Hargis v. Fleck, No. 52850

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtGARFIELD
Citation261 Iowa 1031,157 N.W.2d 103
Decision Date05 March 1968
Docket NumberNo. 52850
PartiesCaleb E. HARGIS, Dick Vanderwilt, and Paul D. Rice, Plaintiffs, v. Harold J. FLECK, District Judge, Defendant.

Page 103

157 N.W.2d 103
261 Iowa 1031
Caleb E. HARGIS, Dick Vanderwilt, and Paul D. Rice, Plaintiffs,
v.
Harold J. FLECK, District Judge, Defendant.
No. 52850.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
March 5, 1968.

[261 Iowa 1033]

Page 104

McGrane & Haugen, Des Moines, Life, Davis & Life, Oskaloosa, and Vincent E. Johnson, Montezuma, for plaintiffs.

Heslinga & Heslinga, Oskaloosa, for defendant.

GARFIELD, Chief Justice.

We granted a writ of certiorari under rules 306--319, Rules of Civil Procedure, to review an order of defendant judge of the district court of Mahaska County to punish the three plaintiffs for contempt in refusing to comply with a writ of mandamus to enforce orders of the county superintendent of schools and state board of public instruction that elementary schools at Barnes City and Lacey be closed. Plaintiffs are three of the five members of the board of directors of North Mahaska Community School District.

Defendant judge acted under chapter 665, Code 1966 in making the order. Section 665.11 provides: 'No appeal lies from an order to punish for a contempt, but the proceedings may, in proper cases, be taken to a higher court for revision by certiorari.'

I. Controversy arose over action of a majority of the school board on July 18, 1966 that elementary students should attend the schools in Lacey and Barnes City. Persons claiming to be aggrieved by the board's decision appealed therefrom to the county superintendent of schools who, on August 8 (1966), reversed it and ordered the students to attend the school at New Sharon in the same district, rather than at Lacey and Barnes City.

The persons who opposed the board's decision of July 18 [261 Iowa 1034] brought action in mandamus to compel it to carry out the reversing order of the county superintendent. Evidence was taken in this action on September 1 and the court's decision was filed September 6, holding the action was brought prematurely because the 30 days for appeal to the state board of public instruction from the order of the county superintendent

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would not expire before September 7 and, since a complete record had been made and in the interests of justice, the court on its own motion continued the case until after September 7.

The same day this decision was filed plaintiffs in the action filed an application for supplemental order providing that a final decision be withheld until the appeal of the present plaintiffs to the state board (taken after evidence was heard in the mandamus action) is decided and the local school board acts in relation thereto.

Ten days later the present plaintiffs (defendants in the mandamus action) also filed application for supplemental order stating their appeal to the state department from the county superintendent's order had been completed and set for hearing September 28, no reason remains for the mandamus action to continue and it should be dismissed.

Plaintiffs in the mandamus action made the next move. They filed application for supplemental hearing and order on November 2 (1966) reciting that the appeal to the state department had resulted in affirmance of the county superintendent's order of August 8; defendants continue to maintain the Barnes City and Lacey schools in violation of the orders of both the county superintendent and state department; the cause should be set for final hearing and defendants (in mandamus) be ordered to obey these two orders. On the day set for hearing of this application defendants (plaintiffs here) moved to dismiss it on various grounds.

The court, acting through defendant judge, heard arguments on the various applications and defendant's motion to dismiss the one last filed, considered the evidence, reviewed the briefs and found defendants (plaintiffs here) had not complied with the order of the county superintendent, affirmed by the state department. The court held (November 22nd) it had jurisdiction of the parties and subject matter, the decision of the state board was [261 Iowa 1035] final (Code section 290.5) and the order of the county superintendent should be enforced. It sustained the application filed September 6 of plaintiffs in the mandamus action, overruled the motion of defendants to dismiss the application filed after the state board's decision was made and ordered a writ of mandamus to issue forthwith.

The writ so issued and provided defendants were under a legal duty to follow and obey the order of August 8 of the county superintendent requiring the elementary schools at Barnes City and Lacey to be closed and 'you have refused to close (them).

'Now, therefore, you are commanded that upon receipt of this order you will do those things necessary to follow and obey the said order and decision of the county superintendent and will forthwith close the elementary (schools) at Barnes City and Lacey and will accomplish this before Monday, December 5, 1966.'

It is the claimed disobedience to this writ for which plaintiffs here were held in contempt and ordered to be punished.

The writ was served November 22nd and 23rd. Time for compliance with later extended to January 2, 1967. Plaintiffs here appealed to us from the court's final order of November 22nd but we dismissed the appeal July 10, 1967 for want of prosecution.

In the meantime, on January 26, 1967, the order of November 22 not having been effectively stayed, a plaintiff in the mandamus action filed affidavit that the school board decided on January 23 not to abide such order and the writ of mandamus, plaintiffs here continue to refuse to obey them and should be served with a rule to show cause why they should not be punished for contempt. The rule issued and plaintiffs filed a long written explanation of the action of the school board, largely defending its original decision that elementary students attend school at Lacey and Barnes City and the lack of wisdom

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of the reversing order of the county superintendent.

The above explanation says in part: 'the undersigned wish the record to show they reluctantly relinquish their responsibility to the elementary students in the district in favor of the orders of the county superintendent, the state board and the district court of Mahaska County.'

[261 Iowa 1036] On January 28 plaintiffs here were found in contempt and ordered to be imprisoned in the county jail until such time as they obey the writ of mandamus and pursuant thereto close the elementary schools at Barnes City and Lacey and cause the students to attend the school at New Sharon, commitment to commence February 13 if the required acts are not sooner performed. This time limit was later extended to February 15.

On March 7 Mr. Heslinga, attorney for plaintiffs in the mandamus action, filed affidavit that these three plaintiffs were again in contempt for failure to comply with the writ of mandamus. Once again plaintiffs here were ordered to show cause why they should not be punished for contempt. Hearing was had on March 15 and 16 in which plaintiffs here contended they had purged themselves of contempt. The court held against this contention, that they still remained in contempt and the order and previous warrant of commitment to jail should be enforced unless plaintiffs join in action of other board members in closing the Lacey and Barnes City schools and moving the desks and teaching equipment there to the school at New Sharon.

On April 5 (1967) the court found these plaintiffs had complied with the last order of March 17 by board action and by causing the desks and teaching equipment to be moved to the New Sharon school, quashed the previous warrant of commitment and held plaintiffs had purged themselves of contempt.

Regrettably the controversy flared anew when a majority of the school board on July 6 passed a motion providing for use of the Barnes City and Lacey schools for elementary pupils for the 1967--68 school year and ordering the school buildings there prepared for such use. Plaintiffs voted for the motion. The matter again came to the attention of the court with the...

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6 practice notes
  • City of Clinton v. Owners of Property Situated Within Certain Described Boundaries, No. 54635
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 11, 1971
    ...and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings belong. Green v. Sherman, 173 N.W.2d 843 (Iowa 1970); Hargis v. Fleck, 261 Iowa 1031, 157 N.W.2d 103 (1968). The power to hear and determine this case at district court level is conferred by § 362.26. In Appeal of McLain, 189......
  • Gibbs v. Wilmeth, No. 52582
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 5, 1968
    ...is a party defendant I do not think Hartford should escape responsibility because of what he did under the doctrine of legal excuse. [261 Iowa 1031] If the same defense is not available to both defendants then separate verdict forms should be submitted to the jury so that the evidence might......
  • Green v. Sherman, No. 53842
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 13, 1970
    ...matter is the power to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings belong. Hargis v. Fleck, 261 Iowa ---, 157 N.W.2d 103, 107, and In Helton v. Crawley, 241 Iowa 296, 41 N.W.2d 60, this court carefully reviewed the authorities from many jurisdictions involving the......
  • Pottawattamie County Dept. of Social Services v. Landau, No. 55732
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • September 19, 1973
    ...and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings belong. Green v. Sherman, 173 N.W.2d 843 (Iowa 1970); Hargis v. Fleck, 261 Iowa 1031, 157 N.W.2d 103 (1968). * * 'In Appeal of McLain, 189 Iowa 264, 176 N.W. 817, 819 (1920) we said, '* * * (J)urisdiction of the subject matte......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • City of Clinton v. Owners of Property Situated Within Certain Described Boundaries, No. 54635
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 11, 1971
    ...and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings belong. Green v. Sherman, 173 N.W.2d 843 (Iowa 1970); Hargis v. Fleck, 261 Iowa 1031, 157 N.W.2d 103 (1968). The power to hear and determine this case at district court level is conferred by § 362.26. In Appeal of McLain, 189......
  • Gibbs v. Wilmeth, No. 52582
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 5, 1968
    ...is a party defendant I do not think Hartford should escape responsibility because of what he did under the doctrine of legal excuse. [261 Iowa 1031] If the same defense is not available to both defendants then separate verdict forms should be submitted to the jury so that the evidence might......
  • Green v. Sherman, No. 53842
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 13, 1970
    ...matter is the power to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings belong. Hargis v. Fleck, 261 Iowa ---, 157 N.W.2d 103, 107, and In Helton v. Crawley, 241 Iowa 296, 41 N.W.2d 60, this court carefully reviewed the authorities from many jurisdictions involving the......
  • Pottawattamie County Dept. of Social Services v. Landau, No. 55732
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • September 19, 1973
    ...and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings belong. Green v. Sherman, 173 N.W.2d 843 (Iowa 1970); Hargis v. Fleck, 261 Iowa 1031, 157 N.W.2d 103 (1968). * * 'In Appeal of McLain, 189 Iowa 264, 176 N.W. 817, 819 (1920) we said, '* * * (J)urisdiction of the subject matte......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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