Justice should be blind. Not willfully blind

A Polk County District Court has ruled that transgender Iowans must exhaust all administrative remedies before challenging in court a new state law designed to prevent Medicaid from covering gender-affirming surgery.

In a July 18 order dismissing the ACLU of Iowa’s lawsuit on behalf of Mika Covington, Aiden Vasquez, and the LGBTQ advocacy group One Iowa, Judge David Porter wrote that the plaintiffs seeking surgery “have an adequate remedy at law” and that their case “is not ripe for judicial consideration.”

In other words, Covington and Vasquez must jump through hoops that will take many months, possibly years, before any court can consider their claim that denying Medicaid coverage for medically necessary procedures violates their constitutional rights.

Porter’s decision ignored evidence pointing to the law’s discriminatory intent as well as its impact on the plaintiffs.

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Democrats running for president must lead on the Supreme Court

Brian Fallon of Demand Justice: “Progressives need to hold Democrats accountable for their role in aiding and abetting Trump’s takeover of our courts and insist on a more aggressive response.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Our democracy is broken, and the Republican capture of the Supreme Court is a major reason why.

Over the last two decades, decisions like Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, and Shelby County v. Holder have betrayed the principle of “one person, one vote” and undermined confidence that our elections are truly free and fair.

With its decision this term in a high-profile gerrymandering case, the Republican majority on the court has gone further still, effectively given a green light to the partisan redrawing of maps.

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Affected Iowans, Kim Reynolds discuss policy targeting transgender people

Two transgender Iowans and an LGBTQ advocacy group are challenging the new statute intended to deprive transgender people of Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming surgery. The ACLU of Iowa filed suit in Polk County District Court on May 31 on behalf of Aiden Vasquez, Mika Covington, and One Iowa.

Listening to the plaintiffs explain why they took this step, I was struck by the contrast between their heartfelt, compelling words and Governor Kim Reynolds’ heartless, clueless excuses for signing discrimination into law.

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Iowa Supreme Court gets it wrong on pipeline ruling

Ed Fallon reacts to the Iowa Supreme Court’s determination that the use of eminent domain to build the Dakota Access pipeline was lawful and did not violate the state constitution. The file containing the majority opinion and dissents is enclosed at the end of this post. Landowners and the Sierra Club Iowa chapter had challenged the taking. -promoted by Laura Belin

For those of us who have fought Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) for nearly five years, May 31 was a sad day. That morning, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that ETP had the right to forcibly take Iowans’ land for an export crude oil pipeline.


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Divided Iowa Supreme Court upholds collective bargaining law

“Our role is to decide whether constitutional lines were crossed, not to sit as a superlegislature rethinking policy choices of the elected branches,” four Iowa Supreme Court justices said today in two rulings that upheld the 2017 collective bargaining law.

The state’s two largest public employee labor unions, AFSCME Council 61 and the Iowa State Education Association, had challenged the law, which eliminated almost all bargaining rights for most public employees but preserved more rights for units containing at least 30 percent “public safety” employees. The ISEA also challenged a provision that banned payroll deduction for union dues.

Justice Thomas Waterman wrote for the majority in both cases, joined by the court’s three other most conservative judges: Edward Mansfield, Susan Christensen, and Christopher McDonald. His ruling upheld two Polk County District Court rulings in 2017.

Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justice Brent Appel dissented from the AFSCME decision, joined by Justice David Wiggins. Appel wrote a partial concurrence and partial dissent in the ISEA case, joined by Cady and Wiggins. They would have allowed the state to end payroll deductions for union dues but struck down the part of the law that gave more bargaining rights to some workers than others. They highlighted the statute’s “illogical” classification system, under which many who receive the expanded privileges are not themselves “public safety employees,” while others “with obvious public safety responsibilities” are excluded.

Had the late Justice Daryl Hecht been able to consider this case, these decisions would likely have gone 4-3 the other way. However, Hecht stepped down while battling melanoma in December, shortly before the court heard oral arguments. Governor Kim Reynolds appointed McDonald to fill the vacancy in February. Normally new justices do not participate in rulings when they were not present for oral arguments, but the court would have been deadlocked on these cases otherwise. So file this disappointing outcome for some 180,000 public employees under E for “elections have consequences.”

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Plaintiffs challenging Iowa judicial changes face uphill climb (updated)

A Linn County attorney and eight Iowa House Democrats are challenging the new law that altered the composition of the State Judicial Nominating Commission and the term of the Iowa Supreme Court chief justice.

Republican lawmakers approved the changes as an amendment to the “standings” budget bill on the final day of the 2019 legislative session. Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill on May 8, giving herself and future governors nearly unchecked power to choose judges for Iowa’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The plaintiffs are not claiming the legislature lacked the power to change the commission’s membership through a statute. Although most of Iowa’s judicial selection system is spelled out in the state constitution, which takes years to amend, a loophole in Article V, Section 16 specified the manner of forming judicial nominating commissions only “Until July 4, 1973, and thereafter unless otherwise provided by law.”

Rather, the lawsuit filed in Polk County District Court on May 14 cites two constitutional violations related to the process by which the law passed and one violation related to the separation of powers.

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