Change of venue

The Iowa Supreme Court made a special appearance in Fort Dodge Wednesday evening to hear oral arguments in two cases it is expected to decide within the next few months.

The sessions, which are open to the public, were held at the Fort Dodge Middle School auditorium.

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady said the practice of holding special sessions in towns across the state began about two years ago. Fort Dodge is the 10th town the Supreme Court has visited in that time.

“We came to the conclusion that we needed to be more visible and transparent for people to better understand who we are and what we do,” Cady said. “The best way for us to do that is to come to all the communities and hold court there.”

Cady, who lives in Fort Dodge, said traveling across the state is beneficial to both the court and the state.

“It’s a way to have the community see what a strong and outstanding court we have,” he said. “The members of this court are outstanding.”

Justices Wednesday first heard arguments in the case of Iowa Farm Bureau, et. al. v. Environmental Protection Commission, et. al.

Iowa Farm Bureau attorney Michael Mock argued that new water regulations approved by the Environmental Protection Commission should be overruled because of the credentials of two board members who voted for the adoption.

Mock said Sue Heathcote should not have been allowed to participate in the vote since she is also a member of the Iowa Environmental Council. Because of her work on the council, Mock argued Heathcote was lobbying for the changes.

“She was told specifically to form the water policy,” Mock said. “She drafted the version of the rules and sent them to the EPC.”

In addition to Heathcote, Mock argued that Carrie LeSeur should not have been allowed to vote on the rules since at the time of the ruling, she was living in Montana and was a registered voter in that state.

Unlike lower court proceedings, the justices on the Supreme Court are allowed to question the attorneys.

“Is there evidence (Heathcote) had inside information on the EPC?” Justice Edward Mansfield asked Mock.

“I don’t think the record’s clear on that,” Mock responded.

Iowa Assistant Attorney General David Sheridan presented the state’s argument. Sheridan denied that Heathcote was a lobbyist and said the state did provide information during the trial proceedings regarding her communications with committee members.

“If the commission had the financial intent, that would be a problem,” Sheridan said. “But that’s not the case here.”

After a brief recess, the court also heard arguments in the case of Anthony Geltz. At 14 years old, Geltz was adjudicated for second-degree sexual abuse on a 2-year-old child. Essentially, adjudication means that he would have been convicted of a felony if he had been an adult.

When Geltz turned 18, he was committed as a sexually violent predator after the state petitioned to have him committed.

Geltz’s attorney, Michael Adams, said the state law clearly indicates that an adjudication is not the same as a conviction and that Geltz should not have been classified as a sexually violent predator.

“The Legislature had foresight, and they didn’t include children in that statute,” Adams said.

He argued there’s no way Geltz can be classified as a sexually violent predator because he hasn’t had the opportunity to show how he’s grown since the adjudication.

“He may have aged out of his problems,” Adams said, but because of the state’s ruling his client hasn’t been able to prove himself.

“A juvenile adjudication is not a conviction of a crime,” he added. “It’s not admissible in court except in the sentencing of a crime committed since the incident.”

iowa Assistant Attorney General John McCormally said ambiguity with the laws allows the state to classify Geltz as a sexually violent offender, in conjunction with the diagnosis of a mental condition. Geltz was diagnosed as having a mental disorder when he was 1 year old.

“They cannot control their sexual deviant behavior,” McCormally said. “They are likely to reoffend.”

He added that the laws were created to protect the public from sexually violent predators.

“That’s what this man is,” McCormally said of Geltz.

Following the cases, Cady announced that the court will make its decision in a written ruling. Those rulings are expected to come within the next 90 days.