Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order sustaining a subpoena served on a state agency for various categories of information related to a potential transaction, holding that the subpoena was not invalid.The agency in this case (Agency) and a state institution (Institution) overseen by the Agency contacted Rob Sand, the Iowa Auditor of State (Auditor Sand), to discuss a transaction that was expected to create a multi-billion dollar obligation for the Agency. Auditor Sand requested information on the potential investors involved in the transaction, but the Agency refused to provide the information, asserting that it was confidential. Auditor Sand then served a subpoena on the Agency requesting thirteen categories of documents related to the transaction. The district court entered an order sustaining the subpoena. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, even though Auditor Sand was not actually engaged in an audit, the subpoena was valid. View "Sand v. Doe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court upholding the ruling of the Property Assessment Appeal Board (PAAB) concluding that bins that primarily hold raw material until it is needed in the manufacturing process do not themselves constitute "machinery," holding that some, but not all, of the ingredient bins qualify for a tax exemption.At issue was when bins for holding ingredients qualify for a tax exemption as machinery used in manufacturing establishments under Iowa Code 427A.1(1)(e). The court of appeals disagreed with the PAAB's interpretation of the statute, finding that bins that are integrated into the manufacturing process and used for temporary storage of ingredients fell within the statutory exemption. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' decision and reversed in part the district court's judgment, holding (1) customized overhead bins within a building where feed is manufactured constitute part of a continuous piece of machinery within that building; and (2) two large stand-alone corn silos, while connected by an underground conveyor to the feed manufacturing facility, do not meet the definition of machinery. View "Stateline Cooperative v. Iowa Property Assessment Appeal Board" on Justia Law

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In this case arising out of the discontinuance of the City of Mt. Union, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs' claim against the City Development Board, holding that the district court correctly concluded that a petition for judicial review under Iowa Code chapter 17A was Plaintiffs' exclusive remedy against the Board.Dan and Linda Johnson obtained a default judgment against the City, which had then been discontinued, for defamation, and presented it for payment to the Board, a state agency that supervises the discontinuance of cities. The Board approved the default judgment as a valid administrative claim. Plaintiffs petitioned for judicial review and filed this lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment. The district court granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs and against the Johnsons in the declaratory judgment action but dismissed Plaintiffs' claim against the Board. The court of appeals reversed the dismissal of the Board. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' decision in part, holding that Iowa Code 368.22 expressly makes chapter 17A "the exclusive means" of judicial review of the Board's actions. View "Marek v. City Development Board of State of Iowa" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment and holding that the City of Davenport's mayor was required to show cause to remove an appointee from the Davenport Civil Rights Commission, holding that the law imposed no obligation on the mayor to show cause for the appointee's removal from the commission.Mayor Frank Klipsch entered an order removing Commissioner Nicole Bribriesco-Ledger from the Davenport Civil Rights Commission before her term had expired. Bribriesco-Ledger brought this action claiming that Klipsch had no authority to remove her absent a showing of cause. Defendants - Klipsch and the City of Davenport - filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that removal from office under Iowa Code 372.15 does not require that the removal be for cause. View "Bribriesco-Ledger v. Klipsch" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the district court concluding that the county board of adjustment legally granted an area variance to certain property owners, holding that the board of adjustment acted illegally in granting the variance from the county zoning ordinance.The Board of Adjustment of Cerro Gordo County granted the application for a variance filed by Gregory and Lea Ann Saul that allowed them to construct a pergola twenty-one inches from the property line. The local ordinance required a six-foot setback. The district court concluded that the board acted legally in granting the variance. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals and reversed the district court, holding that the Sauls did not meet their burden to establish unnecessary hardship. View "Earley v. Board of Adjustment of Cerro Gordo County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court dismissing an employee's gross negligence claim against a coemployee, holding that settlement documents submitted to and approved by the workers' compensation commissioner extinguished the employee's gross negligence claim.Plaintiff, an employee of Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI) was attacked by one of LSI's clients, causing injuries. Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim against LSI and its workers' compensation carrier. The parties settled, and the two settlement documents were approved by the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner. Plaintiff subsequently filed a petition in district court seeking to recover damages from Defendant, Plaintiff's supervisor when he worked at LSI, on a theory of gross negligence. Defendant moved to dismiss the action, relying on release language in the settlement documents. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant on both contract and statutory grounds. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that a settlement with the commissioner did not release a common law claim of gross negligence against a coemployee. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' judgment and affirmed the district court's summary judgment, holding that the district court properly ruled that, as a matter of contract, the language in the terms of settlement extinguished Plaintiff's gross negligence claim. View "Terry v. Dorothy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court reversing the decision of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) that a child-care provider must pay back benefits the provider received during agency review of her cancelled provider agreement, holding that DHS erred in refusing to consider the provider's unjust enrichment defense to the recoupment proceeding.At issue was whether the provider was given constitutionally sufficient notice of DHS's intent to recoup payments. DHS sent the provider a notice cancelling the provider agreement and noted that any benefits the provider got while her appeal was being decided "may have to be paid back if the Department's action is correct." DHS affirmed its decision to cancel the provider's agreement but did not find, until years later, that the provider had to pay back the $16,000. The district court reversed DHS's decision on recoupment and denied attorney fees under Iowa Code 625.29(1)(b). The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) DHS's notice met procedural due process requirements, but the DHS should have been allowed an opportunity to raise unjust enrichment as an offset to DHS's effort to recoup overpayments; and (2) where DHS's role was primarily adjudicative, DHS was not liable for attorney fees. View "Endress v. Iowa Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the court of appeals' decision and affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court, holding that a child-care provider whose provider agreement and registration was cancelled should be allowed to raise unjust enrichment as an offset to the Iowa Department of Human Services' (DHS) effort to recoup $31,815 for child-care services the provider rendered during agency review.This appeal was a companion case to Endress v. Iowa Department of Human Services, __ N.W.2d __ (Iowa 2020), also decided today. DHS attempted to recoup child-care service payments during agency review of the provider's cancelled provider agreement and registration. On appeal, the court of appeals held that DHS's notice concerning recoupment of overpayments was constitutionally deficient. The Supreme Court (1) vacated the court of appeals' decision on the constitutional issue, holding that DHS's notice of recoupment met procedural due process requirements; and (2) remanded the case to the district court to remand to DHS for consideration of the provider's equitable relief, holding that the provider should have been allowed to pursue her claim for unjust enrichment. View "Pfaltzgraff v. Iowa Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellant's petition for judicial review, holding that timely faxing a petition for judicial review to the opposing party's counsel, where the petition is actually received and no prejudice results, constitutes substantial compliance under Iowa Code 17A.19(2).Appellant filed four petitions with the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commission against Respondents, her employer and its workers' compensation insurance carrier, alleging that she received several workplace injuries. The commissioner largely denied the petitions. Appellant then filed a pro se petition with the district court seeking judicial review. The petition was electronically filed, and Appellant faxed copies the same day to Respondents and the workers' compensation commission. The district court granted Respondents' motion to dismiss, concluding that Appellant's sending of a fax of her petition was not substantial compliance with the requirements of section 17A.19(2). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellant substantially complied with the service requirements in section 17A.19(2). View "Logan v. Bon Ton Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Claimant's petition for judicial review challenging the decision of the workers' compensation commissioner concluding that Claimant, who was receiving disability benefits for a traumatic injury, could not later recover disability benefits on a separate cumulative injury claim where the cumulative injury was based solely on aggravation of the earlier traumatic injury.Because the three-year statute of limitations for review-reopening had passed Claimant instead brought a separate cumulative injury claim. The commissioner declined to award benefits for the asserted cumulative injury. The district court upheld the commissioner's ruling. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that because Claimant was precluded by the statute of limitations from bringing an original proceeding or review-reopening she could recover by way of a cumulative-injury claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that sufficient record evidence sustained the commissioner's finding that Claimant's difficulties were merely the aggravation over time of her original injury and that Claimant did not suffer a distinct and discrete cumulative injury to support additional benefits. View "Gumm v. Easter Seal Society of Iowa, Inc." on Justia Law