courts

jorge sanders-galvez
John Lovretta / The Hawk Eye

Jorge Sanders-Galvez has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2016 killing of a gender-fluid teen.

Prosecutors say he aided and abetted Jaron Purham in the murder of 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson in Burlington.

The jury submitted a verdict after less than two hours of deliberation in Keokuk.

Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers says she was somewhat surprised with the speed of the jury’s decision, but she thinks it was the right decision.

gavel
SalFalko / Flickr

At a hearing Thursday in Johnson County court, attorneys debated whether the state’s new "stand your ground" law allows for immunity from prosecution in self-defense cases.

The issue came up after an August shooting in Iowa City’s downtown pedestrian mall. Lamar Wilson is charged with murder, attempted murder and gang participation in the case.

Bill Badzo/flickr

There was another court ruling today against public employees over a new state law limiting their bargaining rights in the workplace.

Polk County District Judge Arthur Gamble today threw out a lawsuit filed by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

The new law treats public safety employees differently than other public workers.

AFSCME claimed that was a violation of the constitution’s equal protection clause.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady Thursday issued an order for Iowa courts to follow, banning the routine use of restraints on juveniles during court proceedings.       

Advocates for juvenile offenders, including Drake University’s Middleton Center for Children’s Rights and the ACLU, recommended the change.

They note that in some Iowa counties, juveniles routinely appear before judges in handcuffs and shackles.  

MitchellShapiroPhotography / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode

Can a cake baker refuse to make a cake based on a religious objection to the event it is celebrating? A case relating to that concept will be in front of the U.S. Supreme Court this term. 

In this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined for legal analysis by Todd Pettys, H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation and University of Iowa Professor of Law, and also Mark Kende, Professor of Law at Drake University, James Madison Chair in Constitutional Law, and Director of the Drake Constitutional Law Center.

Here are the cases we review:

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

A former Iowa DCI agent, who was fired after reporting speeding by then-Governor Branstad’s security detail, would not be getting his day in court soon under a motion filed this week in Polk County District Court.  

The motion filed by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says former agent Larry Hedlund’s case should be put on hold until Branstad completes his assignment as U.S. Ambassador to China.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

A controversial settlement in a sexual harassment complaint against Republicans in the Iowa Senate was officially approved today, putting an end to a lawsuit alleging a sexually-charged atmosphere in the GOP caucus.   

The State Appeals Board agreed that Iowa taxpayers will cover the $1.75 million settlement, with the money going to former GOP staffer Kirsten Anderson and her attorneys. 

A district court had awarded Anderson $2.2 million.   

Solicitor General Jeff Thompson said continuing to fight that verdict could be costly.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A settlement has been reached in a sexual harassment lawsuit against Republicans in the Iowa Senate.  

In graphic testimony before a Polk County jury earlier this year, former Senate GOP Communications Director Kirsten Anderson described what she called a “toxic” work environment, and claimed she was fired for complaining about explicit sexual comments.

The jury sided with the plaintiff, awarding Anderson $2.2 million.    

Defendants sought a new trial. 

Now the litigation will end. 

U.S. Court for the Southern District of Iowa

The federal government is starting over in its search for a site to build a federal courthouse in Des Moines. 

The U.S. General Services Administration had selected a vacant lot on the west bank of the Des Moines River downtown for the $137 million project. It’s where the old YMCA once sat.

City leaders opposed the decision, saying they preferred a commercial development for the spot, one that would generate tax revenue.

ACLU of Iowa

The ACLU of Iowa is filing a lawsuit to challenge the Iowa Department of Human Services’ ban on Medicaid coverage for transition-related medical care for transgender Iowans. The civil rights group says the ban is based on outdated assumptions about the nature of transgender health care.

The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of two clients – EerieAnna Good of the Quad Cities and Carol Ann Beal of northwest Iowa. Beal says she began taking hormone therapy when she was 14 and has lived as a woman since. She says she joined the suit because someone needed to be a trailblazer.

Jasper County Sheriff's Department photo

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday evening in a case that looks at how far a person’s right to privacy extends during a warrantless search by law enforcement.

In October 2015, Bion Ingram was driving a car that wasn’t his. When he was pulled over by a Jasper County Sheriff’s deputy, the deputy noticed the registration did not correspond to the car’s license plate.

ACLU of Iowa

The ACLU of Iowa has filed what is believed to be the first transgender rights lawsuit in Iowa since the state amended the Iowa Civil Rights Act in 2007 to include gender identity protections.

Jesse Vroegh, a transgender nurse, worked at Iowa’s Department of Corrections for seven years. After he publicly transitioned to male, Vroegh says he was barred from using the men’s bathroom and locker room, and denied medical coverage for surgery.

Wikimedia

One part of Iowa’s new comprehensive gun rights law that went into effect in July may end up in court. Under the new statute, a gunowner can sue any local government that tries to keep firearms out of public buildings.  

Dozens of counties with courthouse weapons bans are potential targets. 

Jackson County Chief Deputy Steve Schroeder says they lived through a nightmare a few years back at their courthouse in Maquoketa. 

ACLU of Iowa

The ACLU of Iowa says a Des Moines suburb has violated the constitutional rights of two couples, who displayed signs critical of the city on their properties. The civil liberties organization is demanding the City of Windsor Heights allow the homeowners to display their signs.

One of the signs opposes a recent decision by Windsor Heights to install sidewalks. The second protests the city's removal of the first sign.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Republicans in the Iowa Senate met Friday behind closed doors to discuss a $2.2 million judgment against the Senate in a sexual harassment trial.  

A Polk County jury sided with former staffer Kirsten Anderson who said she was fired after complaining of overt sexual comments by fellow Republicans.    

So far, no one has been disciplined in the case.

Emerging from the more than two hour meeting, Republican Leader Bill Dix said the Senate will conduct its own investigation to determine if discipline is necessary.

WIKICOMMONS / Iowahwyman

A nationally recognized gynecologist testified Tuesday at Polk County District Court. Dr. Dan Grossman of California is an expert witness in a trial that questions the constitutionality of new abortion restrictions.

Iowa’s new law requires a woman to have an ultrasound three days before an abortion. Grossman told the court, in some cases, he believes this requirement is "cruel" and "unacceptable."

Flickr / Marc Treble

The Iowa Supreme Court’s “Access to Justice Commission” has released a report that outlines steps to remove barriers to civil justice for low-income and disadvantaged Iowans.

At the beginning of the report, the commission notes the Iowa State Bar Association says that nearly half of all Iowans have difficulty affording a lawyer for basic legal needs.

FLICKR / LEONIEKE AALDERS

Due to a statewide hiring freeze Iowa’s Judicial Branch has the fewest employees since the state court system unified in 1987, with more than 150 vacant positions. 

A press release states the Iowa Legislature appropriated to the Judicial Branch an operating budget of $175.7 million for fiscal year 2018. This is the same amount as 2017, after a mid-year deappropriation, but "more than $3 million short of the legislature's FY 16 appropriation," the release concluded.

Urbandale and Des Moines police departments

The man charged in the ambush killings of two Des Moines-area police officers is withdrawing his not guilty pleas. Scott Greene now admits to killing Urbandale police officer Justin Martin and Des Moines sergeant Tony Beminio last November. Polk County Attorney John Sarcone says writings and drawings on Greene’s jail cell walls following his arrest tied him to the case.

“They are essentially admissions of his responsibility in this matter," he says. "He drew pictures of each officers face.”

Flickr / bloomsberries

A 49-year-old woman from northwest Iowa has been sentenced to more than four years in federal prison for a fraud in which she sold non-existent tickets and accommodations to the Super Bowl and other sports events.

Ranae Van Roekel of Hull plead guilty last summer to one count of mail fraud and another count of filing a false tax return in relation to the scheme.

According to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Sioux City, while Van Roekel was awaiting sentencing she engaged in another scheme to sell non-existent gift bags.

traffic camera
Adrian Pingstone / Wikipedia

Cedar Rapids is considering whether to appeal a ruling by an Iowa judge in a lawsuit over highway speed cameras. It affirms the Iowa Department of Transportation’s right to order the removal of some cameras.

Mayor Ron Corbett says attorneys are taking a few days to review the judge's ruling. 

"The Cedar Rapids City Council will probably decide at their next council meeting whether we want to join Des Moines and Muscatine and appeal the case," Corbett says.

Cedar Rapids takes in more revenue from traffic cameras than any other city in the state. 

jones and mitchell dash cam
YouTube

The City of Cedar Rapids and a police officer are denying all allegations in a lawsuit over a police shooting that left a man paralyzed from the neck down. 

In responses filed last week, the City of Cedar Rapids and police officer Lucas Jones state they are not liable for injuries or damages to Jerime Mitchell and his wife.

Mitchell sued the city and Jones after Jones shot him during a traffic stop last November.

John Pemble/IPR

The chief administrator for the judicial branch of state government is warning court employees across the state of possible layoffs or reduced courthouse hours, if a proposed GOP judicial branch budget is approved at the statehouse.   

In a memo to staff, David Boyd briefed employees on the proposed budget for next year which reduces judicial branch spending by $3 million compared to this year. 

Boyd said tough decisions will need to be made.

WIKICOMMONS / Farragutful

Five counties in eastern Iowa are trying out a less formal approach to family court in hopes of resolving cases faster and preserving court resources.  

Judge Nancy Tabor of Scott County says currently her docket is full of people representing themselves. Most people aren’t familiar with the court system, which means these cases take a lot of time.

So Tabor is trying out a more straightforward approach.

jones and mitchell dash cam
YouTube

A man who was shot by a Cedar Rapids police officer last fall is suing the city. Jerime Mitchell has been paralyzed from the neck down since the shooting, which happened during a traffic stop in November.

Mitchell and his wife are suing the city and Officer Lucas J0nes for negligence, “reckless, willful and wanton” actions, assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium.

The details of the shooting presented in the lawsuit are very different from those made public by county and state authorities late last year.

Flickr / Farragutful

The Iowa Supreme Court says a valid traffic stop can’t be prolonged without reasonable suspicion, once the original cause for that stop is resolved. As a result a man's aggravated misdemeanor conviction has been overturned. 

EIGHTH CIRCUIT BAR ASSOCATION

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Iowa and six other Midwestern states, will soon be the most "lopsided" federal appeals court in terms of the number of judges appointed by a single party.

As Rox Laird writes in the Iowa appellate court blog "On Brief", due to several retirements, President Donald Trump is expected to appoint three new judges to the Eight Circuit’s bench. This means only one of the court’s eleven judges won’t be a Republican appointee.

IPR Images

Iowa’s Judicial Branch is the first division of state government to announce a mandatory furlough as a  result of budget cuts for the fiscal  year that ends in June.   

Court offices will close for one day and employees will take unpaid leave.  

Governor Branstad recommended a more than $7 million cut to the judicial branch.   Lawmakers scaled that back to $3 million.  

In a memo to court employees, state court administrator David Boyd unveiled how courts would absorb the cut.  

FLICKR / JIMMY EMERSON, DVM

The former city clerk of Casey, Iowa was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison for mail fraud and the arson of a community building.

Flickr / Katy Warner

A Muscatine woman argued at the Iowa Supreme Court that since the employment of immigrants is regulated by the federal government, she’s protected from state identity theft charges. How the high court rules has significant implications for Iowa's undocumented immigrant community. 

In 1997, 11-year-old Martha Martinez came to the US as an undocumented immigrant. In 2014 she was charged with using a fake identity to gain employment.

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