The Iowa Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit against Governor Terry Branstad and the head of the Department of Human Services over the closing of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo last year. The president of the state’s largest public employees union and four Democratic lawmakers sued the governor seeking to reopen the home.
The district court ruled in their favor, but the Iowa Supreme Court ruled today that the issue is now moot because the legislature is no longer appropriating money to operate the home.
Jimmy Centers is the governor’s spokesman: “Governor Branstad’s top priority has always been the health, safety and education of the girls formerly served at the Iowa Juvenile home. Governor Branstad is committed to ensuring Iowa responsibly meets the needs of delinquent youth in Iowa in both public and private capacities. We respect today’s Supreme Court decision which upholds the actions taken to better serve Iowa youth,” Centers says.
He says the governor and lawmakers have moved forward on the issue. “In 2014, Governor Branstand and the Iowa Legislature in bipartisan fashion agreed that moving the issue forward meant serving the troubled you in licensed and accredited facilities,” Center says. “Today, that action was upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court.”
The closing of the home came after an investigation following reports of mistreatment of the residents and the use of isolation cells.
“Now that the lawsuit is settled, we look forward to working with the Toledo area community to find a sufficient use for the campus facilities,” Centers says.
An attorney for the lawmakers and union said during oral arguments in the case that the home was unlikely to reopen, but said they hoped to clarify what the governor can and cannot do when it comes to closing state facilities. The Supreme Court ruling says the justices understand the controversial nature of the closing, but “We owe great respect to the two other coequal branches of government. Part of that respect involves not telling them what they can and cannot do unless the answer is likely to matter in this or a future case. For all the reasons stated, we conclude the temporary injunction should be vacated and the underlying action dismissed as moot.”
The district judge had issued a preliminary injunction last year ordering the home to be reopened. The Supreme Court had put the injunction on hold while it heard the governor’s appeal.
The union has not responded to a request from Radio Iowa on their reaction to the ruling.
Here’s the full court ruling: Juvenile Home ruling PDF
Other Radio Iowa stories on the closing of the Juvenile Home in Toledo: