The Iowa Supreme Court has sent a former state administrator’s lawsuit against former Governor Branstad back to district court.
In 2006, Christopher Godfrey was appointed Iowa Workers Compensation Commissioner. Godfrey was confirmed by the state senate to serve in that role through mid-2015. Shortly after Terry Branstad was reelected governor in 2010, he asked Godfrey to resign. Godfrey refused and Branstad reduced his salary by $36,000.
A majority of Iowa Supreme Court justices have upheld a lower court’s dismissal of Godfrey’s claim that Branstad and his staff violated the Iowa Constitution by targeting him because he is gay. Godfrey says his claim Branstad violated the Iowa Civil Rights act by discrimination based on sexual orientation is still pending in court. Branstad and his aides have denied they targeted Godfrey because of his sexuality.
The opinion released by the Supreme Court this morning also directed a district court to hear Godfrey’s argument that he is owed money because he was “falsely accused of poor work performance” and his salary was docked for “partisan reasons.”
Godfrey resigned nearly three years ago to take a federal job.
George LaMarca. the attorney representing former Governor Branstad, Governor Reynolds and four other Branstad administration officials, issued a written statement this afternoon.
“With the Supreme Court’s decision today, two more of Chris Godfrey’s claims have been dismissed for good. While the Court allowed Mr. Godfrey to pursue two claims, the Justices expressed no opinion on whether they have any merit,” La Marca said. “…We are pleased the Supreme Court left intact the defendants’ affirmative defenses, which we believe will dispose of Mr. Godfrey’s case.”
Roxanne Conlin, Godfrey’s attorney, issued a written statement praising the Supreme Court for providing clarity.
“You can’t fire a judge because you disagree with his opinions,” Conlin said. “Chris was certainly a judge of workers compensation and didn’t fit the governor’s notion of what he should be deciding. That is a violation of the Iowa Constitution. We still have a long way to go until we get justice for Chris, but this decision protects him and all other Iowans from having their constitutional rights trampled on by Iowa governments.”
(This post was updated at 3:43 p.m. with additional information and again at 7:41 p.m. to clarify Godfrey’s claim Branstad violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act is still pending, while the court addressed and ultimately dismissed Godfrey’s argument Branstad had violated the Iowa Constitution as well.)