# Brent Appel



Iowa Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel retiring soon

Iowa’s State Judicial Nominating Commission is accepting applications to replace the longest-serving current Iowa Supreme Court justice.

Justice Brent Appel, who has served on the court since October 2006, will step down on July 13, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 72. Since Justice David Wiggins retired in early 2020, Appel has been the only one of the seven justices appointed by a Democratic governor.

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Iowa's new garbage search law looks unconstitutional

Iowans have “no reasonable expectation of privacy in garbage placed outside of the person’s residence for waste collection in a publicly accessible area,” according to a bill Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law on April 21.

Lawmakers approved Senate File 2296 in response to a June 2021 Iowa Supreme Court ruling, which declared warrantless garbage searches unconstitutional.

Whether the new law can withstand scrutiny is unclear. Attorneys who opposed the bill have pointed out that the legislature and governor cannot override the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the state constitution. But it could be years before a challenge to the law reaches the high court.

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Three takeaways from Iowa's latest transgender equality ruling

Nearly fifteen years after state legislators and Governor Chet Culver added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Iowa Civil Rights Act, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on the first employment discrimination lawsuit brought by a transgender Iowan.

On April 1 the seven justices unanimously upheld a Polk County jury verdict, which found that the Iowa Department of Corrections unlawfully discriminated against plaintiff Jesse Vroegh. Superiors refused to allow Vroegh to use male restrooms and locker rooms when he worked as a nurse at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women.

The court also upheld the jury’s finding that the state discriminated against Vroegh by refusing to cover gender-affirming “top” surgery, even though the state’s insurance plan would have covered a double mastectomy for a medical need not related to gender identity.

But breaking with the U.S. Supreme Court, six Iowa Supreme Court justices determined that gender identity discrimination did not also constitute discrimination against Vroegh on the basis of sex.

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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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The Iowa court ruling that could stop a Republican gerrymander

Terror gripped many Iowa Democratic hearts when the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) announced it would release a second redistricting plan on October 21. Governor Kim Reynolds soon scheduled a legislative session to consider the plan for October 28, the earliest date state law allows.

Democrats had hoped the LSA would spend more time working on its next plan. Iowa Code gives the agency up to 35 days to present a second set of maps. If lawmakers received that proposal in mid-November, Republicans would not be able to consider a third set of maps before the Iowa Supreme Court’s December 1 deadline for finishing redistricting work.

By submitting Plan 2 only sixteen days after Iowa Senate Republicans rejected the first redistricting plan, the LSA ensured that GOP lawmakers could vote down the second proposal and receive a third plan well before December 1. So the third map gerrymander—a scenario Bleeding Heartland has warned about for years—is a live wire.

Nevertheless, I expect Republicans to approve the redistricting plan released last week. The maps give the GOP a shot at winning all four U.S. House districts and an excellent chance to maintain their legislative majorities.

Equally important, state law and a unanimous Iowa Supreme Court precedent constrain how aggressive Republicans could be in any partisan amendment to a third LSA proposal.

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Four ways the Iowa Supreme Court may handle next big abortion case

The Iowa Supreme Court will soon revisit one of the most politically charged questions of our time.

Last week a Johnson County District Court permanently blocked the state from “implementing, effectuating or enforcing” a law requiring a 24-hour waiting period before all abortions. Judge Mitchell Turner ruled the law unconstitutional on two grounds. The state is appealing the ruling and argues that a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court precedent, which established a fundamental right to an abortion under the Iowa Constitution, was “wrongly decided.”

Republican lawmakers planned for this scenario when they approved the waiting period during the waning hours of the 2020 legislative session. They may get their wish, but a reversal of the 2018 decision is not guaranteed.

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