Courts

Crime, Justice and Public Safety

Douglas Palmer via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/diacritical/4628043944/

An Iowa non-profit organization is trying to pay for the release of all 32 individuals detained in an immigration raid in Mount Pleasant. By getting them out of detention centers, organizers behind the Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project say those arrested will have a much better chance of presenting their case in court.

CTF83/Wikimedia Commons

The Iowa Supreme Court has considered several questions recently, including: When do hugs between a student and a school employee add up to illegal sexual contact? Also, if a neglected property becomes an eyesore, can the city take it without paying the owner a dime?

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with legal expert Todd Pettys about the stories behind several Iowa Supreme Court cases. Pettys also shares his thoughts on whether Iowa’s new fetal heartbeat law will be struck down.

Pettys is the H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation at the University of Iowa College of Law.

Cases discussed this hour include:

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Jill Meadows v. Kimberly K. Reynolds ex rel. State of Iowa and Iowa Board of Medicine

More information: https://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts/supreme-court/supreme-court-oral-argument-schedule/case/17-1579

Kate Payne/IPR

Family members of those detained in an immigration raid in Mt. Pleasant this week are still reeling, after federal law enforcement officials arrested 32 workers at a concrete factory Wednesday morning.

Now their families are trying to navigate the legal system, hire lawyers and figure out how to pay the bills. Fifteen year old Oscar Lopez’s stepfather was among those detained.

“I think of him as the hardest working man there is,” Lopez said. “He just really… he just tried to get a roof over our head, food to us, everything. Give us the best life there could be.”

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode
Andrew Bardwell

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with legal analysts Todd Pettys, H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation and law professor at the University of Iowa, and Tony Gaughan, Professor of Law and Drake University Law School about prominent cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Along with some other courts news, here are some of the cases they discuss:

Benisek v. Lamone and Gill v Whitford  – Both are gerrymandering cases.

Kate Payne

Eastern Iowa officials are encouraging people to report any hate-related incidents. In the past few months Iowa City has seen white power fliers handed out in a neighborhood and anti-Semitic graffiti on the University of Iowa campus. Now local law enforcement and community leaders are asking for residents' help to identify and prevent potential hate crimes.

Ken Lund / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

President Trump is rapidly reshaping the judiciary. On this River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with guests about how Republicans are systematically filling vacancies in the federal court system with young, conservative judges.

Joining the conversation is former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Kevin Techau and Todd Pettys of the University of Iowa College of Law. 

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.  

supreme court
John Pemble/IPR file photo

People convicted of sex crimes are still required to register as sex offenders in Iowa even if they’re appealing their convictions, according to today's ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court.

The case centers on the appeal of Brian James Maxwell, who was hired as a youth coordinator for two churches in the Winterset area in March 2014. That month he inappropriately touched a 16-year-old girl who he met through this job.

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.  

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.

Jon Pemble/IPR file

Iowa’s attorney general is joining 15 other states that are suing President Trump, in an attempt to preserve an Obama-era policy that protects nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from being deported.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was created under an executive order. It allows undocumented immigrants without criminal records to live and work in the US for a two-year renewable period. 

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.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Along Interstate 80 in Iowa, near the Illinois border, is The World’s Largest Truck Stop – at least that’s what it claims. It has parking for 900 big rigs, there are restaurants, showers, even a dentist. Driver Roosevelt Phillips is here from Pittsburgh. He says truck stops like this one are a community.

“We talk about everything. I mean, y’know, I’m an adult so I’m talking to another truck driver, so we talk about whatever comes up,” Phillips says.

They talk about everything from politics to the news of the day – and the strange activity they see on the road.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

A group of community members from Des Moines is asking Iowa’s U.S. senators to let a woman in Iowa arrested by Immigration Customs and Enforcement officials be reunited with her 4-month-old son.  

Sarah Boden/IPR File

The bench trial in the case questioning the constitutionality of new abortion restrictions in Iowa ended yesterday, but it will be more than a month before the district court rules.

The case challenges a new law that requires a woman have an ultrasound three days before terminating her pregnancy. This rule not only mandates a delay, but also forces a woman to attend two separate medical appointments.

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."

Sarah Boden/IPR File

The medical director of Iowa’s largest abortion provider took the witness stand today in Polk County District Court. Dr. Jill Meadows of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the ACLU of Iowa are suing the state, saying that new restrictions on abortion create an undue burden for women.

There’s currently an injunction on the new law which requires a woman to have an ultrasound three days before terminating her pregnancy. Meadows testified this will increase costs for patients because now women would be billed for two medical visits instead of one.

Sarah Boden/IPR File

A trial begins at the Polk County Courthouse this morning that questions the constitutionality of Iowa's three-day waiting period for abortions. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland says this new law creates an undue burden, especially for rural and low-income women.

Waiting periods before abortions are legal. What's not clear is how long the delay can be before it becomes unconstitutional. 

Iowa's law requires a woman not only to wait three days, but also to obtain an ultrasound 72-hours before her abortion. This means patients must attend two separate medical visits. 

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.

Des Moines Catholic Worker

Four people have been arrested near the Des Moines airport. They were blocking a road in protest of the Iowa Air National Guard’s program in which drones are piloted remotely from the airport's military air base.

Jesse Horne, Spencer Kaaz, Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya are each charged with two misdemeanors: interference with official acts and disorderly conduct.

Activist Alex Cohen, who attended the protest, says this action is part of an ongoing campaign to oppose the drone program.

Flickr / David Wilson

A Muscatine mother of four who was born in Mexico will not be deported for breaking a state law. Prosecuting Martha Martinez for identity theft would have jeopardized her legal residency through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Martinez came to Iowa from Mexico when she was 11 years old.  As a young adult she used a false identity to gain employment.

Flickr Creative Commons

One morning on her way to school in Des Moines last month, 15-year-old Estela got a call from her mother. Her father had been arrested while going to work at a construction company.

“My dad was walking towards the office when the cars came in and told him to stop and pointed his guns at him.”

Estela’s father has a criminal conviction for re-entering the United States. Estela was born here. Her parents came to the U.S. fleeing violence in Mexico. We’re not using Estela's full name because her mother is also undocumented and fears she could also be arrested.

Jon Pemble/IPR file

In a unanimous ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court says sentencing a juvenile to lifetime parole is not a cruel and unusual punishment.

When he was a 17-year-old, Bradley Graham committed statutory rape by having sex with a 13-year-old. In addition to incarceration, Graham was given a lifetime sentence of parole.

Graham says the lifetime aspect of his punishment is cruel and unusual, because he was a juvenile when he committed the crime.

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.

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