The state Judicial Building.

A sharply divided Iowa Supreme Court has ordered that a southeast Iowa lawyer who was removed from office for sexual harassment be reinstated as Van Buren County Attorney.

Van Buren County Attorney Abraham Watkins was accused of making vulgar sexual comments and showing his staff nude photos of his wife. A district court reviewed the arguments and removed Watkins from office last year.

Four of the seven justices on the all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled the man’s behavior was “disgraceful, disrespectful and inappropriate,” but the four justices said they operate in “a court of law, not a court of public opinion” and the county attorney’s actions did not meet the legal standard for removal from office.

Three justices disagreed. Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote that the “unvarnished record” showed Watkins was “spewing abhorrent comments” about an employee. Cady bluntly said: “Sexual harassment will not end until it is seen as serious enough to end.”

Read the majority opinion and Cady’s dissent here.