Expungement clinic makes debut in Linn County

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker and Mahder Serekberhan, a recent graduate of Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, describe efforts to break cycles of hardship stemming from encounters with the criminal justice system. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The Linn County Board of Supervisors, the City of Cedar Rapids and Iowa Legal Aid have teamed up to offer a legal clinic this fall for Linn County residents seeking relief from the consequences stemming from encounters with the criminal justice system. This Expungement and Employment Barriers Resource Clinic will be held Saturday, September 22 in Cedar Rapids at the Linn County Community Services Building located at 1240 26th Ave Court SW.

Anyone who has experienced Iowa’s criminal justice system and needs help with expungement, court debt, background check issues, or obtaining a driver’s license or vehicle registration can sign up by visiting the Linn County Board of Supervisors website at www.linncounty.org, or by calling Iowa Legal Aid at 515-243-1193. In addition, the clinic will host several community organizations that will offer assistance with housing, financial planning, education, and other issues.

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Sleeper Iowa Supreme Court ruling undermines constitutional protections

A little-noticed Iowa Supreme Court decision may leave Iowans more vulnerable to infringements of their constitutional rights.

Five justices held in Baldwin v. City of Estherville that government officials who can prove they “exercised all due care to conform with the requirements of the law” can’t be sued for wrongful arrests or searches and seizures. Justice Edward Mansfield’s majority opinion establishes qualified immunity for state constitutional law claims in Iowa. That legal concept means plaintiffs can’t easily sue individual officials (such as police officers) for violating their rights. The U.S. Supreme Court’s broad application of qualified immunity has become a hot topic of debate among legal scholars.

To my knowledge, no Iowa media have reported on Baldwin, which was overshadowed by higher-profile split decisions the state Supreme Court filed on the same day in June: namely, a landmark 5-2 abortion rights ruling and a 4-3 ruling that allowed a county attorney to return to his job despite a well-documented history of sexual harassment.

But dissenting Justice Brent Appel warned the Baldwin majority opinion may encourage abuses of power: “Rather than follow the state’s motto, ‘Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain,’ the majority follows an approach that suggests ‘Our Liberties Are Transient and Our Rights Are Expendable.’” Professor Mark Kende, director of Drake University’s Constitutional Law Center, told Bleeding Heartland last month that Baldwin could be an “‘under the radar’ big deal case.”

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Urgent: Civil rights commission threatened in Davenport (updated)

Latrice Lacey, an attorney and mother, has been director of the Davenport Civil Rights Commission since 2014. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The Davenport City Council is considering an illegal amendment to our city’s civil rights ordinance, which would eliminate the neutrality and independence of our Civil Rights Commission. The proposed change would decommission a body which has been active since 1962, remove the authority to manage staff, and replace it with a council-led board lacking knowledge of civil rights law enforcement.

In addition, the proposed ordinance would exclude all government and Davenport Schools employees from the protections of the civil rights ordinance. Despite this clear violation of state law and drastic change, council members have claimed there will be no change. Either they haven’t read the draft ordinance, or they are hoping community members haven’t read it.

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It is time to go for broke

Adam Kenworthy, chair of the Iowa lawyer chapter of the American Constitution Society, sees a message for all Democrats in a recent New York Congressional primary. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in the Democratic primary for New York’s fourteenth Congressional District showed that authenticity, passion, and a strong commitment to a democratic socialist vision of policies for all people can win elections. That bright spot in an otherwise dark period in our country’s history offers hope for the future of the current Democratic Party.

Her victory should also illustrate the risk of relying solely on political pundits to explain, and validate, her individual impact and the root causes of her success. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory was inspiring, both for the boldness of her platforms and for two very striking factors: young age and lack of money. At 28, her obvious maturity and depth is portrayed as rare among her generational peers. But is it truly rare, or have we Democrats simply failed to explore the potential of a new generation or candidates that challenge conventional assumptions?

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Jason Kander: If you come for our right to vote, we're coming for your job

“Iowa is on the front lines of this fight for voting rights in America,” Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander told state Democratic convention delegates on June 16. “And I’m here because a threat to democracy anywhere in America is a threat to democracy everywhere in America.”

The founder of Let America Vote was the only non-Iowan on the convention speaker’s list. His remarks were a highlight of the morning proceedings, so I’ve enclosed below the audio clip and full transcript. Among the memorable lines: “let’s send a message to every vote-suppressing politician in Iowa and across America that if you want to attack democracy, you’ve got to go through us. And if you want to come for our right to vote, we’re coming for your job.”

Kander has visited our state more than a dozen times in the last year and a half, raising awareness about voter suppression and headlining events for Democratic candidates or progressive organizations. Let America Vote’s executive director Abe Rakov has been based in Des Moines since last fall.

The group will particularly target the Iowa secretary of state race; Kander told reporters yesterday that Democratic nominee Deidre DeJear is “totally awesome.” (Fact check: true.) Let America Vote will also support some state legislative candidates. Last weekend they had interns out canvassing for four Democratic challengers in the suburbs of Des Moines: Heather Matson (House district 38), Karin Derry (House district 39), Kristin Sunde (House district 42), and Jennifer Konfrst (House district 43). Kander said on June 16 that Let America Vote has more than 40 interns on the ground in Iowa and knocked more than 7,000 doors here in the last five days.

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Iowa court strikes down state ban on Medicaid coverage for transgender care

A two-decade-old state administrative rule “clearly discriminates against transgender Medicaid recipients on the basis of gender identity by excluding coverage for medically necessary gender affirming surgery” while covering the same surgeries for non-transgender Iowans, a Polk County District Court ruled on June 7. Chief Judge Arthur Gamble found the rule violates both Article I, section 6 of the Iowa Constitution, which guarantees equal protection, and the Iowa Civil Rights Act, which has prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity since 2007.

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