752 N.W.2d 413 (Iowa 2008), 05-1691, Godfrey v. State

Docket Nº:05-1691.
Citation:752 N.W.2d 413
Party Name:Gertrude K. GODFREY, Appellant, v. STATE of Iowa, Appellee.
Case Date:June 20, 2008
Court:Supreme Court of Iowa

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752 N.W.2d 413 (Iowa 2008)

Gertrude K. GODFREY, Appellant,


STATE of Iowa, Appellee.

No. 05-1691.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

June 20, 2008

Rehearing Denied July 16, 2008.

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Mark S. Soldat, West Des Moines, and Martin Ozga of Max Schott & Associates, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Julie F. Pottorff, Deputy Attorney General, and Grant K. Dugdale, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Richard J. Sapp and John T. Clendenin of Nyemaster, Goode, West, Hansell & O'Brien, P.C., Des Moines, for amicus curiae, Christopher J. Rants, as Speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives, Eighty-First General Assembly.

CADY, Justice.

This appeal involves a claim by a litigant that the Iowa legislature violated the single-subject rule of the Iowa Constitution in enacting a comprehensive statute during a special extraordinary legislative session in 2004. The district court concluded the litigant had no standing to assert the claim and dismissed the action without addressing the merits. On appeal, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

On September 7, 2004, the Iowa General Assembly met at the State Capitol for a special one-day, extraordinary legislative session. See Iowa Const. art. IV, § 11 (“[The governor] may, on extraordinary occasions, convene the general assembly by proclamation, and shall state to both houses, when assembled, the purpose for which they shall have been convened." ). The legislature promptly approved House File 2581, 80th G.A., 1st Extraordinary Sess., § 11, and the measure was signed into law by Governor Thomas J. Vilsack. See 2004 Iowa Acts ch. 1001.

The special session followed our decision in Rants v. Vilsack, 684 N.W.2d 193 (Iowa 2004). In that case, we held the governor had no authority under the constitution to line-item veto portions of a bill passed by the legislature in 2003. Rants, 684 N.W.2d at 207-10. We further held that the exercise of the power by the governor operated, under our constitution, to veto the entirety of the bill. Id. at 210-12. The background of the bill (H.F.692) was chronicled in our decision, and the bill was widely considered to be an important governmental initiative to stimulate and develop the state's economy. Id. at 197-98. The legislation was complex and lengthy, but generally created and funded an Iowa values fund and included provisions for tax and regulatory reform. Id. The values fund was the focal point of the legislation. The provisions vetoed by the governor mostly dealt with changes in the tax code, products liability legislation, and workers' compensation, as well as various provisions the governor believed would disrupt the operation of the Department of Economic Development and the governor's office. Id.

On August 27, 2004, two months after we declared the 2003 bill never passed into law due to the exercise of the line-item veto, Governor Vilsack issued a proclamation for an extraordinary session of the General Assembly to address the Iowa Values Fund and matters relating to the economic security of Iowa. The governor outlined the items-to be addressed at the special session-that he would sign into law. Ultimately, a single bill was proposed through a compromise and the efforts of the governor and the General Assembly. The bill covered nine points or divisions: (1) The Endow Iowa Grants Program; (2) statutes governing supersedeas bonds; (3) workers' compensation laws; (4) the Iowa Consumer Credit Code; (5) the Loan and Credit Guarantee Program; (6) interest earned on the Unemployment Compensation Reserve Fund; (7) marketing strategies to expand and stimulate the state economy; (8) accelerated bonus depreciation and expensing allowance for businesses; and (9) re-creation

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of the Grow Iowa Values Board, the Economic Development Marketing Board, and the Loan and Credit Guarantee Advisory Board. 2004 Iowa Acts ch. 1001.

A separate appropriation bill funded contracts under the special legislation and approved the projects previously approved by the Iowa Values Fund Board prior to the date House File 692 was declared unconstitutional.

The title to the bill read:

AN ACT concerning regulatory, taxation, and statutory requirements affecting individuals and business relating to economic development, workers' compensation, financial services, unemployment compensation employer surcharges, income taxation bonus depreciation and expensing allowances, and civil action appeal bonds, and including effective date, applicability, and retroactive applicability provisions.

Id. The division of the bill dealing with workers' compensation included a provision that changed compensation benefits for successive injuries. Id. § 11.

On October 4, 2003, Gertrude K. Godfrey filed a petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief in district court against the State. Godfrey is a resident of Sioux City and a taxpayer in this state. She also received workers' compensation benefits in the past based on two prior work-related injuries. She sustained an injury to her knee in 2001 and an injury to her lower back in April 2004. Godfrey claimed House File 2581 violated the single-subject rule of article III, section 29 of our state constitution. She asked the law be declared unenforceable.

The district court denied injunctive relief and ultimately dismissed her petition. It held Godfrey had no standing to bring the claim, and the court refused to rule on the merits of her claim that the bill was unconstitutional in violation of the single-subject rule.

Godfrey filed a notice of appeal. On appeal, she claims she had standing to bring the action based on her status as a citizen, taxpayer, and a potential workers' compensation claimant. She also asserts she should be exempted from the general requirement of standing based on the important public interest presented by her claim. In addition, Godfrey asks the merits of her claim be addressed on appeal.

II. Standard of Review.

We review claims based on a violation of our state constitution de novo. Kistler v. City of Perry, 719 N.W.2d 804, 805 (Iowa 2006). We review a decision by the district court to dismiss a case based on the lack of standing for errors at law. Birkhofer ex rel. Johannsen v. Birkhofer, 610 N.W.2d 844, 847 (Iowa 2000).

III. Justiciability of a Claim the Legislature Violated the Single-Subject Rule of the Iowa Constitution in Enacting a Statute.

Courts have traditionally been cautious in exercising their authority to decide disputes. As a result, a variety of rules of self-restraint have been developed over the years, one of which has surfaced in this case. Generally, courts refuse to decide disputes presented in a lawsuit when the party asserting an issue is not properly situated to seek an adjudication. See Alons v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 698 N.W.2d 858, 864 (Iowa 2005). This doctrine is now called standing, although it began to develop as a doctrinal rule long before a designation of its title.1 Today, the doctrine not only

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serves to limit which persons may bring a lawsuit, but it has developed into a larger cultural doctrine, concerned with the “ ‘role of the courts in a democratic society.’ " Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 750, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 3324, 82 L.Ed.2d 556, 569 (1984) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 2205, 45 L.Ed.2d 343, 354 (1975)).

We have frequently described our test for standing by identifying two elements. A plaintiff “ ‘must (1) have a specific personal or legal interest in the litigation and (2) be injuriously affected.’ " Alons, 698 N.W.2d at 864 (quoting Citizens for Responsible Choices v. City of Shenandoah, 686 N.W.2d 470, 475 (Iowa 2004)). While these two elements frame the essence of our standing doctrine, they were derived from earlier cases involving challenges to administrative agency action and do not fully capture the later development of our doctrine, especially as to actions to enforce public constitutional values by private individuals. See City of Des Moines v. PERB, 275 N.W.2d 753, 759 (Iowa 1979) (adopting the twofold test of standing derived from administrative agency cases involving statutes modeled after the Model State Administrative Procedure Act); John C. Reitz, Standing to Raise Constitutional Issues, 50 Am. J. Comp. L. 437, 442-43 (2002). We have frequently supplemented and elaborated on these elements by drawing on the federal law on standing. See Alons, 698 N.W.2d at 869 (recognizing federal authority on standing to be persuasive); Sanchez v. State, 692 N.W.2d 812, 821 (Iowa 2005) (citing federal test for standing with approval). In fact, our doctrine on standing parallels the federal doctrine, even though standing under federal law is fundamentally derived from constitutional strictures not directly found in the Iowa Constitution. See Alons, 698 N.W.2d at 867, 869 (recognizing the power of federal courts to decide cases is restricted by the “cases" and “controversies" clause of article III). Most all jurisdictions around the country share prudential restrictions on judicial action based on policy grounds that help explain a general, compatible approach to standing. See Reitz, 50 Am. J. Comp. L. at 459-61 (recognizing “most states" essentially follow the federal-standing doctrine, but also citing differences in state and federal law). Thus, we return to our general two-prong test of standing to consider how it has been more fully augmented by parallel federal law, as well as our own cases, over the years.

We have previously recognized our two elements of standing are separate requirements. Alons, 698...

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