Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) did not have the statutory authority from the legislature to promulgate administrative rules regulating automated traffic enforcement (ATE) systems located along primary roads. The enforcement of the IDOT’s rules resulted in three cities being ordered to relocate or remove several of their ATE cameras. The district court upheld both the IDOT’s rules and its decisions based on those rules. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the rules were invalid and could not be enforced against the cities because the IDOT’s specific grants of authority did not support the rules. View "City of Des Moines v. Iowa Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals erred in ruling that a taxpayer avoided in Iowa inheritance tax through a private postmortem family settlement agreement (FSA). Here, the decedent, before his death, signed a beneficiary form listing the taxpayer as a contingent beneficiary of his brokerage account. That account transferred to the taxpayer upon the decedent's death. The Iowa Department of Revenue (IDOR) determined that the estate owed the inheritance tax on the full account value. The decedent’s grandchildren sued the taxpayer claiming that they were entitled to the brokerage account under the decedent’s will because the decedent lacked the mental capacity to execute an enforceable beneficiary designation for the account. The taxpayer settled the suit by transferring half the account value to the plaintiffs under an FSA. The taxpayer then sought a refund of part of the inheritance tax already paid. The IDOR denied a refund, determining that the taxpayer failed to establish incapacity. The district court affirmed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the FSA controlled the tax issue. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the district court judgment, holding that, without an adjudication of incapacity, the FSA was not binding on the IDOR and could not avoid the inheritance tax. View "Nance v. Iowa Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court reversing the Iowa Department of Economic Development’s (IDED) decision (the 2016 action) to revoke tax credits that had previously been awarded by IDED to Ghost Player, LLC (the 2012 action). On appeal, IDED argued that the district court erred in ruling that the 2016 action revoking the tax credits was an invalid collateral attack on the agency’s 2012 action and was barred under the doctrine of claim preclusion. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the IDED’s decision to award tax credits to Ghost Player in the 2012 action was not entitled to preclusive effect that would prohibit IDED from attempting to revoke those tax credits in light of the discovery of fraud. View "Ghost Player, LLC v. Iowa Department of Economic Development" on Justia Law

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The Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) may not forfeit earned time an inmate accrued before his refusal of or removal from the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP). For more than a decade, the IDOC policy stopped only the ongoing accrual of earned time for inmates upon a refusal or removal from SOTP without forfeiting previously accrued earned time. This interpretation was upheld by the Supreme Court in Holm v. State, 767 U.W.2d 409 (Iowa 2009). In 2016, the IDOC changed its policy to additionally forfeit all previously accrued earned time upon a refusal or removal from SOTP and applied that change retroactively. The district court concluded that the new IDOC policy interpretation and application to a certain inmate whose release was delayed by more than three years due to the new policy was contrary to Holm and violated the state and federal Ex Post Facto Clauses. The Supreme Court applied stare decisis and the interpretation fixed in Holm and affirmed. View "State v. Iowa District Court for Jones County" on Justia Law

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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lacked statutory authority to issue an emergency order that imposed a quarantine on land used as a whitetail deer-hunting preserve. Landowners challenged an emergency order issued by the DNR to order Landowners to quarantine land formerly used as a whitetail deer preserve for five years after the deer harvested on the property tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). An administrative law judge found that the DNR lacked the statutory authority to issue the emergency order, but the Iowa Natural Resources Commission (NRC) reversed. The district court reversed the NRC, holding that, in issuing the quarantine order, the DNR was acting outside the legislature’s grant of authority. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the DNR lacked the authority to issue the emergency order and that the emergency order did not amount to an impermissible taking under the United States or Iowa Constitutions. View "Brakke v. Iowa Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who was paralyzed in an accident during a work accident, filed a petition seeking a determination of permanent total disability (PTD) and also sought partial commutation of benefits in a lump sum. Defendant, the workers’ compensation insurer, disputed whether Plaintiff was PTD and resisted the commutation, although it continued to pay full weekly PTD benefits and explore settlement. The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner granted Plaintiff’s petition for partial commutation. Plaintiff then sued Defendant for first-party bad faith. On summary judgment, the district court determined that Defendant acted in bad faith. The jury awarded punitive and compensatory damages at a ratio of 88:1. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the judgments for compensatory and punitive damages, holding that, while Defendant knew or should have known it lacked any reasonable basis to dispute Plaintiff’s PTD status, the district court erred in ruling that Defendant was in bad faith as a matter of law for resisting the commutation; and (2) the district court properly denied Plaintiff an award of attorney fees incurred in prosecuting the bad-faith action. View "Thornton v. American Interstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs’ attorney filed two board claim forms with a state appeals board on behalf of Plaintiffs, signing their names and his own. The attorney did not attach any document showing he had power of attorney. The board rejected Plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiffs then filed their claim in district court. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims on the ground that their attorney signed the forms on their behalf. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a claimant presents a claim when the board receives a writing that discloses the amount of damages claimed and generally describes the legal theories asserted against the State; and (2) the district court had jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs’ claims. View "Segura v. State" on Justia Law

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The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) condemned a parcel of Landowner’s property to complete the construction of a highway. The compensation commission awarded Landowner $11,100 for the taking. Landowner filed a petition on appeal, arguing that, as a result of the taking, it could no longer use the remaining property for its business and, therefore, that IDOT’s taking left an uneconomical remnant. Landowner argued that the fair market value of the entire property before the condemnation - and thus the damage for the taking - was $200,000. The district court granted summary judgment for IDOT, concluding that Landowner’s petition was untimely. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Landowner’s uneconomical remnant challenge was untimely, and therefore, the district court did not have the authority to consider that claim. View "Johnson Propane, Heating & Cooling, Inc. v. Iowa Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Myria Holdings, Inc. is a Delaware corporation with its primary place of business in Texas. Myria held an ownership interest in two subsidiaries doing business in Iowa. The Iowa Department of Revenue issued a final order concluding that Myria was ineligible to join a consolidated tax return with its subsidiaries because it did not derive taxable income from within Iowa under Iowa Code 422.33(1). The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Myria lacked a taxable nexus with the State of Iowa, and therefore, the Department correctly concluded that Myria lacked taxable income from within the State. View "Myria Holdings Inc. v. Iowa Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Rosalva Ochoa was terminated from her employment with JBS Swift & Company for absenteeism. Ochoa filed two workers’ compensation petitions against Swift and its workers’ compensation carrier, alleging a cumulative left groin injury and a cumulative injury to the neck and right shoulder during the course and scope of her employment. A workers’ compensation deputy commissioner ordered Swift to pay Ochoa permanent partial disability benefits and permanent total disability benefits, but the award eliminated what would otherwise amount to overlapping partial disability benefits and total disability benefits. The workers’ compensation commissioner concluded that Ochoa’s permanent partial disability payments should not have terminated as of the date when her permanent total disability payments commenced, which resulted in Ochoa receiving more than six years of overlapping weekly benefits. The district court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Iowa workers’ compensation law does not prohibit an employee from collecting both permanent partial disability benefits and permanent total disability benefits at the same time when the employee suffers successive injuries at the same workplace. View "JBS Swift & Co. v. Ochoa" on Justia Law