State News : Iowa

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Iowa Supreme Court Schedules Special Evening Session

Des Moines, February 24, 2014 —On Tuesday evening, March 4, the Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Godfrey v. State of Iowa, et al., 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. The evening session is an opportunity for central Iowa residents, who may not be able to attend the court's regular morning and afternoon sessions, to watch the court conduct oral arguments.

Attorneys' briefs for the case and a guide to oral arguments are posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at:

Proceedings will be streamed live from the Iowa Judicial Branch web site at:

In this case, the Iowa Supreme Court will be asked if tort claims against state officials must be brought under the Iowa Tort Claims Act, Iowa Code chapter 669. The statute provides that if the actions of state employees that are the basis of the claim were within the scope of their employment, the employees have immunity and the State of Iowa will be substituted as defendant for the individual employees.

Plaintiff Christopher Godfrey is serving a statutory six-year term as Iowa's Workers' Compensation Commissioner. His term is due to expire April 30, 2015. He has sued the State of Iowa and several individuals, including Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, on a variety of claims, including violation of his constitutional rights, defamation, and intentional interference with contract.

Under Iowa Code section 669.5, the Iowa attorney general certified that defendants' actions were within the scope of their employment with the state. Based on the attorney general's certification, the individual defendants asked the district court to substitute the State of Iowa as the sole defendant in the case. The district court concluded that chapter 669 mandated a finding that the attorney general's certification on scope of employment was conclusive, requiring the court to substitute the State of Iowa for individual defendants. Plaintiff Godfrey contends the district court was wrong to dismiss the individual defendants from the case.

On appeal of the district court's ruling, issues before the Iowa Supreme Court include:

I. Does the attorney general's certification pursuant to Iowa Code section 669.5(2)(a) conclusively establish that a state employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment (and therefore the action is deemed to be an action against the state and the state is substituted as the defendant in place of the employee) or is the attorney general's certification subject to the court's (or a jury's) independent review?

II. If the attorney general's certification does conclusively establish that a state employee was acting within the scope of employment, then does the application of section 669.5(2)(a) result in an unconstitutional deprivation of plaintiff's due process rights?

A public reception with the supreme court justices will follow the oral arguments.

For more information, visit