A federal judge has ruled that “Iowa courts are the more appropriate forum” for deciding whether Governor Branstad targeted a state employee for dismissal because that employee was gay.
The U.S. District Court judge formally issued a stay, not a dismissal of the lawsuit, but the effect is the same. Branstad’s legal team will not have to defend this case in state court and federal court at the same time.
The case involves Iowa Worker’s Compensation Commissioner Christopher Godfrey. Shortly after Republican Terry Branstad returned as Iowa’s governor in 2011, Branstad’s top aides asked Godfrey to resign. When Godfrey wouldn’t, Godfrey’s salary was cut by $36,000.
Two years ago Godfrey filed a lawsuit in state court, accusing Branstad of targeting him because he’s gay, then a year and a half ago Godfrey filed a similar discrimination claim in federal court. The federal judge who put a halt to that second lawsuit ruled the “parallel claims” opened the door to “inconsistent rulings” and added “unnecessary time and cost” to the courts.
Branstad’s attorney says the decision means Iowa taxpayers won’t have to pay additional legal expenses for the duplicate lawsuit in federal court. Branstad is being represented by a private attorney who is charging $325 an hour. That legal bill is now in six-figures and approaching half a million dollars.