UPDATES & ANALYSIS

4.10

Iowa Supreme Court to hear arguments in three cases April 11, including on enforcement of Iowa’s fetal-heartbeat abortion law

by Rox Laird | April 10, 2023

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in three cases April 11. A fourth case will be submitted to the Court without oral argument. Following are summaries of the cases. [Go to On Brief’s “Cases in the Pipeline” page to read briefs filed in these cases.]

 

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland v. Kim Reynolds

Scheduled for oral argument April 11, 9 a.m.

Question: Should a District Court have dissolved its injunction against enforcement of Iowa’s abortion law after the Iowa Supreme Court reversed its 2018 holding that the Iowa Constitution protected abortion?

The State of Iowa appeals the Polk County District Court’s denial of its motion to dissolve the trial court’s 2019 injunction barring enforcement of a state law that outlaws most abortions after a heartbeat of the fetus is detectable with an ultrasound test. The District Court based its injunction on a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling finding a fundamental right to abortion under the Iowa Constitution, and on U.S. Supreme Court precedent beginning with Roe v. Wade. Four years later, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed its decision, holding that the case was wrongly decided, and two weeks after that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe.

The State subsequently filed a motion asking the Polk County District Court to dissolve its injunction in light of the Iowa and federal decisions, arguing there had been a “substantial change in the law.” The trial court denied the State’s motion, saying it lacked inherent authority to dissolve an injunction based on a substantial change in the law, and that there had not been a substantial change in the law because the Iowa Supreme Court left in place the “undue burden standard” of review in abortion cases established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.

In its appeal in this case, the State asks the Iowa Supreme Court to hold that rational-basis review is the correct standard for assessing challenges to abortion legislation, and that Iowa’s fetal-heartbeat law satisfies rational-basis review, and it asks the Court to remand the case to the Polk County District Court with instructions to dissolve the 2019 injunction.

Amicus curiae briefs in support of the State appellants were filed by 16 Iowa State senators; by 62 members of the Iowa Legislature; by the American College of Pediatricians; by Indiana and 18 other states; and by University of Iowa law professor Derek T. Muller.

Amicus curiae briefs in support of the Planned Parenthood appellees were filed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Medical Association, and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine; by the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa; and by non-Iowan abortion care providers.

 

Story County Wind v. Story County Board of Review

Scheduled for oral argument April 11, 9 a.m.

Question: Should new equipment installed on existing wind-powered generators be valued for property tax purposes based on the cost of the new equipment or the original equipment?

Story County Wind appeals the Story County District Court’s dismissal on summary judgment of its appeal of the Story County Board of Review’s assessment for property tax purposes of the plaintiff-appellant’s wind farm. Iowa Code section 427B.26 establishes incremental valuation increases, from 0% in year one to 30% in year seven succeeding years, for the cost of installing new wind generators. Story County Wind argues the county should set the taxable value of replacement equipment installed on its existing windmills at 0% for the first year, as the Iowa Department of Revenue has recommended with regard to substantial replacements. Story County Wind argues the District Court should have held that the statute is ambiguous on the question of valuing new investments in existing wind equipment and should instead have adopted the Revenue Department’s recommendation.

 

Hedlund v. State of Iowa, et al.

Scheduled for oral argument April 11, 9 a.m.

Question: Should amendments to a statute protecting whistleblowers be applied retroactively in a State employee’s case?

The State of Iowa appeals a Polk County District Court order granting plaintiff-appellee Larry Hedlund’s motion that 2019 legislative amendments to Iowa Code section 70A.28, which protects State employees who act as whistleblowers, are retroactive and thus apply to his claim against the State.

Hedlund sued the State, the Public Safety Commissioner, and others after he was allowed to retire in lieu of termination for insubordination, claiming he was instead fired for disclosing that he had observed a state vehicle transporting then-Governor Terry Branstad exceeding the speed limit. In 2019 the Iowa Supreme Court, hearing Hedlund’s first appeal, remanded the case for trial on Hedlund’s whistleblowing claim. The original whistleblower statute did not provide for non-equitable relief, but the Legislature’s 2019 amendments, enacted after Hedlund’s original action was filed, provided for non-equitable relief up to three times a plaintiff’s wages and benefits. The State argues in this appeal that the trial court erred in holding the amendments were retroactive.

 

Wallace v. Wildensee

Will be submitted to the Court April 11 without oral argument.

Question: Does an Iowa District Court have the authority to approve an agreement allowing a husband to transfer to his wife income from his pension governed by federal ERISA law?

Mary Kathryn and Douglas Wallace appeal a Johnson County District Court order denying their petition to approve an order allowing transfer of Douglas Wallace’s pension to Mary Kathryn. Mary Kathryn and Douglas, both 83, have been married for more than 60 years. Douglas, needing care for Parkinson’s, lives in an assisted living facility; Mary Kathryn lives in the family home. They were unsuccessful in transferring Douglas’ share of his pension, which is controlled by federal law under ERISA, to Mary Kathryn. Federal law requires creation of a “qualified domestic relation order” (QDRO), to create an “alternate payee’s” right to receive benefits. That requires an order by a state court approving the property settlement, which the Wallaces sought in Johnson County District Court. The District Court, however, ruled it did not have jurisdiction for the Wallaces’ cause and denied their petition. They appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

An amicus curiae brief was filed by the Drake University Legal Clinic, which was appointed by the Iowa Supreme Court to submit a brief defending the District Court’s order.

 

 

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