UPDATES & ANALYSIS

9.07

Iowa Supreme Court to hear arguments in six cases Sept. 13-14

by Rox Laird | September 7, 2023

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in six cases Sept. 13 and 14 at the Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines. Eight additional cases will be submitted to the Court without oral argument. Following are brief summaries of the September cases. Go to On Brief’s “Cases in the Pipeline” page to read briefs filed in these cases.

 

UE Local 893/IPU v. State of Iowa

Scheduled for oral argument Sept. 13, 9 a.m.

Question: Did the State violate a collective bargaining agreement with a public employees’ union by failing to collect union dues owed under a contract ratified by the union’s membership?

The State appeals a Polk County District Court holding that the State should have deducted appellee UE Local 893/IPU union dues from State employees’ wages beginning with the payroll following the trial court’s previous ruling, which was subsequently affirmed by the Iowa Supreme Court. The trial court held that the union had ratified a collective bargaining agreement with its members prior to the effective date of state legislation that barred public employers from deducting union dues from employees’ wages. The questions now before the Supreme Court is whether the State violated the collective bargaining agreement by failing to reinstate dues collections from members’ paychecks following that ruling and whether the trial court erred in ordering the State to pay dues owed to the union as damages.

 

State v. Erdman

Scheduled for oral argument Sept. 13, 9 a.m.

Questions: Did the juvenile court properly waive prosecution of a juvenile to adult court on a sexual abuse charge?

Dagger Erdman seeks further review of a divided Feb. 8 Iowa Court of Appeals decision affirming his conviction by the Washington County District Court for second-degree sexual abuse and holding that the juvenile court properly exercised its discretion in waving its jurisdiction allowing Erdman, who was 17 at the time of the incident, to be tried as an adult. One member of the three-judge Court of Appeals panel dissented on the issue of the waiver of Erdman to adult court while agreeing with the majority on the sufficiency of the evidence for Erdman’s conviction.

 

In the Matter of V.H., Alleged to be Seriously Mentally Impaired, V.H., respondent-appellant

Will be submitted to the Court without oral argument Sept. 13.

Question: Did a district court err in affirming the appellant’s involuntary hospitalization and in denying his motion to represent himself?

V.H. appeals a decision by the Johnson County District Court affirming a magistrate’s decision upholding his involuntary hospitalization by the Iowa Department of Corrections. V.H. argues on appeal that the trial court erred in denying his motion to represent himself and in affirming his continued involuntary hospitalization.

 

State v. Krogmann

Scheduled for oral argument Sept. 13, 1:30 p.m.

Question: Should a defendant accused of attempted murder be allowed to introduce a videotaped interview with a DCI agent to support his diminished-responsibility defense?

The State seeks further review of a March 8 Iowa Court of Appeals decision reversing Robert Krogmann’s conviction by a Delaware County jury of attempted murder and willful injury causing serious injury. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in excluding a videotape of Krogmann’s interview with a State Division of Criminal Investigation agent, which Krogmann sought to introduce to show his demeanor during the interview to demonstrate his mental instability on the day of the shooting. The State on appeal urges the Court to clarify whether an interview of a defendant discussing a crime is hearsay, and whether it may be admitted to support his defense of diminished responsibility.

 

State v. Martin

Will be submitted to the Court without oral argument Sept. 13.

Question: Should a risk-assessment tool have been used in determining a criminal sentence?

Demetrias Martin seeks further review of a Dec. 7, 2022, Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming his sentence to serve a mandatory minimum of 70% of a 25-year sentence for first-degree robbery. Martin argues the district court erred in considering the Iowa Risk Assessment report showing he was scored as a “high risk” for violent recidivism and a “moderate/high risk” for continuous victimization. Martin argues the sentencing court should not have considered the risk assessment because it was not validated for use in a sentencing decision.

 

Senator Roby Smith, Senator Jim Carlin, Senator Chris Cournoyer, Senator Adrian Dickey, Senator Jason Shultz, Senator Dan Zumbach, Former Senator Zach Whiting, Rep. Brooke Boden, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, Rep. Carter Nordman and Rep. Jeff Shipley v. Iowa District Court for Polk County.

Scheduled for oral argument Sept. 14, 9 a.m.

Question: Are members of the Iowa General Assembly shielded by legislative privilege from complying with subpoenas issued in a civil case questioning legislative intent?

State Sen. Roby Smith and 10 other current or former legislators appeal a Polk County District Court decision compelling them to produce documents and communications in compliance with subpoenas served by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). LULAC sued the Iowa Secretary of State and Iowa Attorney General seeking to enjoin enforcement of newly enacted legislation regarding the hours polls are open on Election Day and requesting and submitting absentee ballots. The subpoenas sought documents from meetings with or communications from lobbyists, advocates, and other members of the public who are not legislators. The district court held that any legislative privilege is qualified and should yield to LULAC’s discovery interest, and that any “chilling effect” of the subpoenas could be mitigated with a protective order. The legislators argue on appeal that the district court went too far in concluding that Iowa’s legislative privilege did not excuse them from compliance with the subpoenas.

An amicus curiae brief in support of the appellants was submitted to the Court by the Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Republican Party of Iowa.

 

Iowa Individual Health Benefit Reinsurance Association v. State University of Iowa, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, and University of Northern Iowa

Scheduled for oral argument Sept. 14, 9 a.m.

Question: Are Iowa’s three state universities subject to a state-created health-insurance pool and thus liable for unpaid assessments?

Iowa’s three state universities appeal a Polk County District Court ruling holding that the Regents institutions are members of the Iowa Individual Health Benefit Reinsurance Association [IIHBRA] and thus liable for $4.4 million in unpaid assessments owed to the Association. IIHBRA sued the three universities in 2013 seeking unpaid assessments; the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the Association has the capacity to sue and remanded the case to the district court, which held that the Regents Institutions are members of IIHBRA. On appeal, the universities argue that, as self-insured entities of the State, they are not subject to the statute [Iowa Code section 513C.10] creating the IIHBRA as a reinsurance pool for independent health insurers to spread the risk of losses among all insurers. The State also argues on appeal that the statute violates the Iowa Constitution’s bar on extending credit to private entities by assessing the State a share of insurers’ losses, meaning the state would be acting as a surety for insurers’ private debt.

 

State v. Blahnik Church

Will be submitted to the Court Sept. 14 without oral argument.

Question: Did a judge’s new instruction to a deadlocked jury have the effect of coercing a holdout juror into going along with a guilty verdict?

The State appeals a Feb. 8 Iowa Court of Appeals ruling reversing the Linn County District Court’s denial of a motion by Johnny Blahnik Church for a new trial following a jury verdict finding him guilty of second-degree murder, obstructing prosecution, and defacing a corpse. Church had moved for a new trial arguing the trial court abused its discretion in giving the jury a supplemental instruction after the judge was informed the jurors were deadlocked. The Court of Appeals concluded the supplemental instruction intended to break the deadlocked jury should not have been given because of its effect of coercing a single holdout juror into going along with a guilty verdict. In its application for further review, the State argues the evidence shows the supplemental instruction was not coercive given the amount of time the jurors deliberated following the instruction and that when polled in open court there was no indication of hesitation by any juror.

 

State v. Geddes

Scheduled for oral argument Sept. 14, 1:30 p.m.

Question: Was taping “Burn that gay flag” messages to houses displaying gay-pride flags a hate crime or expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment?

Robert Geddes appeals his conviction following a bench trial in Boone County District Court for five counts of trespass with Intent to commit a hate crime in violation of Iowa trespass and hate-crimes statutes. Geddes was accused of taping notes with what were perceived to be anti-gay references to the doors of five Boone residences displaying rainbows flags. Geddes argues on appeal the State failed to establish he had specific intent to commit a hate crime while knowingly trespassing and that he targeted a person associated with persons of a certain sexual orientation. Geddes further argues his prosecution and conviction under Iowa Code sections 716.7(2)(a)(1), 716.8(3), and 729A.2(4) violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

 

State v. Rutherford

Will be submitted to the Court Sept. 14 without oral argument.

Question: Was a 15-year prison sentence inappropriate for an offender needing life-saving cancer treatment?

Murphy Rutherford seeks further review of a March 8 Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming his conviction and 15-year prison sentence by the Washington County District Court. Rutherford argues in his application for further review that his guilty plea entered in the trial court lacked a factual basis and that he did not enter into it knowingly. He further argues the Court of Appeals erred in affirming his sentence despite his need for life-saving medical treatment for thyroid cancer and liver problems.

 

State v. Cook

Will be submitted to the Court without oral argument Sept. 14.

Questions: Was the evidence insufficient for a willful-injury conviction, and did the district court err in failing to merge his willful-injury and robbery convictions at sentencing?

Dalton Cook seeks further review of a Dec. 7, 2022, Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming Cook’s conviction by a Wapello County jury of first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, and willful injury causing serious injury. In his application for further review of the Court of Appeals ruling, Cook argues there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for willful injury causing serious injury, and the trial court imposed an illegal and unconstitutional sentence by failing to merge Cook’s conviction for willful injury causing serious injury with his conviction for robbery in the first degree.

 

State v. Brown

Will be submitted to the Court without oral argument Sept. 14.

Questions: Was the evidence insufficient for a willful-injury conviction, and did the district court err in failing to merge his willful-injury and robbery convictions at sentencing?

Waylon Brown seeks further review of a Feb. 8 Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming his conviction by a Woodbury County jury of first-degree robbery and willful injury causing serious injury. Brown was sentenced to serve 25 years for robbery and 10 years on the willful-injury charge, to be served consecutively. In his application for further review, Brown argues the evidence was not sufficient to prove he was the principal or aided and abetted in the commission of either first- or second-degree robbery, and that the trial court imposed an illegal and unconstitutional sentence by failing to merge Brown’s conviction for first-degree robbery and willful injury causing serious injury.

 

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