Iowa Supreme Court

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Over a million people voted in the judicial retention elections of three Iowa Supreme Court justices. Chief Justice Mark Cady, Justice Brent Appel and Justice Daryl Hecht were each retained with more than 64 percent of the vote.

Though almost half of registered Iowa voters participated in the election, the number who cast their ballots for or against retention of the justices was nearly half-a-million fewer than the number of Iowans who voted in the presidential race. 

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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The City of Des Moines’s water utility is trying to sue 10 drainage districts in northwest Iowa in federal court, accusing the districts of polluting the Raccoon River. But first, Des Moines Water Works must convince the state Supreme Court that drainage districts can be held liable.

The drainage districts assert that for over a century, the Iowa Supreme Court has held that they can’t be sued for a civil wrong due to their limited authority. Attorney Michael Reck told the court during oral arguments Wednesday that it should stand by its previous rulings.

Flickr / Leonieke Aalders

The Iowa State Bar Association is recommending that voters retain all 63 Iowa judges and the three state supreme court justices who are facing judicial retention elections this November. The ISBA is basing this recommendation on the 2016 Judicial Performance Review survey. 

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The Iowa Attorney General Office argued Friday at the state Supreme Court that justices should overturn a ruling from six years ago. 

In Iowa, when someone is arrested, law enforcement have 45 days to press charges. Back in December 2010, the court ruled six-to-one in State v. Wing, that when a person reasonably believes they are under arrest, law enforcement must still adhere to the 45-day deadline. That's even if an individual isn't actually under arrest. 

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It was déjà vu at the Iowa Supreme Court, which held the first oral arguments of its 2016-17 term today. Justices heard a drunken-boating case for the second time as a result of a U.S Supreme Court ruling from June.

That federal ruling found that law enforcement can arrest drivers who don't submit to breathalyzer tests, but also determined blood tests to be unconstitutional. The Iowa case concerns breath-sobriety testing and drunken boating.

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The Iowa Supreme Court has released its first opinions of the 2016-17 term. Both deal with attorney discipline. 

Michael Reilly is now again able to practice law in Iowa. Reilly lost his license 10 years ago for depositing client funds into his personal bank account to supplement a gambling addiction.

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Judges and justices often make unpopular decisions, and these decisions may come back to haunt them come election season.

For Supreme Court justices in Iowa, that’s every eight years. And this November, Chief Justice Mark Cady, along with Justices Daryl Hecht and Brent Appel will be on the ballot.

Voters will not be asked to choose between the current justices and a challenger; rather with a retention election, voters are simply asked if each justice should keep his or her job.

But, many dislike Iowa’s judicial retention system.

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This story updates a report from earlier this morning.

Iowans with felony convictions will continue to be permanently banned from the voting booth, after today’s 4-3 ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court.

As a result, Iowa maintains its status as one of three states with lifetime voting bans for felons.

Flickr / Jeff Gitchel

The much anticipated ruling on felon voting from the Iowa Supreme Court will be released Thursday morning.

Iowa has one of the most restrictive felon voting policies in the nation.

It is one of three states that permanently disenfranchises someone if they commit a felony. 

That’s because Iowa’s constitution states anyone convicted of an infamous crime forever loses the right to vote. So what’s an infamous crime? The Iowa Supreme Court will likely tell us.  

The Iowa Supreme Court was unable to decide Friday when someone is entitled to counsel, though a drunk driver's conviction stands. A three-three-one ruling from the high court leaves the door open for future constitutional challenges. 

In September 2014, 29-year-old John A. Senn was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in Des Moines on Court Avenue. Senn was taken to the Des Moines police station where he refused to take a breathalyzer test until he spoke with his attorney.

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

A person in Iowa can’t be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if they lose their job because they’re in jail. That's according to a four-to-three decision from the state's supreme court.

In late 2013 medical assistant Sondra Irving of North Liberty spent nearly four weeks in jail, unable to post a bail of $17,500.

The charges were later dropped, but because Irving had been incarcerated for so long, she’d lost her job at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Flickr / Mike Lewis

Iowa tenants scored a victory at the state Supreme Court today. As a result, landlords have less power to withhold security deposits, or shift repair costs onto tenants.

The court ruled that landlords cannot charge automatic fees. And they must pay for all repairs, as long damages aren’t caused by tenants.

The case arose in 2011 after a University of Iowa student sued the Iowa City rental agency Apartments Downtown in small claims court.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether it violates the state’s constitution to permanently ban people with felony convictions from voting. 

The constitution states anyone who commits an “infamous crime,” forever loses the right to vote, though the text offers little context as to what makes a crime "infamous."

W. Ward Reynoldson, the former Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, has died. He was 95 years old.

Reynoldson sat on the state’s high court for 16 years, from 1971 to 1987. For nine of these years, Reynoldson served as chief justice. 

"The Iowa court family is saddened by the passing of former Chief Justice Ward Reynoldson," says current Chief Justice Mark Cady in an emailed statement. "He always projected the highest standards in everything he did."

The Iowa Supreme Court says a man found guilty of attempted murder and robbery won’t get a new trial, even though inaccurate reporting on a local news website was possibly seen by members of the jury. The case required justices to consider how its harder for jurors to avoid information that may prejudice them during a trial in the age of social media. 

Theodore Gathercole was found guilty in 2014. At the trial, jurors were frequently told to ignore print and broadcast accounts of the case. 

Flickr / Jeff Gitchel

In Iowa, once you commit a felony, you forever lose the right to vote.

This makes Iowa one of the three most restrictive states when it comes to felon voting. But the Iowa ACLU says the state's constitution does allow felons to vote, and will argue that later this month at the state Supreme Court.

When he was 24, Justin McCarthy went to federal prison for 15 months on charges related to illegal firearms and marijuana possession. This wasn’t McCarthy’s first run-in with the law, but prison was a turning point.

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

Iowa’s Chief Justice Mark Cady is calling on the state to pay closer attention to who serves on juries as a way of reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system. During his annual Condition of the Judiciary address on Wednesday, Cady told lawmakers one of the ways Iowa can work to combat inequality is to track and maintain data on the racial composition of juries.

"The internal data will help us determine if [the] jury selection process we use could be improved," says Cady.

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The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that plea bargains may not be undermined by the prosecution, which negotiates agreements with defense attorneys. 

Andrew Lopez pleaded guilty in 2013 to child endangerment. He reached a plea bargain that recommended probation and no-contact agreement. 

At Lopez's sentencing hearing the prosecuting attorney submitted new evidence at a sentencing hearing, including photos of burn and bite marks on the toddler involved. The judge in the case sentenced him to a prison sentence of up to five years. 

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

The Iowa Supreme Court on Thursday heard the appeal of an Iowa woman who was denied unemployment benefits after missing work and subsequently losing her job as a medical assistant because she was in jail. Sondra Irving missed more than three weeks of work after being held at the Johnson County Jail in late 2013, in part because she couldn’t make bail which was set at $17,500.

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments Monday night in the appeal of a 100-year sentence given to a Waterloo man in 2013. Donald Reed was convicted on drug-related charges and received an enhanced sentence because of a prior crime he committed when he was 17.  

Flickr / JOE GRATZ

The Iowa Supreme Court meets at Valley High School in West Des Moines tonight where it will consider whether an enhanced sentence is constitutional if the initial crime committed occurred when the offender was a minor.

In 2013, Donald Reed of Waterloo was given a 100-year prison sentence, with the possibility of parole after a third of the time served, for convictions on drug-related charges. This was an enhanced sentenced due to a previous drug offense he committed at age 17. 

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An Iowa man convicted of first-degree murder in 1992 will be resentenced. This comes as little surprise following the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling this summer in State of Iowa vs. Yvette Louisell

Eric Querrey was 15 when he shot and killed 16-year-old Stacy Halferty. He received the mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Flickr / Ken Lund

The Iowa Supreme Court heard a case yesterday that could result in a powerful blow to open meetings regulations in the state of Iowa. 

The Warren County Board of Supervisors laid-off twelve county employees in March 2014. Instead of deliberating in a public meeting, the three supervisors communicated through the county administrator which positions would be eliminated.

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The Iowa General Assembly has taken steps over the last few years to make the procedures for arresting a drunken boater closer to those for arresting a drunken driver. Iowa’s Supreme Court will be the next authority to make a decision on the matter.

Last month, the court heard oral arguments in the case of the State vs. Pettijohn.

“There are two issues in this case. One has to do with the stop of the boat and one has to do with the breath test back at the station,” explains University of Iowa law professor Todd Pettys.

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On Mother’s Day 2012, 17-year-old Isaiah Sweet of Manchester put on earmuffs, loaded ten bullets into an assault rifle, and shot his grandparents in the head. He was later sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Thursday, the Iowa Supreme Court was asked if that’s ever an appropriate sentence for a juvenile in Iowa.

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

Wednesday is the first day of the Iowa Supreme Court's 2015-2016 session. The high court will hear five cases, including one questioning when someone should be given the Miranda Warning, which is the right to remain silent when in police custody and the right to legal counsel. 

Zyriah Schlitter was found guilty in 2012 of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment resulting in the death of his 17-month-old daughter Kamryn. During his trial, Schlitter made statements that conflicted with a taped interview conducted by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. 

U.S. National Archieves

In one of its last rulings of the 2014-2015 term, the Iowa Supreme Court says a locked safe in the car of an arrested driver cannot be searched without a warrant.

During a December 2012 traffic stop, a Davenport police officer found a partially smoked blunt. The driver Jesse Gaskins was arrested, handcuffed and placed in a police cruiser.

The officer then searched the vehicle, which police can do if there is probable cause of criminal activity. During the search the officer found a small, portable safe in the passenger compartment.

Joyce Russell/IPR file photo

Governor Branstad says last week’s momentous U.S. Supreme Court ruling will not have a big impact in Iowa, since same-sex marriage has been well-established in the state since 2009.  

The governor today commented on the fact that county officials in other states may try to deny licenses to same-sex couples in protest.   

Branstad says he’s not aware of any way that could happen here.

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa Supreme Court says telemedicine abortions in Iowa are allowable. In 2013 the Iowa Board of Medicine created rules that effectively banned abortions performed by video conference, but the state’s high court says these rules create an undue burden for women seeking to terminate a pregnancy. 

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