# Alan Ostergren



When "reasonable" takes a turn that is not

Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com

“Reasonable” is a word that is used often in Iowa’s laws. Reasonable fees. Reasonable rules. Reasonable efforts. Reasonable force.

But events in recent weeks show government officials are not always following what many Iowans would think the term means. And when government officials deviate from “reasonable,” they should not be surprised if their standing or the stature of their agency suffers in the public’s eyes.

Consider the Linn-Mar Community School District.

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Governor discounts pregnant Iowans' well-being. Will Supreme Court agree?

Lawyers representing Governor Kim Reynolds have taken the first step toward reinstating a 2018 law that would ban nearly all abortions in Iowa. A Polk County District Court struck down that law in 2019, and Reynolds did not appeal the decision. A motion filed on August 11 asks the court to lift the permanent injunction, which was founded on Iowa and U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have since been reversed.

In a written statement amplified on her social media, Reynolds promised, “As long as I’m Governor, I will stand up for the sanctity of life and fight to protect the precious and innocent unborn lives.”

Left unsaid by the governor, but made clear by the legal brief her team filed: pregnant Iowans’ interests have almost no value in the eyes of the state.

Will four Iowa Supreme Court justices balance competing concerns the same way?

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Reynolds seeks legal do-over to reinstate 2018 abortion ban

Governor Kim Reynolds announced on June 28 that she will seek to lift an injunction on a 2018 law that would have banned almost all abortions in Iowa. After that law was struck down in early 2019, Reynolds opted not to appeal the decision, due to an Iowa Supreme Court precedent that is no longer operative.

The governor will also ask the Iowa Supreme Court to rehear a recently-decided abortion case, taking into account the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority opinion that overturned the Roe v Wade and Casey precedents.

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Only five applied for Iowa Supreme Court vacancy

The State Judicial Nominating Commission will interview an unusually small number of applicants for the Iowa Supreme Court vacancy to be created when Justice Brent Appel reaches the mandatory retirement age next month.

Only five people—three judges and two attorneys in private practice—applied for the position, the Iowa Judicial Branch announced on June 20. The commission will interview Third Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Tott, Ames attorney Timothy Gartin, Des Moines attorney William Miller, District Court Judge Alan Heavens, and Iowa Court of Appeals Judge David May on June 27. The commissioners will send three names to Governor Kim Reynolds, who will have 30 days to appoint the next justice from that short list.

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What the Supreme Court said—and didn't say—in Finkenauer case

The Iowa Supreme Court surprised many in the political and legal worlds on April 15 with a unanimous judgment reinstating U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer to the Democratic primary ballot.

Five justices resolved an apparent contradiction between two parts of Iowa’s election law by saying an incorrect or missing date is not a valid reason for not counting a signature on a candidate’s petition. They reversed a Polk County District Court, which days earlier reached the opposite conclusion: that an undated signature cannot be counted, and therefore Finkenauer did not qualify for the ballot.

Two justices concurred with the outcome of reversing the lower court but did not explain their reasoning.

The result was a big loss for Republican plaintiffs who challenged the State Objection Panel’s decision to let three disputed signatures on Finkenauer’s petitions stand. It’s also an embarrassment for Republican legislators who moved last year to limit the panel’s discretion.

By deciding this case on narrow grounds, the Iowa Supreme Court left some big legal questions to be adjudicated another election year.

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Judge rules Abby Finkenauer should be off primary ballot

A Polk County District Court has handed a big win to Republicans seeking to knock Abby Finkenauer off the Democratic primary ballot for U.S. Senate.

Judge Scott Beattie ruled on April 10 that the State Objection Panel used the wrong legal standard when it counted signatures with missing or incorrect dates. Consequently, the court found, Finkenauer’s campaign “has failed to submit at least 100 signatures from at least 19 counties” as required by Iowa law.

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