Important Win for Fair Courts at US Supreme Court Today

Des Moines, Iowa — In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar that banning state judges from personally soliciting campaign contributions is constitutional. Justice Not Politics joined several other state-based fair courts groups in an Amicus Brief supporting the ban. The brief was prepared and filed by Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts.

Like Iowa, and many other states, Florida has a Code of Judicial Conduct that strictly prohibits judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions or personally accepting contributions. Florida’s lower court judges are elected. Iowa judges are all selected through a merit based process, but all face retention elections. The same code of conduct applies in both states. Judges cannot personally solicit or accept campaign contributions.

When the Florida Bar Association disciplined judicial candidate Lanell William-Yulee for violating this ban, she appealed the disciplinary sanction to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing the ban violates the First Amendment. The court sided with the Florida Bar. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Court:

“The State may conclude that judges, charged with exercising strict neutrality and independence, cannot supplicate campaign donors without diminishing public confidence in judicial integrity. Simply put, the public may lack confidence in a judge’s ability to administer justice without fear or favor if he comes to office by asking for favors.”

Justice Not Politics is celebrating the Court’s ruling today, as it means Iowa’s own Judicial Code of Conduct is safe from a similar challenge. “This is an important recognition that our citizens are best served when judges are beholden only to the law. Ideally, Iowa judges would never be put in a position to participate in political campaigning. Regardless of how aggressive political attacks against the courts may get, the ban on personal fundraising ensures that Iowa judges will keep their distance from the corrupting influence of money in politics,” stated Connie Ryan Terrell, board president of Justice Not Politics.

You can read the Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar ruling here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/13-1499_d18e.pdf

Justice Not Politics (JNP) is a nonpartisan coalition of organizations and Iowans across the political spectrum, all who are committed to protecting Iowa’s courts and our system of merit selection and retention. JNP works through the power of a coalition, effectively demonstrating the importance of impartial courts in all areas of life and the broad support of Iowans in protecting our judicial system.

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Iowa Supreme Court to hold night session

Quad City Times

February 11, 2015

NIGHT COURT: The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 in Des Moines in a case brought by state legislators and a public employees union against Gov. Terry Branstad. The court will hear oral arguments in the case of Danny Homan, Steven J. Sodders, Jack Hatch, Pat Murphy and Mark Smith v. Terry Branstad, Governor, State of Iowa, and Charles M. Palmer, director, Iowa Department of Human Services in the fourth-floor courtroom of the Judicial Branch Building, 1111 E. Court Ave. The plaintiffs claim the governor’s actions prior to closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo amounted to an unconstitutional impoundment of legislative funds that had been appropriated for the school’s operations. The juvenile home closed in January 2014. The governor and the director of the Iowa Department of Human Services appealed a district court order granting a preliminary injunction requiring the home to reopen. Attorneys’ briefs for the case and a guide to oral arguments are posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/Des_Moines_Evening_Session. Proceedings will be streamed live from the Iowa Judicial Branch website at www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/Oral_Argument_Videos. The evening sessions are open to the public. A public reception with the Supreme Court justices will follow the oral arguments on the second floor of the Judicial Branch Building.

http://qctimes.com/news/local/government-and-politics/iowa-supreme-court-to-hold-night-session/article_d3018fa4-7c71-56af-97fd-b675c1c7c371.html


Iowa Judicial Branch Release: Iowa Supreme Court Schedules Two Special Evening Sessions

News Release

February 11, 2015

Contact: Steve Davis, Court Communications Officer, (515)725-8058 or steve.davis@iowacourts.gov

Iowa Supreme Court Schedules Two Special Evening Sessions

Des Moines, February 11, 2015— The Iowa Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a special session of oral arguments in Des Moines Tuesday evening, February 24, and in Creston Monday evening, March 9.

On Tuesday evening, February 24, the supreme court will hear oral arguments in the case of Danny Homan, Steven J. Sodders, Jack Hatch, Pat Murphy, and Mark Smith v. Terry Branstad, Governor, State of Iowa; and Charles M. Palmer, Director, Iowa Department of Human Services beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Supreme Court Courtroom on the fourth floor of the Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines.

On Monday evening, March 9, the supreme court will hear oral arguments in the case Sanon, et al. v. City of Pella, et al. beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Creston High School auditorium, 601 West Townline Street, Creston.

The evening sessions are open to the public and provide an opportunity for Iowa residents, who may not be able to attend the court’s regular morning and afternoon sessions, to watch the court conduct oral arguments.

Danny Homan, et al. vs. Terry Branstad, et al.

Plaintiffs in this case claim the governor’s actions prior to closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home (IJH) in Toledo amounted to an unconstitutional impoundment of legislative funds that had been appropriated for IJH operations. IJH closed in January 2014. The governor and the Director of the Iowa Department of Human Services appeal a district court order granting a preliminary injunction requiring IJH to reopen.

Attorneys’ briefs for the case and a guide to oral arguments are posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at: http://www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/Des_Moines_Evening_Session/ .

Proceedings will be streamed live from the Iowa Judicial Branch web site at: http:/www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/Oral_Argument_Videos/ .

A public reception with the supreme court justices will follow the oral arguments on the second floor of the Judicial Branch Building.

Sanon, et al. v. City of Pella, et al.

This case involves the drowning of two teen age boys while on a youth camp outing to the Pella Aquatic Center operated by the City of Pella (City). The case rises on appeal from the Iowa district court following its ruling granting in part and denying in part the City’s motion for summary judgment on immunity issues. The issues on appeal center on whether acts or omissions of city employees resulting in violation of pool safety regulations amount to a criminal offence under Iowa law such that the City does not have immunity from liability under Iowa Code section 670.4(12).

Attorneys’ briefs for the case and a guide to oral arguments are posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at: http://www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/Offsite_Oral_Arguments_Creston/

A public reception with the supreme court justices at both special sessions will follow the oral arguments in the high school.

For more information, visit http://www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/ .

Note to Editors: News media are invited to attend the oral arguments. Court rules apply regarding still camera, video camera, audio recording devices, and other electronic devices used during the oral arguments. Information on expanded media coverage is available on the Iowa Judicial Branch Website at http://www.iowacourts.gov/For_the_Media/Expanded_News_Media_Coverage/ .

The Iowa Court Rules regarding cameras and other electronic devices in courtrooms are on the Iowa Legislature website at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/ACO/CourtRulesChapter/06-30-2014.25.pdf . Internet Explorer 9 or higher is required to view this page of the Iowa Legislature website. Mozilla, Firefox, or Google Chrome will also work.

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http://www.iowacourts.gov/For_the_Media/news_releases/NewsItem58/index.asp



Iowa chief justice targets racial disparities, security

The Des Moines Register

Grant Rogers

January 14, 2015

Iowa’s court system should work in 2015 to become a nationwide leader in addressing racial disparities in its criminal justice system, while also working to make courthouse employees safer across the state, the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court told lawmakers Wednesday.

In his annual State of the Judiciary address, Chief Justice Mark Cady highlighted efforts in the Iowa City community and by judges to combat staggering statistics that show blacks are sent to prison and to juvenile courts at significantly higher rates than other racial groups.

In Iowa, 9.4 percent of adult black men are incarcerated – the third highest percentage in the United States, Cady said.

“Iowa may be a leader in the nation in the statistics showing racial disparities in its criminal justice system,” Cady said to a standing ovation from lawmakers. “Iowa can also lead the nation in finding solutions to end racial disparities.”

In 2014, new Iowa judges and magistrates began receiving training about recognizing different types of self-held biases, Cady said. In November, Cady went to a training session for judges and heard presentations from NAACP representatives on racial-disparity issues, he said.

Iowa’s judicial branch is also poised to have even more data on racial disparities gleaned from court cases that will be easier to research with the full implementation of the state’s electronic filing system, Cady said in an interview with The Des Moines Register after the address. All of Iowa’s 99 counties will be plugged into the paperless system by June 30, he said.

“Now that we’re almost completely integrated into our paperless court system, we’ll be able to use statistics to tell us the sort of job we’re doing,” he told the Register. “The (electronic document management system) is going to reveal a lot of things to us and allow us to find ways to do our work better.”

In his speech, Cady told lawmakers about a partnership that launched in August that includes the Johnson County juvenile court officials, as well as Iowa City police and the school district, to reduce the number of students who are referred into courtrooms for disruptive behavior such as fighting during the school day. In Johnson County, 10 percent of youth are black, but they comprise 54 percent of arrests out of schools, Cady said.

Cady said court officials will monitor the progress of the Iowa City partnership throughout its first year. The chief justice’s address drew immediate praise from Assistant House Minority Leader Ako Abdul-Samad, a Democrat who represents Des Moines’ urban core neighborhoods.

“If we as Iowans continue to ignore the racial disparities of incarceration and sentencing, we are compromising our judicial system and our way of life,” he said in a statement. “I believe we can make a different by communicating and creating a comprehensive plan for working together with teachers, law enforcement, community leaders and judges to reduce juvenile and minority incarceration and arrests.”

The yearly address comes as the judicial branch is asking legislators for a 4.7 percent increase in its yearly budget to pay for expenses including increased costs of health care insurance for employees, as well as a 4.5 percent salary increase for judges and magistrates.

The salaries for judges and magistrates had been frozen since 2008 until Governor Terry Branstad approved a 4.5 salary increase for the 2015 fiscal year that began in July, said Steve Davis, the communications officer for the judicial branch. The budget request for the 2016 fiscal year totals $182,773,989.

After the September shooting at the Jackson County Courthouse in Maquoketa, employees in the state court administrator’s office have worked with the Iowa Association of Counties to survey Iowa counties about current security levels at courthouses, Cady said.

That information will be used to update the judicial branch’s uniform guidelines for court facility security and the updated guidelines will be given to counties during the summer.

“We will broaden our efforts and look forward to working with all segments of state and local government to make all public buildings safe,” Cady said in the address. “While the day of the Jackson County shooting was a tragedy, that was the day when tragedy was turned into an unwavering commitment to do everything possible to make sure every place of justice is a place of safety.”

The judicial branch and association of counties have also formed a committee tasked with creating a standardized safety and emergency training curriculum that would be established for all Iowa counties, Davis said. Currently, trainings for active shootings or bomb threats are done county by county on an as-needed basis, he said.

Improved courthouse security was a significant public talking point for the Iowa State Bar Association, which called for a statewide review of security procedures after a March incident when a man being sentenced on drug charges brought a handgun to court at the Madison County Courthouse in Winterset.

Rep. Chip Baltimore, a Boone Republican who chairs the Iowa House judiciary committee, said at a reception following the address that he’s interested in seeing whether the chief justice will propose solutions to courthouse safety that legislators can tackle.

In addition to judicial branch employees, most county courthouses contain local government employees in county auditor, assessor and recorder offices, Baltimore said. He said he’s skeptical that the state government can take security steps that fit the approach each county needs.

“County courthouses are exactly that … they’re county courthouses,” he said. “While I applaud the chief’s thoughts and comments about wanting to make sure judicial employees are safe, I don’t know that there’s a state solution to that. Every courthouse is different, every county budget has different priorities in it and quite honestly different needs.”

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady touched on a variety of issues Iowa’s courts will work to address during 2015 during his annual State of the Judiciary address:

  • Implementation of the electronic document management system: By June 30, all of Iowa’s 99 counties will be integrated into the paperless case filing system. This comes six months ahead of schedule, Cady said. More than 1 million Iowa cases and 4 million documents have now been filed using the system.
  • Iowa’s children: Since 2012, the number of Iowa juveniles with criminal complaints filed against them has dropped by 20 percent, Cady said. Over the same period, the number of juveniles charged with felony crimes has also dropped by 20 percent. Additional juvenile court officers hired by the state have eased the burdens of heavy caseloads and allowed officers to spend more time with offenders.
  • Civil lawsuits: On Jan. 2, Iowa implemented its new track for civil lawsuits over amounts of $75,000 or less, Cady said. This will allow these lawsuits to be completed within one year. “That was the day when the judicial branch launched a new model of judicial efficiency to give more Iowans more access to justice.”

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2015/01/14/iowa-courthouse-security/21751497/