Hear Chief Justice Mark Cady's passionate appeal to combat implicit bias

Devastating news: Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady passed away on November 15, having suffered a heart attack.

Best known for writing the court’s unanimous opinion in the Varnum v Brien marriage equality case, Cady was a staunch supporter of civil rights. Since becoming chief justice in 2011, he was often the swing vote on Iowa’s high court and concurred in many 4-3 opinions.

Appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in 1998, Cady sometimes aligned with the high court’s conservatives–for instance, on upholding Iowa’s felon disenfranchisement system. Sometimes he joined his more liberal colleagues–for instance, on juvenile sentencing. Cady also authored last year’s opinion that found Iowa’s constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion. Seventeen months later, three of the five justices who joined that landmark ruling are gone. (Justice Bruce Zager retired, and Justice Daryl Hecht died.)

Bleeding Heartland intends to publish several reflections on Cady’s legacy in the coming weeks. For now, I want to share the chief justice’s remarks at the recent Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities.

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Iowa remains among worst states for racial disparities

Midwestern states continue to have greater “racial disparities in economic opportunity and economic outcomes” than do other regions of the U.S., while “policy interventions designed to close those gaps are meager,” concludes a new report by Colin Gordon of the University of Iowa and the Iowa Policy Project.

Gordon’s findings are consistent with past research showing that African Americans in Iowa face pervasive barriers in many areas of life. By some measures, our state’s racial disparities are among the worst in the Midwest region and the country.

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Five thoughts about Linda Upmeyer's tenure as Iowa House speaker

Iowa House Republicans meet in Des Moines this morning to elect new leaders for the 2020 legislative session. Linda Upmeyer announced on September 30 that she will step down as House speaker when the legislature reconvenes in January and will not seek re-election next November. She said in a written statement that she wants to spend more time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

Speaking to WHO Radio’s Jeff Angelo on October 1, Upmeyer said she was also influenced by her predecessor Kraig Paulsen’s decision to leave the post long before an election. A new speaker is “well-served” by having a session under their belt, which helps them with fundraising and recruiting candidates, she explained. “I wanted to make sure that whoever was going to be leading the caucus in the future had those tools at their disposal going into this next election.”

Sources close to the legislature indicate that current House Appropriations Committee chair Pat Grassley is likely to become the next speaker, with Matt Windschitl moving up from House speaker pro-tem to majority leader. Current Majority Leader Chris Hagenow may not be part of the new leadership team, for reasons that remain unclear. UPDATE: The caucus selected Grassley as speaker, Windschitl as majority leader, and State Representative John Wills as speaker pro tem.

I’ve been thinking about Upmeyer’s legacy and how she influenced the chamber.

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Iowa governor's already denied ten AG requests to join national cases

Less than four months after persuading Attorney General Tom Miller to cede some of his power to her, Governor Kim Reynolds has already denied ten requests to sign Iowa on to multi-state legal actions related to federal or state policies on gun safety, immigration, environmental regulation, and reproductive or LGBTQ rights.

During the same time frame, Reynolds has approved five requests to join multi-state efforts on consumer protection, drug policy, or to help Iowa obtain a share of negotiated settlements.

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Leader quits Iowa civil rights enforcement agency (updated)

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission’s interim executive director stepped down last week, following an extended period of uncertainty for the agency charged with enforcing the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

Linda Grathwohl did not explain her decision in the letter she delivered to Governor Kim Reynolds on July 11. In an e-mail to the commission’s staff the same day, Grathwohl didn’t specify any reason for leaving, saying she planned to return to Iowa Legal Aid once her resignation was effective on July 25. Attempts to reach Grathwohl for further comment by phone, e-mail, and Facebook message were unsuccessful.

Nearly seven months have passed since Grathwohl’s predecessor, Kristin Johnson, left at the end of her term. Reynolds has not appointed a permanent executive director, and correspondence obtained by Bleeding Heartland through a public records request shows little sign the governor or her staff are interested in the agency’s work.

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Memo to law enforcement officers: Swearing at you is not a crime

The Adams County Sheriff’s office must stop charging critics with crimes, under a U.S. District Court injunction issued this week. The injunction is part of an agreement to settle a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Red Oak resident Jon Goldsmith, the ACLU of Iowa announced on July 8. Goldsmith faced a third-degree harassment charge last year after putting up a profanity-laden Facebook post about a sheriff’s deputy.

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