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Judiciary

Divided Iowa Supreme Court rules Tony Bisignano can run in Iowa Senate district 17 (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 18:22:20 PM CDT

A three-way Democratic primary is assured in Iowa Senate district 17, as the Iowa Supreme Court announced this afternoon that it has affirmed a district court ruling on Tony Bisignano's eligibility to run for office. Rival candidate Ned Chiodo filed a lawsuit last month, saying Bisignano's recent aggravated misdemeanor conviction for second-offense OWI should be considered an "infamous crime." The Iowa Constitution disqualifies citizens convicted of "infamous crimes" from exercising the privileges of "electors."

Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote the plurality opinion, joined by Justices Daryl Hecht and Bruce Zager. Overturning Iowa Supreme Court precedents set in 1916 and 1957, the court ruled that "infamous crimes" cannot be interpreted to mean any crime punishable by a prison sentence, including aggravated misdemeanors. On the other hand, the court did not simply accept the 1994 law defining "infamous crimes" as felonies. Citing historical references including an 1839 Iowa territorial statute, the plurality argues that not all felonies are "infamous," and that the words had different meanings at the time the Iowa Constitution was adopted in the 1850s. It did not go on to define which felonies should be considered infamous crimes in the present context.

Justice Edward Mansfield wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Thomas Waterman. The concurrence agrees that Bisignano retains his rights as an elector, because aggravated misdemeanors cannot be considered "infamous crimes." However, Mansfield would have accepted the bright-line definition from the 1994 state law, equating felonies with "infamous crimes." He warned that the plurality opinion would serve as a "welcome mat" for future litigation from felons claiming that they should be entitled to vote, because their convictions were not for "infamous crimes." On balance, I agree most with Mansfield's opinion.

Justice David Wiggins dissented, arguing that the court should not have rewritten "nearly one hundred years of caselaw." He would have found Bisignano ineligible to run for office under the longstanding precedent that "infamous crime" means any crime punishable by a prison sentence. Wiggins' dissenting opinion does not accept the 1994 law which defined "infamous crimes" as felonies, because interpreting the state Constitution is a job for the Iowa Supreme Court, not the state legislature.

Justice Brent Appel recused himself from this case.

The Iowa Supreme Court did not rule on Chiodo's separate claim that Attorney General Tom Miller should have recused himself from the panel that allowed Bisignano to remain on the ballot. Chiodo argued that Miller had a conflict of interest, because one of his employees, Assistant Attorney General Nathan Blake, is also seeking the Democratic nomination in Senate district 17.

You can read the Iowa Supreme Court's three opinions in this case here (pdf). After the jump I've enclosed summaries and excerpts from each opinion. I also included a statement from Bisignano hailing the ruling and announcing several more labor union endorsements.

One thing's for sure: today's ruling won't be the last attempt by the Iowa Supreme Court to clarify the definition of "infamous crimes."

UPDATE: Added Nathan Blake's comment below. SECOND UPDATE: Added more thoughts about the implications of this case.

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Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Iowa's corporate contributions ban

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 09, 2014 at 09:42:00 AM CDT

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not hear Iowa Right to Life's appeal challenging a state law that bans corporations from making campaign contributions, Colin Smith reported at the On Brief legal blog. Last summer, a panel for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Iowa's ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates while striking down some of the campaign finance disclosure rules Iowa Right to Life had challenged. You can read Iowa Right to Life's appeal to the Supreme Court here (pdf).

Smith commented,

There had been some interesting speculation that the High Court might decide to hear the plaintiff's arguments regarding the constitutionality of Iowa corporate contribution law on the merits, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court just handed down another blockbuster election law case this month. [...]

The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the Tooker challenge to Iowa's corporate contribution ban effectively means that Iowa's law will remain in place for now, although the Court's order today does not necessarily foreclose the possibility that another enterprising plaintiff might try another challenge in the future.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Fewer Iowa lawyers seeking judgeships

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 08, 2014 at 09:11:00 AM CDT

The applicant pool for Iowa's judicial vacancies has been declining in recent years, Mike Wiser reported for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier on March 30. Iowa courts administrator David Boyd has been analyzing trends across the state and concluded that during the past decade, "The applicant pools [for District Court judgeships] were shrinking not only in terms of quantity but in quality, too."

Applications for court vacancies are down by about half of what they were 10 years ago in four of the eight judicial districts, and down by a third in another two, according to Boyd's figures.

Wiser's article identifies three main reasons for the trend. First, District Court judges earn an annual salary of $138,130, which is well above the state average but below what high-performing attorneys can earn in private practice. Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady asked state legislators to increase judges' pay by 4.5 percent, but State Representative Gary Worthan, who chairs the Iowa House Appropriations subcommittee on the judicial system told Wiser, "we've got other priorities this year."

Second, years of state budget cuts to court support staff have also made the work of a judge less appealing, according to several people Wiser interviewed.

Finally, University of Iowa School of Law professor Patrick Bauer and others cited the successful 2010 campaign against retaining three Iowa Supreme Court justices. That crusade was the first and perhaps the last time a politically unpopular ruling ended judges' careers in Iowa. Nevertheless, it has deterred some attorneys from aspiring to become judges. Bob Vander Plaats and his fellow social conservatives failed to end marriage equality in Iowa, but they have left their mark on the judicial system.

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Weekend open thread: Horrible Supreme Court ruling edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 09:05:02 AM CDT

What's on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

So much election-related litigation in the news this past week: the Iowa Supreme Court rejecting Jonathan Narcisse's quest for a spot on the Democratic primary ballot for governor, a Polk County District Court rejecting Ned Chiodo's efforts to knock Tony Bisignano off the ballot in Iowa Senate district 17, and Secretary of State Matt Schultz asking the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling on voter roll maintenance procedures.

I didn't manage to write up the country's most important election law story: on Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court struck down aggregate limits on individual donations to federal candidates and political parties. Click here (pdf) to read Chief Justice John Roberts' majority ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission on behalf of four justices, Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion, and Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Breyer warned that the majority's ruling used "faulty" legal analysis based on "its own, not a record-based, view of the facts." Creating "a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate's campaign," the McCutcheon decision along with the 2010 Citizens United ruling (also a 5-4 split) "eviscerates our Nation's campaign finance laws" in Breyer's view.

Here are some good opinion and analysis pieces on the Roberts decision, from Lyle Denniston at the SCOTUS blog, Garrett Epps at The Atlantic, and Robert Weissman, president of the nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen.

Not surprisingly, Iowa's Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley expressed support for the McCutcheon decision, equating money in politics to free speech. Democratic Senator Tom Harkin was discouraged, predicting that the ruling will diminish "public interest in politics" and continue the country's drift toward "more and more influence by the wealthy and those who have money in politics."  

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Schultz appeals to Iowa Supreme Court on voter citizenship checks

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 20:25:00 PM CDT

On behalf of Secretary of State Matt Schultz, the Iowa Attorney General's office has asked the Iowa Supreme Court to review last month's District Court decision invalidating a proposed rule that has been one of Schultz's priorities. As Bleeding Heartland discussed here, the rule would allow the Secretary of State's Office to check Iowa voters' citizenship status against a federal database. Registered voters suspected of not being citizens would be informed by mail. Those who cannot prove their citizenship or do not respond within 60 days would be removed from the voter rolls.

Polk County District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg determined that Schultz overstepped his authority when he promulgated the rule. His decision in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens did not address a separate legal question: whether Schultz's rule violated the right to vote.

If the Iowa Supreme Court overturns last month's decision, that would mean only that the Secretary of State had the authority to establish the new rule in the absence of legislative action. Further litigation would determine whether the procedure Schultz envisioned could intimidate eligible voters or deprive them of their rights.

I expect the Iowa Supreme Court to uphold the District Court ruling. Regardless, the appeal may boost Schultz's standing with Republican primary voters in the third Congressional district. They will love this part of yesterday's press release from the Secretary of State's Office:

"I have fought for integrity and voter's rights.  We can't allow non-citizens to cancel out the vote of Iowans, but at the same time, anyone accused deserves due process.  My rule gives voters more due process and protects the integrity of the vote," Schultz said.

Any relevant thoughts are welcome in this thread. Schultz's use of the phrase "due process" suggests to me a fundamental misunderstanding of his role. The Secretary of State is an administrator, not a law enforcement official.  

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Former administrative law judge sues state, Iowa Workforce Development Director Wahlert

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 07:28:00 AM CDT

The former Chief Administrative Law Judge for Iowa Workforce Development filed suit yesterday in Polk County District Court against the State of Iowa and Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert. You can read the full text of Joseph Walsh's lawsuit here (pdf). After the jump I've posted an excerpt from his case. Walsh alleges that the IWD director "interfere[d] with the administrative judicial process in order to favor employers," attempted "to illegally strip [Walsh] of his merit protection," and eventually retaliated by removing him in "a political reorganization disguised as a budget layoff."

I've also enclosed below a statement Wahlert released yesterday, denouncing the "frivolous lawsuit." Wahlert contends that while serving as chief administrative law judge, Walsh failed in basic management responsibilities.

Last month, Democratic State Senator Bill Dotzler asked the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate claims that Wahlert interfered with the work of Iowa's administrative law judges, hoping to secure more favorable outcomes for employers in unemployment cases. Governor Terry Branstad rejected Dotzler's allegations against Wahlert without conducting any internal review of the matter.

At a press conference in Des Moines on April 3, Walsh asserted that "in many ways this administration is tearing the Department of Workforce Development down." Wahlert's agency was at the center of political controversy in 2011, when the Branstad administration moved to replace dozens of Iowa Workforce Development field offices around the state with hundreds of computer terminal access points. That reorganization led to a lawsuit and eventually an Iowa Supreme Court ruling that the governor had overstepped his authority by striking legislative language about the IWD offices without vetoing the money allocated to fund those offices.  

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Court rejects challenge to Bisignano candidacy in Iowa Senate district 17

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 17:20:00 PM CDT

Polk County District Court Judge David Christensen on April 2 rejected Ned Chiodo's appeal against a panel decision allowing Tony Bisignano to run for Iowa Senate district 17. Chiodo, Bisignano, and Nathan Blake all qualified for the Democratic primary ballot in the seat Senator Jack Hatch is vacating in order to run for governor. Chiodo challenged Bisignano's eligibility to run for office, citing a drunk driving offense that is an aggravated misdemeanor. A panel of Attorney General Tom Miller, State Auditor Mary Mosiman, and Secretary of State Matt Schultz concluded that Bisigano could run, because Iowa Code specifies felony convictions (not aggravated misdemeanors) as disqualifying citizens from voting or running for office.

Chiodo's appeal in Polk County District Court rests on two legal arguments: Miller should have recused himself from the panel deciding whether Bisignano is eligible, and Bisignano's second-offense OWI should be considered an "infamous crime" under Iowa case law. Judge Christensen concluded that Chiodo "failed to assert sufficient grounds to disqualify the Attorney General from serving on the Panel," nor was Chiodo "prejudiced by the inclusion of the Attorney General in the Panel."

After the jump I've posted the second half of Judge Christensen's ruling. Although three Iowa Supreme Court decisions indicate that crimes punishable by a prison sentence can be considered "infamous crimes," the Iowa legislature has since spelled out its clear intention to revoke the rights of electors only in cases of felonies. The judge denied Chiodo's petition for review, since he "failed to carry his burden to show that the Panel's decision was unconstitutional," and there was no evidence that decision was "based upon an erroneous interpretation of a provision of law," or illogical, arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. The judge ordered Chiodo to pay court costs.

The Iowa Supreme Court is likely to have the final say on this matter, but I find it hard to imagine they will disqualify Bisignano. Doing so would potentially disenfranchise tens of thousands of Iowans with aggravated misdemeanor convictions.

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IA-Gov: Iowa Supreme Court rejects Narcisse bid for spot on primary ballot

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 01, 2014 at 10:46:20 AM CDT

State Senator Jack Hatch will be unopposed on the Democratic primary ballot for governor. The Iowa Supreme Court issued a short opinion on March 31 affirming without comment a District Court's decision rejecting Jonathan Narcisse's claim that he submitted enough signatures to seek the Democratic nomination for governor. The Supreme Court justices agreed to hear the case on an expedited schedule because primary ballots need to be sent to the printer soon. They did not explain the reasoning behind affirming the lower court's decision. Reports last week indicated that three of the seven Iowa Supreme Court justices would hear Narcisse's appeal: David Wiggins, Daryl Hecht, and Edward Mansfield. However, the ruling released yesterday indicates that all justices concurred except for Brent Appel, who recused himself.

Speaking by telephone this morning, Narcisse confirmed that he will run a write-in campaign for the Democratic primary. He said he was "disappointed the Supreme Court affirmed the decision without reviewing the evidence." He acknowledged his campaign's oversight in not making sure the "governor" line was filled in on all the nominating petitions: "Ultimately, this happened because we messed up, but the law was not equitably applied. This was not a disqualifiable offense." He particularly objected to how the District Court considered a 2012 election law ruling from Arizona but rejected as evidence the Iowa panel ruling from the same year allowing State Senator Joe Seng to run for Congress, despite missing information on some of his nominating petitions.

Narcisse said he has "no illusions about a write-in campaign" but is compelled to keep talking about issues that need to be addressed, including the "disparity in justice," the "phony war on drugs which is really a war on the poor," and Iowa's "bipartisan alliance brutalizing poor working people." In his view, Hatch "has not fought the good fight the way he should have." Narcisse said he has not decided yet whether he would mount a second bid for governor as an independent.

After the jump I've posted a more extensive comment from the Narcisse campaign about the lower court's ruling on his ballot access.

UPDATE: Added a comment below from Alfredo Parrish, who represented Narcisse.

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Narcisse loses first court battle to run in IA-Gov Democratic primary

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 07:55:00 AM CDT

For now, State Senator Jack Hatch remains unopposed on the Democratic primary ballot for Iowa governor. Jonathan Narcisse appealed his exclusion in Polk County District Court on Wednesday, citing precedent from a 2012 panel decision allowing State Senator Joe Seng on the primary ballot in IA-02. Yesterday Judge Michael Huppert ruled against Narcisse, saying the missing information on some petitions left those who signed unable to conclude that the candidate was running for governor.

Narcisse's attorney, Alfredo Parrish, has already appealed the decision. I enclosed after the jump a statement explaining Narcisse's case. I think he has a valid argument, based on how officials bent the rules to accommodate Seng.

You can read the 2012 Seng decision here (pdf). Pages 4 through 7 contain the most relevant information. Some petitions allowed were missing Seng's county of residence, which is admittedly a much less serious defect than Narcisse's petitions leaving blank the line for office sought. But the panel also counted Seng petitions that were missing the Congressional district number. "Likewise, we find that, absent any showing of any intent to mislead by the candidate or confusion on the part of the signatories, the Davis County signature pages that lacked only the congressional district number substantially comply with the intent of section 43.14 and should be counted." To this non-lawyer, that sounds very close to not telling voters the office you're seeking. I suppose there is a slight difference if Seng's petitions showed he was running for Congress, while the disputed Narcisse petitions did not list any office. Iowa's rules are designed to prevent any "bait and switch" during the signature collection process.

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No-brainer: fired Iowa DCI agent wants his job back

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 09:50:00 AM CDT

The career Division of Criminal Investigation agent who lost his job shortly after reporting a speeding incident involving Governor Terry Branstad's SUV is willing to drop his lawsuit against the state if he can get his old job back, James Q. Lynch reported yesterday for the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

"He is interested in returning and it's our understanding the position is still available," said Tom Duff, a Des Moines attorney representing former DCI special agent Larry Hedlund.

Hedlund was a central figure in a high-profile incident last April where a state trooper driving an SUV carrying Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds was clocked driving 84 mph in a 65-mph zone. [...]

Although officially retired now, Hedlund is interested in returning to work, Duff said. Since the incident, the director of the Department of Public Safety has left state employment and two others involved in the handling of the Hedlund case have moved to other jobs.

The former Department of Public Safety chief was Brian London, who stepped down last September. His tenure at the agency was a real train wreck. The Iowa Senate recently confirmed Larry Noble to run the department again; he was Branstad's first choice for that job.

By many accounts, Hedlund was a solid employee during his long career at the DCI. If he is willing to work there again, rehiring him seems like an easy call. I can't imagine why the state would prefer to roll the dice on expensive litigation. Court hearings would only generate more coverage of Hedlund being forced out. Hedlund's attorney told Lynch that he has not heard back yet from the Iowa Attorney General's Office.  

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Matt Schultz spins voter fraud acquittal as success

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 10:52:34 AM CDT

Most people familiar with the criminal justice system understand that a jury acquittal after less than an hour is an embarrassing loss for the prosecutor and a sign that the case should never have come to trial.

Then there's Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz. Having spent major political capital (not to mention hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars) to spin simple errors into grand criminal conspiracies, he managed to claim victory yesterday when a Lee County jury declared an ineligible voter not guilty of perjury.

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Branstad administration scandal news and reaction thread (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 17:22:50 PM CDT

While Governor Terry Branstad vacations in Arizona this week, his administration is facing new allegations of misconduct. As first reported in the Sunday Des Moines Register, at least six former state employees were offered secret settlement deals after claiming they were forced out of their jobs for political reasons. Today, Democratic State Senator Bill Dotzler announced that he is seeking a federal investigation into the actions of Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert, whom Dotzler accused of interfering with the work of administrative law judges.

After the jump I've posted several links about both scandals as well as some political reaction. Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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Sioux City suing state to block traffic camera rules

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 13, 2014 at 09:35:31 AM CDT

As Bleeding Heartland has discussed before, I've long felt that Governor Terry Branstad's disregard for local government authority is one of the most under-reported Iowa political stories of the last few years. The Iowa Department of Transportation's new rules restricting cities' use of traffic cameras is one of many examples. Bills seeking to ban local governments from using traffic cameras for law enforcement stalled during the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions. The Iowa DOT's new rules went into effect last month; they do not prohibit all use of traffic cameras but require annual reviews to show the cameras are improving safety and not just serving as a revenue source for local government.

Sioux City is one of many Iowa municipalities that have installed traffic cameras on some major roads and intersections. The Iowa DOT gave Sioux City officials "until May 1 to justify the use of two speed cameras and seven of its 11 red-light cameras." Now the city government has filed a lawsuit claiming the state department exceeded its authority.

Assistant City attorney, Justin Vondrak, filed the judicial review action in Woodbury County District Court and says the DOT regulations make it almost impossible for the city to use speed cameras along Interstate 29 within the city limits. "What we're asking for is a review of the rules and to eventually have the rules determined to be unconstitutional based on the city's home rule authority, as well as other Iowa code sections which grant the city joint jurisdiction with the DOT for traffic enforcement upon the primary roadways within the city's jurisdiction," according to Vondrak.

More details on the lawsuit are after the jump.

Whatever the District Court rules, I expect the losing side to appeal and would not be surprised to see the Iowa Supreme Court eventually decide this matter. The case raises interesting questions about local and state government powers. On a related note, I still think some municipality should have challenged Governor Branstad's executive order on project labor agreements in court.

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Branstad joins lawsuit against California law on egg production (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 10:34:57 AM CST

I'm always fascinated when conservatives who claim to support "states' rights" cry foul when another state enacts a law they dislike. In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 2, a law designed "to prohibit the cruel confinement of farm animals," including new rules on conditions for egg-laying hens. State lawmakers later passed and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law extending those rules to producers of any eggs sold in California. Representative Steve King (R, IA-04) tried but ultimately failed to insert language in the federal Farm Bill overturning California's law, which will affect Iowa egg producers when it becomes effective on January 1, 2015. King argued that the law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, creating an illegal trade barrier between states.

Since President Barack Obama signed into law a five-year Farm Bill that does not include King's amendment, attorneys general in Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Kentucky have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the California law. Governor Terry Branstad announced yesterday that he has joined that lawsuit on Iowa's behalf. Details are after the jump, including excerpts from the court filing and statements released by Branstad and King.

I am not an attorney, much less a specialist on the Commerce Clause, but I doubt the plaintiffs will succeed in overturning the California law, for three reasons: 1) the law does not "discriminate"; 2) the law does not force any conduct on egg producers outside the state of California; and 3) overturning this law would prompt a wave of lawsuits seeking to invalidate any state regulation designed to set higher standards for safety, public health, or consumer protection.

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District court voids proposed rule on Iowa voter citizenship checks

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 10:54:32 AM CST

Polk County District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg ruled yesterday that Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz overstepped his authority when he promulgated a rule designed to identify and remove suspected non-citizens from Iowa voter rolls. Schultz first tried to enact a similar rule using "emergency" procedures during the summer of 2012, but a different Polk County judge issued a temporary injunction preventing the rule from taking effect before the 2012 general election.

Schultz then proposed a different version of the rule (full text here) and enacted it using the normal rulemaking process. Several advocacy groups claimed the rules could intimidate and/or disenfranchise legitimate Iowa voters. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens restarted their voter suppression lawsuit last March. In September, District Court Judge Rosenberg rejected Schultz's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and in November, Rosenberg issued a temporary injunction preventing Schultz from implementing the rule before the court considered the merits of the case.

Yesterday Rosenberg found in favor of the plaintiffs, saying Schultz "lacked the statutory authority" to promulgate a rule allowing his office to use a federal database to check Iowa voters' citizenship status. He further found that there was no rational basis for concluding that the rule was within the delegated authority of the Iowa Secretary of State's office and ordered the respondent to pay legal costs. Schultz plans to appeal the ruling, which you can read in full at the Des Moines Register's website. I doubt the Iowa Supreme Court will overturn this ruling, because the excerpts I've posted below are convincing.

Side note: I suspect that Schultz expected this verdict, and the likely failure of this crusade was one among several factors that prompted him to bail out of his current position in order to run for Congress in the open third district.

UPDATE: Added some comments from the ACLU of Iowa below. It's worth noting that this ruling focused on the matter of Schultz's authority and did not settle the question of whether his procedure would have wrongfully intimidated eligible voters or deprived them of their voting rights.

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Senate confirms U.S. Attorney Kevin Techau for Iowa's Northern District

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 11:00:33 AM CST

By a voice vote on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Kevin Techau as U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Iowa, based in Cedar Rapids. Senator Tom Harkin recommended Techau for the position, and President Barack Obama nominated him in November. The Senate Judiciary Committee, where Iowa's Chuck Grassley is the ranking Republican, approved Techau's nomination by voice vote last month.

For more background on Techau's career, click here or read Grassley's Senate floor statement in support of the nomination, which I've posted below.

Techau will replace Stephanie Rose, who left the position as U.S. Attorney for Iowa's Northern District to become a federal judge in Iowa's Southern District, based in Des Moines.

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Iowa Republicans determined to ignore education funding law

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Feb 11, 2014 at 11:18:05 AM CST

Iowa's Constitution lays out a straightforward process for changing state law: first, a bill needs to pass the Iowa House and Senate by a simple majority in both chambers. Then, the governor signs the bill into law. Alternatively, state legislators can pass a new law without the governor's support, by over-riding a veto with a two-thirds majority in both chambers.

Iowa House Republicans and Governor Terry Branstad don't like current state law on setting state funding for K-12 education a year in advance. However, they lack support in the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate for changing that law through the normal legislative process. So, they have decided they can pretend the law doesn't exist.

It appears that nothing short of a court order will change their minds.

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Branstad defends DHS director and appeals to Iowa Supreme Court

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 12:23:16 PM CST

This morning Governor Terry Branstad stood by Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer and his handling of problems at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo (Tama County). He also spoke confidently about his appeal to Iowa Supreme Court against a Polk County District Court ruling ordering that the Iowa Juvenile Home be reopened.

More background and details are after the jump.  

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Judge orders Branstad administration to reopen Iowa Juvenile Home

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 06, 2014 at 13:29:14 PM CST

Polk County District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg ruled yesterday in favor of plaintiffs who are challenging the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home by the Iowa Department of Human Services. Finding that the four state legislators and the president of a public employees union were "likely to succeed on the merits" when the court considers their lawsuit, Judge Rosenberg granted the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. He ordered Governor Terry Branstad's administration to "reopen the Toledo home and abide by the duly passed laws of the state of Iowa which established the Toledo Home [...]."

After the jump I've posted an excerpt from the ruling, which you can read in full on the Des Moines Register's website. I've also posted reaction from several of the plaintiffs and from Branstad.

This isn't the first time a state court has found that the governor overreached in disregarding legislative intent on the allocation of state funds. Maybe Branstad should get better legal advice before deciding to ignore language from budget bills he signed into law.  

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Branstad names impeachment advocate to Judicial Nominating Commission

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 08:55:26 AM CST

I knew that Governor Terry Branstad was trying to fill the State Judicial Nominating Commission with conservatives and big Republican donors.

I knew that Branstad liked naming former state legislators to prominent positions, sometimes without considering anyone else for the job, sometimes even when the former lawmaker hadn't asked for the job.

But until yesterday, I never imagined that Branstad would consider a Judicial Nominating Commission an appropriate place for someone who tried to impeach Iowa Supreme Court justices over the Varnum v Brien ruling on marriage.  

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