A review of cases decided by the Iowa Supreme Court shows lots of agreement and two distinct groupings among the justices. Ryan Koopmans, conducted the review with a fellow lawyer. “We take stats, who wrote the opinion, whether there was a dissent, what the total vote was, how the opinion got there, all those kinds of things, many of which only lawyers care about,” Koopmans says.
Koopmans is with the Nymaster firm in Des Moines and writes about the findings of their reviews in the blog “On Brief.” He says they were interested in how the court decisions in the wake of the retention election that saw three justices voted off the bench and three new judges appointed to take their places.
Koopmans says there were some patterns in how the rulings came down. “The justices agree most of the time, the cases aren’t that controversial. I think there are 19 cases out of the 120 some that they issued where there was one dissenting vote,” Koopmans says.
“And what we saw was that the Chief Justice, Chief Justice (Mark) Cady and Justices (Thomas) Waterman and (Edward) Mansfield agreed with each other most of the time. And justices (Brent) Appel, (David) Wiggins and (Daryl) Hecht agreed with each other most of the time. And justice (Bruce) Zager seemed to kind of flip between those two blocks.”
Koopmans says in the 10 cases decided on a four-three vote, Zager voter with the Chief Justice’s group six times and with the other group four times. While there are some patterns found in the latest Supreme Court rulings, Koopmans isn’t ready to his own ruling on the courts work.
“No I don’t think you can, I think it’s still too early. And what you also saw during this term was that a lot of justices recused themselves from cases, especially the new justices who may have been involved in some of these cases…again, I just think it’s too early to tell,” Koopmans says. He says another year of rulings will give a clearer picture in how this court shapes up when it comes to making opinions.
“I think that what we’ll see is that there’ll be less recusals, so all seven justices will be on most cases coming up in the next term and the term after that. And we’ll start to see a few more trends and then I think the justices will come into their own a little bit,” according to Koopmans. One of the things Koopmans says can be said for this latest court term is they have cut a backlog of cases.
“There had been some complaints about the time the justices took to issue their decisions, but under Chief Justice Cady’s leadership, the court has taken those criticisms to heart. And I think they’ve started to turn things around,” Koopmans says. “By July 27th the court will have issued a decision in all argued cases except one. And considering the court was short staffed for a time following the retention election, that’s pretty remarkable.”
You can read the review of the judges on www.iowaappeals.com.