# Judiciary



Iowa Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel retiring soon

Iowa’s State Judicial Nominating Commission is accepting applications to replace the longest-serving current Iowa Supreme Court justice.

Justice Brent Appel, who has served on the court since October 2006, will step down on July 13, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 72. Since Justice David Wiggins retired in early 2020, Appel has been the only one of the seven justices appointed by a Democratic governor.

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Court rejects governor's motion to dismiss open records lawsuit

A Polk County District Court has rejected Governor Kim Reynolds’ attempt to have an open records lawsuit tossed without being considered on the merits. It was the third time in the past five months that a court denied the state’s motion to dismiss a suit claiming the Reynolds administration violated Iowa’s open records law.

I am among the plaintiffs who sued the governor and some of her staff in December over five unfulfilled requests I had submitted to her office, two requests submitted by Clark Kauffman of Iowa Capital Dispatch, and one request submitted by Randy Evans of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

About three weeks after the ACLU of Iowa filed the lawsuit on our behalf, the governor’s office provided most of the records we had requested (in some cases more than a year earlier). The state’s attorneys then sought to have the case dismissed as moot.

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What could happen in Iowa after Roe is overturned

Five U.S. Supreme Court justices will soon overturn the Roe v Wade and Casey decisions, according to a draft majority opinion obtained by Politico. Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward published excerpts from the draft, which author Justice Samuel Alito circulated in February.

Assuming the court overrules Roe sometime in the next two months, abortion will become illegal immediately in more than a dozen states. Other Republican-controlled states, including Iowa, will likely pass total or near-total abortion bans soon after.

But any such law could not take effect here as long as a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court precedent stands. In that case, the majority held that the Iowa Constitution protects a fundamental right “to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy,” and any limits on that right are subject to strict scrutiny.

That ruling could be overturned in two ways.

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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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Iowa's third-party candidates have more time to qualify for ballot

Iowa candidates not affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties will have until August 26 to qualify for the general election ballot, under a recent federal court ruling.

A law enacted in 2019 required third-party and independent candidates to submit nominating papers by the same mid-March filing deadline that applies to Democratic or Republican primary election candidates. But Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Helen Adams ruled the law unconstitutional earlier this month, saying the early deadline “imposes a substantial burden” on the Libertarian Party of Iowa’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Whereas major parties are allowed to nominate candidates after the June primaries, the law forced “non-party political organizations” or independent candidates to collect signatures during the winter months. They also had to recruit all of their candidates “well before the political landscape is fleshed out, before the primary elections in June, before the Political Party candidates are solidified and finalized, before the current election issues are fully developed, and before voters are truly engaged in the election process,” the court determined.

Bleeding Heartland’s review of recent candidate filings indicated that fewer third-party candidates seeking state or federal offices qualified for the ballot after the 2019 law went into effect. No independent candidates filed for statewide or federal offices before this year’s March filing deadline. The Libertarian Party of Iowa fielded a ticket for governor and lieutenant governor, but no candidates for other statewide offices or for U.S. House or Senate.

A brief the state submitted to the federal court this week acknowledged that since the March deadline has been declared unconstitutional, “the filing deadline that existed prior to the 2019 amendments remains in force.” Under that version of the code section, independent or third-party candidates running for state or federal offices must submit nominating papers to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office “not more than ninety-nine days nor later than 5:00 p.m. on the seventy-third day before the date of the general election to be held in November.”

By my calculation, that sets this year’s filing window from August 1 through August 26. (Communications staff for the Secretary of State’s office did not respond to an inquiry.)

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