Class Notes 2/21/17

Historic Civil Rights cases in Iowa

born and raised in Waterloo, (West High)

married and 3 kids

law school-Drake

law firm in CF then sole practicioner

assistant district attorney

1999-District Court Bench (1st district) 11 years

2011- appointed to Iowa Supreme Court by Brandstead

term goes until 2020

proud of heritage

1834- 1st case. Ralph was slave in MO (slave state), owner agreed he could move to IA and buy his freedom, worked in lead mines in Dubuque and fell behind on payments, owner came back to get him, 1839 Iowa Supreme Court ruled he couldn’t bring him back b/c Iowa was free, few years later US Supreme Court ruled other way- Dredd Scott case.. IA ahead of the time!

“A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Lincoln)

1868- Clark v Board of Directors- 12 yr old black girl, school board refused to admit her in public school, Iowa Supreme Court “the law makes no distinction for the right of children to attend the common schools” (IA Constitution), US Supreme Court went other direction again- Plessy v Ferguson (separate but equal) stood until Brown v Board in 1954 (separate is not equal)

Coger v NW Union 1873- black teacher who wanted to take boat across river, couldn’t buy ticket with meals, meal ticket said “colored girl” had someone else buy her a ticket and she showed up to dinner, was asked to leave and refused and was forcibly removed, Iowa Supreme Court- plaintiff entitiled to same rights and privileges as whites on the boat “all men are by nature free and equal” (IA Constitution), not outlawed in US Supreme Court until 1964 (Civil Rights Act)

most proud of how Iowa was ahead of its time in terms of Civil Rights

Decision Making process- everything that is appealed in district court goes to Supreme Court, then they decide what cases to take another look at, screening panel every month (15-20 cases) to decide what cases to keep, if they don’t want it to goes to court of appeals, 110 cases each year (1000 for court of appeals), oral or non oral argument on cases, 7 members on Iowa Supreme Court, each case is randomly assigned to justice to work up, all read and prepare for every case, conference the case after oral argument, if you’re not in majority someone else will right it, circulate draft opinion to other members of court, then vote, “leave your ego at the door and have a thick skin”

Becker- very very high profile, looked at more closely by everybody, look at entire record and entire court file, case was very complex

you have to stand up for yourself and what you believe in

always multiple points flowing around the conference table when discussing a case, everyone gets a chance to speak

most difficult cases they argue about are progression of juvenile sentencing

now on term system like US Supreme Court- hear and decide cases from sep 1 to june 30

“like a treadmill” before term system

july and august is admin term

court system is 180 million dollar business

not bound by what US Supreme Court says

“we’re always accountable to the public”

Tough cases where he dissented: ineffective counsel case- 2004 HIV case defendant pled guilty, 2012/14 science had changed; sexually violent predator, juvenile sentencing cases, murders are difficult

in Des Moines about 10 days/month (where IA Supreme Court resides), “courts on the road”

most interesting case- trial judge in Michelle Kehoe case, more difficult subject, insanity defense, trial moved from independence to grundy center, court tv live streamed the whole trial

“someone’s life in the balance and you want to get it right”

expanded news media coverage- Iowa on leading edge, everything is open, there are rules but there is still full access, try to keep up with modern technology, zero problem with transparency, try to make it as transparent as they can, “what’s wrong with everybody seeing whats going on?”

least favorite thing is probably disciplining fellow attorneys, “most of the people who get disciplined really deserve it” ex: stealing $ from client, play around with clients $, some people like to play/ignore the rules, difficult but common sense things that you shouldn’t do

95% of budget is people

Dentist Assistant fired for being “Too pretty”

she was fired from her job in Fort Dodge, Iowa, as a dental assistant, after 10 years, simply because her boss found her irresistibly attractive – and a threat to his marriage.

In August 2010, Nelson filed a gender discrimination suit against Knight, seeking damages and lost pay, in Iowa District Court. The judge dismissed the case before trial

In September 2012 the Iowa Supreme Court heard Melissa’s appeal. In December the seven justices ruled that although the one month’s severance was “ungenerous,” it is OK to terminate an employee “simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction.” Especially since the boss’s wife felt her marriage was threatened.

“She was fired because he felt that their relationship was affecting his marriage,” and that’s not a strictly gender issue




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