Iowa Supreme Court to hear arguments in two cases March 22

by Rox Laird | March 19, 2023

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases March 22. Two other cases will be submitted to the Court without oral argument. Following are summaries of those cases. Go to On Brief’s “Cases in the Pipeline” page to read the briefs filed in these cases.


Environmental Law and Policy Center, Iowa Environmental Council, and Sierra Club v. Iowa Utilities Board; Office of Consumer Advocate and MidAmerican Energy Co., intervenors

Scheduled for oral argument March 22, 10 a.m.

Question: Did the Iowa Utilities Board wrongly exclude testimony offered by environmental groups when it approved MidAmerican Energy’s plan for managing emissions from power plants?

The Environmental Law and Policy Center, Iowa Environmental Council, and Sierra Club appeal a decision of the Polk County District Court affirming the Iowa Utilities Board’s decision approving MidAmerican Energy’s plan for how it will manage emissions from its coal-fired electric generation plants as required by Iowa Code section 476.6(19). The environmental groups sought judicial review in District Court challenging the Board’s application of the statute in approving MidAmerican’s emissions-management plan without considering testimony from the environmental groups arguing for retiring some coal generators as a more effective strategy for meeting state and federal environmental standards.

The District Court concluded “the IUB did not err in determining it was not required to address evidence regarding least-cost options for emissions controls.” Thus, the trial court held, the evidence filed by the environmental groups and the Office of Consumer Advocate was outside the scope of the Board’s proceeding.

The Office of Consumer Advocate, a division of the Iowa Department of Justice, which represents Iowa consumers in proceedings before the Iowa Utilities Board, filed an amicus curiae brief with the Court in support of the environmental groups’ position.


McCoy v. Thomas L. Cardella & Associates

Scheduled for oral argument March 22, 10 a.m.

Question: Should a sexual-harassment suit have been dismissed because the plaintiff failed to bring the action under the Iowa Civil Rights Act or the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act?

Thomas L. Cardella & Associates appeals from a Linn County jury verdict awarding former Cardella employee Jena McCoy $400,000 for emotional distress for her claims of negligent retention and supervision of Cardella supervisors who allegedly engaged in either unwanted touching of McCoy or in making comments containing sexual innuendo. Cardella argues on appeal that the District Court erred in denying the company’s motion to dismiss based on its argument that McCoy’s claims are pre-empted by the Iowa Civil Rights Act or the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act because no recognized tort claim exists for negligent supervision other than a negligence claim under the Iowa Civil Rights Act.


State v. Woodbury County District Court

Will be submitted to the Court March 22 without oral argument.

Question: Should a defendant who entered a guilty plea to a drug charge have received a prison sentence instead of a fine as ordered by the sentencing court?

The State Appellate Defender seeks further review of an Aug. 3 Iowa Court of Appeals decision vacating and remanding John Michael Baker’s fine-only criminal sentence after he pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine, third or subsequent offense, a class D felony. The State filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Iowa Supreme Court and the case was transferred to the Court of Appeals. The State argued the sentence was illegal because Iowa Code section 907.3(3) requires the suspension of a prison sentence to be accompanied by placement on probation. The Court of Appeals held that the sentencing court incorrectly applied sentencing statutes. In its application for further review, the Appellate Defender argues that a 1982 Iowa Supreme Court case cited by the State involved a forcible felony, whereas this case does not involve a forcible felony.


Pitz v. U.S. Cellular Operating Company of Dubuque

Will be submitted to the Court March 22 without oral argument.

Question: Did a cell-phone company properly comply with terms of the original lease when it sought to renew its 30-year lease on land for a cell tower?

William and Lynn Pitz seek further review of a Nov. 22 Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming the Dubuque County District Court’s dismissal of their suit and holding that U.S. Cellular properly exercised its option to renew a 30-year lease for a cell tower on the couple’s land. The Pitzes argue in their application to the Iowa Supreme Court for further review that U.S. Cellular failed to properly exercise its option to renew the lease because its written notice was defective and the company did not include rent payment with the lease renewal. U.S. Cellular cross-appeals on the question of attorney fees.






March 2024 Opinion Roundup

The Iowa Supreme Court entered opinions in ten cases during March 2024. These opinions are summarized below.

Iowa Supreme Court sends ‘stand your ground’ case back for new trial

Lasondra Johnson was tried for first-degree murder for the shooting death of Jada Young-Mills outside a Waterloo residence. Johnson argued she acted in self defense and the shooting was justified under Iowa’s “stand your ground” law that says a person is justified in the use of reasonable force in the belief that such …



On Brief: Iowa’s Appellate Blog is devoted to appellate litigation with a focus on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.


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