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At issue was whether property owners’ state-law damage claims against the railroad bridge owners alleging that the design and operation of the railroad bridges resulted in flood damage to other properties were preempted by the Federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. 10501(b). Plaintiffs, property owners in Cedar Rapids, sued the owners of certain railroad bridges across the Cedar River alleging that their efforts to protect the bridges from washing out exacerbated the effects of the 2008 flooding for other property owners. The district court granted Defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that the ICCTA expressly preempted Plaintiffs’ state law claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ICCTA did indeed preempt Plaintiffs’ action. View "Griffioen v. Cedar Rapids" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings, holding that because the district court did not make specific findings of fact relative to any plaintiff when concluding that Iowa Code 657.11(2), as applied to Plaintiffs, violated Iowa Const. art. I, 1, the issue could not be resolved on this record. Plaintiffs, the owners and/or residents of real estate located near the confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), brought this action claiming that Defendants were negligent in their operation of the CAFOs and that the CAFOs constituted a nuisance, entitling Plaintiffs to damages. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the nuisance claims, asserting that section 657.11(2) barred the claims because Plaintiffs could not meet the requirements under the statute to recover the requested special damages against the CAFOs. The district court denied the motion, finding that section 657.11(2) was unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs because it denied Plaintiffs access to a remedy for their alleged injuries. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with directions that the district court engage in a fact-based analysis by applying the three-prong test set forth Gacke v. Pork Xtra, LLC, 684 N.W.2d 168 (Iowa 2004). View "Honomichl v. Valley View Swine, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant was entitled to a new trial after the State limited his access to his personal funds by freezing his assets prior to trial. Defendant was convicted of attempted murder and willful injury causing serious injury. Before trial, the trial court granted the State’s application for an order freezing all of Defendant’s assets. The order granting the freeze did not cite any authority or legal basis for the asset freeze. After Defendant’s convictions were affirmed on appeal he filed a postconviction relief (PCR) application arguing that the order freezing his assets was illegal and imposed for an improper purpose. Defendant also argued that the asset freeze adversely impacted his ability to defend himself by, among other things, inhibiting his ability to select his counsel of choice. The PCR court denied relief, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding (1) the asset freeze was unlawful; (2) defense counsel’s failure to properly challenge the freeze breached an essential duty; and (3) the consequences of the asset freeze violated Defendant’s constitutional right to be master of his defense, a structural error. View "Krogmann v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s claims challenging his termination. Plaintiff, a former chief administrative law judge of the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Bureau in Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), alleged retaliation under the whistleblower protection provisions of Iowa Code 70A.28 and that Defendants continued to retaliate against him when he sought other positions in state government. Plaintiff further alleged wrongful termination in violation of public policy based upon the same conduct. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that Plaintiff could not bring his claims because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies available to merit employees. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiff’s ability to bring a direct claim under section 71A.28 is not precluded by the availability of an administrative remedy under Iowa Code 8A.415; and (2) the district court correctly granted summary judgment on Plaintiff’s wrongful termination claim. View "Walsh v. Wahlert" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff’s claims challenging his termination. Plaintiff, a former chief administrative law judge of the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Bureau in Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), alleged retaliation under the whistleblower protection provisions of Iowa Code 70A.28 and that Defendants continued to retaliate against him when he sought other positions in state government. Plaintiff further alleged wrongful termination in violation of public policy based upon the same conduct. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that Plaintiff could not bring his claims because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies available to merit employees. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiff’s ability to bring a direct claim under section 71A.28 is not precluded by the availability of an administrative remedy under Iowa Code 8A.415; and (2) the district court correctly granted summary judgment on Plaintiff’s wrongful termination claim. View "Walsh v. Wahlert" on Justia Law

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The equitable tolling doctrines of the discovery rule and equitable estoppel are available with respect to the 300-day filing limitation in the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA). Plaintiff, an applicant for the position of Deputy Workers’ Compensation Commissioner at Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), brought a failure-to-hire claim against the IWD. The district court dismissed the claim, concluding that Plaintiff could not escape the 300-day filing requirement in the ICRA through application of the discovery rule or equitable estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the discovery rule and equitable estoppel apply to the 300-day filing limitation in the ICRA; but (2) Plaintiff was not entitled to toll the filing limitation through application of either the discovery rule or equitable estoppel. View "Mormann v. Iowa Workforce Development" on Justia Law

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The equitable tolling doctrines of the discovery rule and equitable estoppel are available with respect to the 300-day filing limitation in the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA). Plaintiff, an applicant for the position of Deputy Workers’ Compensation Commissioner at Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), brought a failure-to-hire claim against the IWD. The district court dismissed the claim, concluding that Plaintiff could not escape the 300-day filing requirement in the ICRA through application of the discovery rule or equitable estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the discovery rule and equitable estoppel apply to the 300-day filing limitation in the ICRA; but (2) Plaintiff was not entitled to toll the filing limitation through application of either the discovery rule or equitable estoppel. View "Mormann v. Iowa Workforce Development" on Justia Law

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Retaliatory discharge claims are not categorically reserved for at-will employees. A state administrative law judge (ALJ) brought suit alleging wrongful termination in violation of public policy after she was terminated for giving unfavorable testimony about the director of her division to the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee. The ALJ’s employment was covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The State filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the common law claim of wrongful discharge is reserved for at-will employees. The district court agreed and dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the ALJ’s status as a CBA-covered employee did not preclude her wrongful-discharge claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the common law tort of retaliatory discharge against public policy is generally available to contract employees. View "Ackerman v. State" on Justia Law

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Retaliatory discharge claims are not categorically reserved for at-will employees. A state administrative law judge (ALJ) brought suit alleging wrongful termination in violation of public policy after she was terminated for giving unfavorable testimony about the director of her division to the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee. The ALJ’s employment was covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The State filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the common law claim of wrongful discharge is reserved for at-will employees. The district court agreed and dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the ALJ’s status as a CBA-covered employee did not preclude her wrongful-discharge claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the common law tort of retaliatory discharge against public policy is generally available to contract employees. View "Ackerman v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals finding substantial evidence that the juvenile in this case committed a sex offense by force and that the sex offender registry requirements imposed upon the juvenile by law did not violate the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment under either the state or federal Constitutions. The juvenile court found the juvenile committed a sex offense by force and required him to register as a sex offender under Iowa Code 692A.103(4), the mandatory sex offender registry statute. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that automatic, mandatory registration for certain juvenile sex offenders is punishment but that such registration does not amount to cruel and unusual punishment. View "In re T.H." on Justia Law