anderson’s injuries should be compensated not as industrial disabilities under a “catch-all” provision of the workers’ compensation chapter of the Iowa Code but under the statutory schedule as amended by the Legislature in 2017 in section 85.34(2)(n).

An amicus curiae brief in support of the appellants in this case was filed by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

 

Lime Lounge v. City of Des Moines

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 20, 9 a.m.

Question: Does the City of Des Moines’ ordinance regulating liquor licenses exceed its authority under state law?

Lime Lounge seeks further review of a Feb. 8 Iowa Court of Appeals decision affirming the Polk County District Court’s denial of Lime Lounge’s petition for an injunction against the City of Des Moines’ revocation of the lounge’s liquor license for failing to comply with the city’s zoning ordinance. Lime Lounge argues on appeal the city’s zoning compliance requirements are preempted by state law regulating state liquor licensing. In seeking further review, Lime Lounge cites the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in Iowa Grocery Industry Association v. City of Des Moines and argues that decision established that the city may not charge or collect administrative fees in addition to those authorized by statute or alter the process for obtaining a liquor license as set forth by statute. Lime Lounge argues the city does both by imposing municipal fees for a city-approved conditional use permit for a liquor establishment before forwarding an application for a state liquor license.

 

Teig v. Chavez, et al.

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 20, 1:30 p.m.

Question: Did Cedar Rapids City officials violate the Iowa Open Records Act in refusing to release records related to hiring decisions?

Robert Teig appeals the Linn County District Court’s dismissal on summary judgment of his suit against six Cedar Rapids city officials claiming the city violated the Iowa Open Records Act, Iowa Code Chapter 22, by denying his request for records of job applications for two city positions, records related to a closed session of the Cedar Rapids City Council where applicants were considered, and a letter from the Cedar Rapids city attorney to the council; and by refusing to provide access to records unless Teig agreed to pay general search and retrieval fees. On appeal, Teig makes four major arguments: The public records statute does not contain an attorney-client privilege exemption; job applications are not confidential personnel records; the statute does not authorize a city to charge fees for search and retrieval of records; and the district court erred in denying his motion for an injunction.

An amicus curiae brief in support of the plaintiff-appellant was filed by the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Iowa. An amicus curiae brief in support of the defendants-appellees was filed by the Iowa League of Cities.

 

State v. Canady

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 20, 1:30 p.m.

Question: Should a trial court have allowed a rap video and Snapchat post into evidence in a voluntary manslaughter trial?

The State seeks further review of a July 13 Iowa Court of Appeals ruling reversing a Woodbury County jury’s conviction of Lawrence Canady III of voluntary manslaughter, willful injury causing bodily injury, and assault causing bodily injury. The Court of Appeals said the trial court should have not allowed admission of potentially prejudicial evidence, including a video showing Canady rapping along with a recorded song and a Snapchat photo. In its application for further review, the State argues the rap video was relevant in order to establish Canady’s motive and intent, and the Snapchat post was relevant to establish that Canady’s companion at the shooting scene had a gun. If the trial court erred on either ruling, the State argues, it was harmless error that had no effect on the verdict.

 

State v. Medina

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 21, 9 a.m.

Question: Should an adult witness have been allowed to testify against a criminal defendant via closed-circuit television?

Abel Gomez Medina seeks further review of a Nov. 8, 2023, Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming his conviction by a Polk County jury for second-degree sexual abuse, third-degree sexual abuse, and indecent contact with a child. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court’s decision to allow the complaining witness to testify by closed-circuit television when she was age 17 under Iowa Code section 915.38(1)(a) and again a day later after she turned 18 under 915.38(1)(c). In Medina’s application for further review, he urges Iowa Supreme Court to clarify what “important public necessity” justifies allowing an adult to testify by video in light of criminal defendants’ constitutional rights to confront witnesses.

 

Terrace Hill Society Foundation v. Terrace Hill Commission and Kristin Hurd

Scheduled for oral argument Feb 21, 9 a.m.

Question: Do historic artifacts in the Terrace Hill governor’s mansion belong to the non-profit Terrace Hill Foundation or to the State through the Terrace Hill Commission?

The Terrace Hill Commission appeals the Polk County District Court’s denial of the Commission’s motion to dismiss a suit brought by the Terrace Hill Society Foundation against the Commission claiming the Foundation’s right to control historic items donated by the Foundation to Terrace Hill, the governor’s mansion since 1972. The Foundation, a private non-profit created to support the historic mansion, maintains it has exclusive control over the collection of historic artifacts in the 1869 home. The Commission, a State agency created by the Legislature to maintain Terrace Hill, argues the collection became the property of the State when it was donated by the Foundation. In its appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court, the Commission argues that as a State agency it is shielded by sovereign immunity from being sued over possession of property in State possession.

 

Hora v. Hora

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 21, 9 a.m.

Question: Did shareholders in a corporation breach their fiduciary duty in the operation and management of the family’s farms?

Three parties in this case seek further review of a Feb. 8, 2023, Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming in part and reversing in part the Washington County District Court’s rulings in a shareholder suit brought by Brian Hora and Gregg Hora, both individually and on behalf of Hora Farms Inc., and Precision Partners Corp. The plaintiffs sued Keith Hora and Kurt Hora, individually and in their capacity as shareholders, directors, officers, managers, and employees of Hora Farms Inc., Heather Hora, and HK Farms Inc. for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud. The Court of Appeals held that the district court erred in applying the law regarding self-dealing and breach of fiduciary duty and remanded for further proceedings.

[Disclosure: Nyemaster Goode attorneys John F. Lorentzen and Sarah J. Gayer represent appellants/cross-appellees Brian and Gregg Hora.]

 

State v. White

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 21, 1:30 p.m.

Question: Does witness testimony by closed-circuit television violate a criminal defendant’s right to confront witnesses under the confrontation clause of the Iowa Constitution?

Derek White appeals the Iowa Court of Appeals’ August 30, 2023, ruling affirming his conviction by an Osceola County jury for neglect of a dependent person and two counts of child endangerment. In his application for further review of the Court of Appeals’ decision agreeing with the trial court’s decision to allow White’s two sons to testify by closed-circuit television under Iowa Code section 915.38(1)(a), White argues the remote testimony violated his right to confront witnesses face-to-face under Article I, Section 10 of the Iowa Constitution.

 

State v. Rasumssen

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 21, 1:30 p.m.

Question: Did a trial court consider improper factors in ordering a prison sentence for a defendant who entered an Alford plea for assault?

Amy Rasumssen seeks further review of an Aug. 30, 2023, Iowa Court of Appeals decision affirming her sentence in Boone County District Court. Rasmussen entered an Alford plea, acknowledging the evidence while not admitting guilt, and was sentenced to one year each on two serious misdemeanor counts of assault causing bodily injury to be served consecutively for a term of two years in prison. In her application for further review, Rasmussen argues the trial court erred in considering improper factors at sentencing, including a victim-impact statement.

 

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February 2024 Opinion Roundup

The Iowa Supreme Court entered opinions in eighteen cases during February 2024. You can read Rox Laird’s analysis of Singh v. McDermott, Selden v. DMACC, and Senator Roby Smith et al. v. Iowa District Court for Polk County. The remaining opinions from February are summarized here.

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