Sondra Feldstein is a farmer and business owner in Polk County and a plaintiff in the litigation discussed here. She took the photo above, showing the Geisler farm (the buildings in the distance) in the middle of farmland in eastern Polk County.
When the Iowa legislature debated the so-called “back the blue” law in 2021, a key component was the section adding qualified immunity to state code. At the time, public discussion focused on the impact this would have on law enforcement by providing protection from suits involving monetary damages. News stories, commentators, legislators, and Governor Kim Reynolds (when she signed the bill) all claimed qualified immunity would—depending on your point of view—either protect police officers no matter how egregious their conduct, or make it easier for officers to do their jobs without worrying about getting sued for a split-second decision.
Polk County District Court Judge Jeanie Vaudt recently applied the qualified immunity language to dismiss, with prejudice, a lawsuit plaintiffs (myself included) brought against the Polk County Supervisors over a zoning dispute. When a case is dismissed “with prejudice,” the only recourse is to appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court, rather than allowing the plaintiffs to amend their suit to address any issues of law or procedure the lower court may have found (which frequently happens).
If allowed to stand, this decision could be cited in denying any lawsuit brought against any Iowa governmental body, including the state itself. Goodbye efforts to hold governments accountable for their decisions, or for that matter, any effort to force Iowa governments to follow the law.Continue Reading...