# Edward Mansfield



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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Iowa lawmakers tank consensus revisions to criminal procedure rules

Revised Iowa Court Rules of Criminal Procedure face an uncertain future after some state legislators objected to parts of the package, which was three years in the making.

The Iowa Supreme Court withdrew the rules from the Legislative Council on February 17. The order signed by Chief Justice Susan Christensen did not explain why the court took that step.

An email sent to members of the task force that drafted the new rules, which the Judicial Branch provided to Bleeding Heartland, said unnamed state legislators had informed the court “the rules would not be approved as submitted in the current form.” Lawmakers’ concerns centered around changes that would benefit defendants facing criminal charges.

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Iowa Supreme Court drops courtroom mask mandate

Iowans entering court-controlled spaces are no longer required to wear face coverings, under an Iowa Supreme Court order that took effect on February 14.

The Iowa Supreme Court reintroduced a comprehensive mask mandate last August, after the Delta variant caused a surge in cases and hospitalizations. A December order kept the requirement in place, as the Omicron variant became dominant. The February 11 order signed by Chief Justice Susan Christensen noted, “With both variants now on the wane, we find it appropriate to end this protocol.”

However, the new order gives judges discretion to “require face coverings by participants or take other measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in court proceedings as necessary.”

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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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