# Matthew McDermott



How Iowa Supreme Court's McDermott, Oxley have decided big cases

Disclosure: I am a plaintiff in an open records lawsuit that is pending before the Iowa Supreme Court on interlocutory appeal. (The governor’s office appealed a lower court ruling against the state’s motion to dismiss our case.) That litigation has nothing to do with this post.

On the back side of Iowa’s general election ballot, voters have a chance to vote yes or no on allowing two Iowa Supreme Court justices, two Iowa Court of Appeals judges, and dozens of lower court judges to remain on the bench.

No organizations are campaigning or spending money against retaining Justices Dana Oxley and Matthew McDermott, whom Governor Kim Reynolds appointed in 2020.

Nevertheless, I expect the justices to receive a lower share of the retention vote than most of their predecessors. Shortly after the newest justices were part of a controversial ruling on abortion in June, the Iowa Poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom found a partisan split in attitudes toward the Iowa Supreme Court, with a significant share of Democrats and independents disapproving of the court’s work.

This post seeks to provide context on how the justices up for retention have approached Iowa Supreme Court decisions that may particularly interest Bleeding Heartland readers.

Continue Reading...

An Iowa Supreme Court hint on "strict scrutiny" for gun cases?

Tom Barton wrote an excellent article for the Cedar Rapids Gazette about what’s at stake in this November’s vote on a pro-gun amendment to the Iowa Constitution. Republicans who pushed for the amendment have downplayed its potential impact on existing gun regulations. But legal experts told Barton some laws, such as a broad prohibition on firearms ownership by people with felony convictions, might not survive a court challenge if voters approve the constitutional amendment.

In a little-noticed passage tucked into a recent decision on abortion rights, a majority of Iowa Supreme Court justices suggested that existing gun regulations could be doomed under a “strict scrutiny” standard.

Continue Reading...

Governor discounts pregnant Iowans' well-being. Will Supreme Court agree?

Lawyers representing Governor Kim Reynolds have taken the first step toward reinstating a 2018 law that would ban nearly all abortions in Iowa. A Polk County District Court struck down that law in 2019, and Reynolds did not appeal the decision. A motion filed on August 11 asks the court to lift the permanent injunction, which was founded on Iowa and U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have since been reversed.

In a written statement amplified on her social media, Reynolds promised, “As long as I’m Governor, I will stand up for the sanctity of life and fight to protect the precious and innocent unborn lives.”

Left unsaid by the governor, but made clear by the legal brief her team filed: pregnant Iowans’ interests have almost no value in the eyes of the state.

Will four Iowa Supreme Court justices balance competing concerns the same way?

Continue Reading...

Tactical retreat on Iowa's abortion waiting period averts strategic loss

The ACLU of Iowa and Planned Parenthood North Central States announced on August 5 that they will not pursue litigation challenging Iowa’s mandatory 24-hour waiting period before all abortions. The Iowa Supreme Court allowed that 2020 law to go into effect in June, when a 5-2 majority reversed the court’s abortion rights precedent and sent Planned Parenthood’s case back to District Court.

In a written statement, ACLU of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis Austen described the decision to dismiss the case as “extremely difficult.”

But the move was wise in light of Iowa’s current legal landscape. Dropping this challenge could push back by years any ruling by the conservative-dominated Iowa Supreme Court to establish a new legal standard for reviewing abortion restrictions. That could strengthen the position of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU as they fight grave threats to Iowans’ bodily autonomy.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Supreme Court's unfair message: "Take one for the team"

Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com.

In 1972, Gordon Garrison purchased 300 acres of farmland in Emmet County, a rectangle near the Minnesota border one county to the east of the Iowa Great Lakes. 

The Iowa State University agricultural engineering graduate began raising sheep and crops. He also set about working to restore the “prairie pothole” ecology of shallow wetlands that was common in northwestern Iowa when white settlers began arriving 175 years ago. 

Garrison built a house on his land in 1999. He still lives there, although his quality of life has taken a troubling turn since he put down roots there.  

Life for Garrison and his neighbors changed significantly in December 2015 when New Fashion Pork LLP built a CAFO, or a confined animal feeding operation, uphill from and adjacent to Garrison’s property. The confinement building — which the state allows to house 4,400 to 8,800 hogs, depending on their size — is about a half mile from Garrison’s property. 

Continue Reading...

How far can Iowa Republicans go to ban abortion? (updated)

The worst-case scenario for bodily autonomy in Iowa played out over the past ten days. First, the Iowa Supreme Court on June 17 overturned its own 2018 precedent that established a fundamental right to abortion, protected by the state constitution. Then, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that established a federal constitutional right to an abortion, and the related Casey decision of 1992.

Top Iowa Republicans immediately promised further action to restrict abortion, which is now legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s not yet clear when they will try to pass a new law, which exceptions (if any) may be on the table, or whether a ban modeled on other state laws could survive an Iowa court challenge.

Continue Reading...
View More...