Justia Iowa Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court denying three plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment in this suit brought to challenge the City of Des Moines' use of the state's income offset program to collect automated traffic citation penalties and granting summary judgment in favor of the City, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment as to a preemption claim and a claim for unjust enrichment.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court properly dismissed Plaintiffs' claims that, among other things, the City's use of the income offset program amounted to an unconstitutional taking and that their right to procedural due process was violated. As to Plaintiffs' contention that the City's use of the program was preempted by state law, however, the district court reversed in part, holding that the district court erred in dismissing one plaintiff's preemption claim with respect to his requests for declaratory and injunctive relief and in dismissing two plaintiffs' claim for unjust enrichment. The Court remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Livingood v. City of Des Moines" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Exile Brewing Company's attempt to intervene in the underlying probate matter and striking Exile's motion to vacate, dismiss, and close two estates seeking to pursue certain claims, holding that the probate court did not err in denying the request to intervene and close the estates.During the 1950s and '60s, Ruth Bisignano owned and operated a popular bar in Des Moines. In 2012, Exile named one of its craft beers "Ruthie" and used Ruth's image. Ruthie died in 1993, and her estate was closed that year. Her husband Frank Bisignano died three years later, and his estate was closed in 1999. In 2020, Plaintiff successfully filed petitions to reopen both estates. Subsequently, as administrator of Frank's estate, Plaintiff sued Exile alleging common law appropriation and other claims. Exile filed a motion to vacate, dismiss, and close both estates, arguing that the probate court lacked statutory jurisdiction to reopen the estates. The probate court denied the motion, concluding that Exile had no right to intervene in the probate proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the probate court correctly determined that Exile was an interloper with no ability to challenge the estates' reopening. View "In re Estate of Bisignano" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court refusing to quash subpoenas that required production of documents and testimony for use in a Louisiana products liability lawsuit, holding that the subpoenas imposed undue burdens on Dethmers Manufacturing Company, an Iowa firm.The plaintiff in the products liability used Iowa's interstate discovery procedures to serve subpoenas on Dethmers, who was not a party to the Louisiana suit. The subpoenas required Dethmers to produce twenty-two categories of documents and testimony that were "extraordinarily broad." After Dethmers unsuccessfully moved to quash the subpoenas Dethmers brought this appeal. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of an order quashing the subpoenas, holding that the subpoenas were overly burdensome on their face and should be quashed. View "In re Subpoena Issued to Dethmers Manufacturing Co. v. Mittapalli" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court concluding that Plaintiff's filed petition did not relate back to her previously rejected filing, holding that the district court did not err in granting Defendants' motion to dismiss.Plaintiff filed this personal injury suit against Defendants one day after the two-year statute of limitations set forth in Iowa Code 614.1(2). Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the petition on the grounds that Plaintiffs' claims were time-barred. In response, Plaintiff argued that her untimely petition related back to the date she attempted to file her petition but the clerk of court rejected it due to Plaintiff's failure to include personal identification information with the proposed filing. The district court dismissed the action, concluding that the filed petition did not relate back to the rejected filing. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's filing did not relate back to her attempted filing. View "Carlson v. Second Succession, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reaffirmed its holding in Schilling v. Iowa Department of Transportation, 646 N.W.2d 69 (Iowa 2002), that a deferred judgment counts as a "final conviction" for purposes of mandatory license revocation under Iowa Code 321.209 and noted that its intervening decision in State v. Tong, 805 N.W.2d 599 (Iowa 2011), did nothing to erode the Schilling.At issue was the use of a deferred judgment as one of the underlying convictions counted by the Iowa Department of Transportation to revoke Appellant's status as a habitual offender. Appellant's driver's license was revoked under section 321.209 for Appellant's having garnered three enumerated convictions in a six-year period, making him a habitual offender under Iowa Code 321.555(1). Appellant argued that the deferred judgment he received on the eluding charge was not a "final conviction" and could not be counted as one of the predicate convictions. The district court upheld the agency's decision, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the lower courts correctly declined to depart from Schilling. View "Johnston v. Iowa Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying a citizen's quo warranto action asserting that a district judge was holding his office unlawfully, holding that this case presented a nonjusticiable controversy.In 2018, two finalists were sent to the Governor for a district judge position. Iowa law provides that, if the Governor fails to make an appointment within thirty days after a list of nominees has been submitted, the appointment shall be made by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. On a Thursday, the thirtieth day, the Governor communicated to her chief of staff the her selected nominee's identity - Jason Besler. The following Monday the Governor told Besler that he had been selected. The Chief Justice accepted the Governor's view that the appointment was timely. Gary Dickey, a private citizen, filed an application for leave to file a petition for writ of quo warranto alleging that Besler was holding the office of district judge unlawfully because the Governor failed to appoint Besler by the deadline for making an appointment. The district court denied the application. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because both the Governor and the Chief Justice deferred to and accepted the view that the appointment was timely, this quo warranto action was nonjusticiable. View "State ex rel. Dickey v. Besler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Supreme Court upheld the district court's order directing Plaintiff and/or his attorney to pay reasonable expenses associated with one of the defendant's attendance at a court-ordered pretrial settlement conference due to Plaintiff's failure to appear, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.Plaintiff failed personally to attend the settlement conference conference, despite pretrial orders and a local rule requiring his attendance. Defendants attended the conference, but Plaintiff did not. The district court refused to hold the conference without Plaintiff present and granted one of the defendant's motions for sanctions. The Supreme Court upheld the district court's order, holding that the district court did not exceed its jurisdiction or otherwise act illegally in finding Plaintiff in violation of the court's trial-setting order when he failed personally to appear for the scheduled settlement conference and in directing the specific sanction in this case. View "Davis v. Iowa District Court for Scott County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court dismissing for lack of standing Attorney's petition for judicial review of the decision of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board dismissing Attorney's complaint that the Governor had underreported the fair market value of a trip to Tennessee, holding that the district court properly concluded that Attorney lacked standing in this case.To comply with campaign disclosure requirements, the Governor's campaign committee reported the trip as a $2800 campaign contribution from an individual donor. Attorney complained to the Board that the Governor had underreported the fair market value of the trip, but the Board dismissed the complaint. Attorney petitioned for judicial review. The district court dismissed the petition, concluding that Attorney had not been injured by the Board's action, nor had he been deprived of any information. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Attorney was not an "aggrieved or adversely affected" party within the meaning of Iowa Code 17A.19; and (2) because Attorney did not allege he was lacking any relevant information but merely voiced a a disagreement over the reporting method used by the candidate committee, Attorney lacked standing. View "Dickey v. Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court holding that a copy of a petition for judicial review sent by email to opposing counsel failed to comply with Iowa Code 17A.19(2), which imposes a jurisdictional requirement for the petitioner in an action for judicial review to timely mail a copy of the petition to attorneys for all the parties in the case, holding that emailing between attorneys in Iowa satisfies the jurisdictional requirement of the statute.Petitioner filed a petition for judicial review after the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner issued a decision in a contested case proceeding against Loyd Ruling Construction. Loyd Roling filed a motion to dismiss the petition for judicial review, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction because Petitioner's attorney did not mail the copy of the petition through the postal system until more than ten days after the petition was filed, as required by section 17A.19(2). The district court agreed and dismissed the petition, concluding that electronic mailing did not constitute substantial compliance with the statute. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the service requirement under the statute is satisfied when a lawyer emails a copy of the petition to opposing counsel. View "Ortiz v. Loyd Roling Construction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals declining to give preemptive effect to a no-hazard determination by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and affirmed as modified the judgment of the district court, holding that the Federal Aviation Act allows for local zoning regulation, and the FAA's no-hazard letter did not preempt the local airport zoning regulations as a matter of law.A farmer built a twelve-story grain leg near an airport. The airport commission informed the farmer he needed a variance and refused to grant one. Thereafter, the FAA approved the structure. The local commissioners later brought this action in equity to force the farmer to modify or remove the structure. The district court issued an injunction. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted further review and held (1) state and local regulators can impose stricter height restrictions on structures in flight paths notwithstanding an FAA no-hazard determination, and therefore, the no-hazard letter did not preempt the local airport zoning regulations; and (2) the district court properly found that the structure constituted a threat to aviation requiring abatement, but the $200 daily penalty is vacated and the judgment is modified to require the farmer to abate the nuisance within nine months of this opinion. View "Carroll Airport Commission v. Danner" on Justia Law