Warren County v. Judges of Fifth Judicial Dist., No. 58379

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtHARRIS; All Justices concur except LeGRAND, J., who dissents and RAWLINGS; LeGRAND
Citation243 N.W.2d 894
Decision Date30 June 1976
Docket NumberNo. 58379
PartiesWARREN COUNTY, IOWA, et al., Petitioners, Donald Baldis et al., Intervenors-Petitioners, v. JUDGES OF the FIFTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT of Iowa, Respondents.

Page 894

243 N.W.2d 894
WARREN COUNTY, IOWA, et al., Petitioners,
Donald Baldis et al., Intervenors-Petitioners,
v.
JUDGES OF the FIFTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT of Iowa, Respondents.
No. 58379.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
June 30, 1976.

Page 896

F. H. Becker, of Patterson, Lorentzen, Duffield, Timmons, Irish & Becker, Des Moines, for petitioners and intervenors.

Eugene Davis, of Davis, Scott & Grace, Des Moines, for respondents.

En Banc.

HARRIS, Justice.

Acting pursuant to authority given in § 602.59, The Code, the respondent judges of Iowa judicial election district 5A substituted one full-time magistrate for the three part-time magistrates formerly serving Warren County. This original action was brought in this court by six resident taxpayers and others challenging the constitutionality of § 602.59. The part-time magistrates who were replaced have intervened and are hereafter included in references to petitioners. We find the section is not unconstitutional and dismiss the petition.

Section 602.59 was enacted as a part of amendments to the unified trial court Act by the 65th General Assembly. Acts of the 65th G.A., 1974 Session, ch. 1085, § 13. The unified trial court Act, enacted by the 64th General Assembly, abolished all inferior courts and provided for one unified trial court in Iowa consisting of district court judges, district associate judges, and judicial magistrates. Acts of the 64th G.A., 1972 Second Session, ch. 1124, §§ 1, 2, 45.

Judicial magistrates are of two types, full-time and part-time. Their jurisdiction, salary, and functions vary accordingly, and are prescribed by statute.

Section 602.59 provides the chief judge of the district may, when a majority of the judges of a judicial election district vote favorably, order the substitution of a full-time magistrate for the incumbent part-time magistrates of a county. The power is given only for counties having three or more part-time magistrates. Such an action does not require public hearing, notice thereof, or factual findings by the judges.

Acting in conformance with § 602.59 and without hearing, notice or factual findings, the respondent judges of judicial election district 5A, on March 27, 1975, ordered a substitution of magistrates in Warren County. They ordered one full-time magistrate be appointed to replace the three part-time magistrates who had formerly served the county. The full-time magistrate was thereafter appointed.

There is no claim of noncompliance with the statute. Petitioners' challenge is a direct assault on the constitutionality of the provision under which respondent judges acted.

Respondents raise threshold questions of the appropriateness of this petition and of petitioners' standing to proceed.

I. Petitioners did not pursue their challenge in district court but petitioned directly for supervisory review in this court. They contend Article V, § 4 of the Iowa Constitution supplies the necessary jurisdictional basis for bringing this original action. Article V, § 4, among other things, accords this court the '* * * power to issue all writs and process necessary to secure justice to parties and, * * * Exercise a supervisory and administrative control over all inferior Judicial tribunals throughout the State.' (Emphasis added.)

Petitioners point to our opinion in Re Judges of Cedar Rapids Municipal Court, 256 Iowa 1135, 130 N.W.2d 553 (1964) in which, acting under this constitutional provision, we directed an end to objectionable practices of two municipal judges. Petitioners contend their challenge is so basic to the judicial system and is of such public importance as to merit relief under our supervisory jurisdiction.

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Respondents believe Judges of Cedar Rapids is inapplicable. They believe the holding indicates our supervisory and administrative control can be invoked only by us. They point to other remedies, such as quo warranto or declaratory judgment, which petitioners might have pursued in district court. We think there is clear authority for us to entertain the petition. However, we ordinarily are reluctant to exercise it where, as here, a remedy exists in district court.

Few cases delineate our supervisory authority. In Hutchins v. City of Des Moines, 176 Iowa 189, 157 N.W. 881 (1916) a challenge was raised to a statutory procedure allowing appointment by the supreme court of district court judges to a temporary condemnation court. We reversed for other reasons but found the appointment to be within our Article V, § 4, supervisory powers. We quoted with approval from Annot., 51 L.R.A. 33, 111:

'The superintending control is hampered by no specific rules or means for its exercise. It is so general and comprehensive that its complete and full extent and use have practically hitherto not been fully and completely known and exemplified. It is unlimited, being bounded only by the exigencies which call for its exercise. As new instances of these occur it will be found able to cope with them.' 176 Iowa at 213, 157 N.W. at 889.

Hutchins was quoted extensively in State ex rel. O'Connor v. District Court, 219 Iowa 1165, 260 N.W. 73 (1935). In O'Connor a writ of prohibition was sought to prevent a district court from proceeding with numerous false arrest suits. On the basis of Hutchins we granted a writ.

Judges of Cedar Rapids, supra, dealt directly with our supervisory control over inferior courts. We said:

'The grant of the power of supervision and administration implies a duty to exercise it. In fact, the language of the constitution is mandatory that we must do so. And necessarily this power must apply to something beyond the ordinary appellate procedure and correction of errors at law, which are also provided for in Article V, Section 4, of the constitution. * * *.' 256 Iowa at 1136, 130 N.W.2d at 554. See 20 Am.Jur.2d, Courts, § 113, p. 470.

We think we should exercise our authority in this case. Prompt resolution of the question is in the public interest. Our willingness to do so should not be taken as precedent for future actions. Where a remedy is provided in district court it should ordinarily be pursued before relief is sought here.

II. Respondents challenge petitioners' standing to assert this claim. This contention rests principally on the fact Warren County was one of the named petitioners. Our cases have uniformly held a county lacks the ability to mount a constitutional attack upon state legislative enactments. Brunner v. Floyd County, 226 Iowa 583, 584--585, 284 N.W. 814, 815 (1939); C. Hewitt & Sons Co. v. Keller, 223 Iowa 1372, 1377, 275 N.W. 94, 97 (1937); Scott County v. Johnson, 209 Iowa 213, 221, 222 N.W. 378, 381 (1928). See 16 C.J.S. Constitutional Law § 76(b), pp. 245--246. Because, as individuals and taxpayers, certain of the petitioners have sufficient standing, we can and do decline the request we reconsider the rule barring a county from such challenges.

Individual petitioners are also residents and taxpayers in Warren County and seek the relief as such. In Vietnam Vets Against War v. Veterans M. Aud. Com'n, 211 N.W.2d 333 (Iowa 1973), a challenge was attempted against a selection procedure prescribed by statute. Under the procedure there challenged commissioners for the City of Des Moines administered the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Because the plaintiffs were not residents, property owners, or taxpayers of Des Moines they lacked standing. Under either the majority or minority view in Vietnam Vets petitioners have here alleged sufficient effect upon their rights to show standing. Cf. State ex rel. Turner v. Iowa State Highway Com'n, 186 N.W.2d 141, 147 (Iowa 1971).

III. There are two constitutional claims in petitioners' challenge. It is claimed

Page 898

§ 602.59 unconstitutionally delegates legislative power to the judges in violation of Article III, § 1, Iowa Constitution. And it is claimed the provisions of §§ 602.50, 602.51, and 602.59, The Code, abridge Article V, § 15 of the Iowa Constitution which provides vacancies in district courts shall be filled by the governor.

A. The claim of unconstitutional delegation is based on a familiar principle. A legislative function may be delegated to another branch of government only if adequate guidelines for its exercise accompany the delegation. Elk Run Telephone Co. v. General Telephone Co., 160 N.W.2d 311, 317 (Iowa 1968). Legislative powers are delegated to that branch by the people. The rule is derived from the belief 'a delegate cannot delegate.' This is a translation of Delegatus non potest delegare. Black's Law Dictionary 513 (Revised Fourth Ed. 1968).

It is clear a limited legislative function is delegated. Article V, § 1 of the Iowa Constitution places judicial power of the state in this court, district courts, and such other courts inferior to this court as the General Assembly may from time to time establish. Article V, § 10 authorizes the General Assembly to reorganize judicial districts and to increase or diminish the number of districts or the number of judges of district court. Article V, § 14 accords the General Assembly the responsibility for effectuating Article V and to provide a general system of practice in all courts in the state. Under these provisions the power to establish courts in this state is left solely to the legislature. In re Sioux City v. Tri-Angle Club, Inc., 252 Iowa 44, 47, 105 N.W.2d 638, 640 (1960). See also 16 C.J.S. Constitutional Law §§ 133(a) and 139(a), pp. 555 and 634--635. The question then becomes whether the delegation is accompanied by adequate guidelines.

It should be noted the challenged statute does not authorize creation of a court by the judges. Neither does it authorize the judges to define or directly to alter the nature or jurisdiction of any existing court. All such matters are fully and carefully prescribed by the legislature in chapter 602, The Code. The judges are given the limited power to determine which of two prescribed systems is to be...

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21 practice notes
  • State ex rel. Morrison v. Sebelius, No. 98,691.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • March 11, 2008
    ...doctrine has been recognized as applying when duties are delegated to the judiciary. See Warren County v. Judges of the Fifth Jud. Dist., 243 N.W.2d 894 (Iowa 1976) (judges allowed to 179 P.3d 393 determine if full-time magistrate can be substituted for part-time magistrate). On the other h......
  • Board of Sup'rs of Linn County v. Department of Revenue, Nos. 2-58954 and 2-59663
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 22, 1978
    ...established property tax equalization procedure. I. A similar problem was presented in Warren County v. Judges of Fifth Jud. Dist., 243 N.W.2d 894, 897 (Iowa 1976), where a county and several resident taxpayers challenged constitutionality of legislation concerning appointment of full-time ......
  • Bd. of Water Works Trs. of Des Moines v. Sac Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, No. 16-0076
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 27, 2017
    ...to mount a constitutional attack upon state legislative enactments." (quoting Warren County v. Judges of Fifth Judicial Dist., 243 N.W.2d 894, 897 (Iowa 1976) )); Charles Hewitt & Sons Co. v. Keller , 223 Iowa 1372, 1377, 275 N.W. 94, 97 (1937) ("Counties and other municipal c......
  • Webster County Bd. of Sup'rs v. Flattery, No. 60825
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 26, 1978
    ...functions when unaccompanied by standards or other safeguards. See cases collected, Warren County v. Judges of Fifth Jud. Dist., 243 N.W.2d 894, 898-901 (Iowa 1976). We have struck down as unconstitutional a statute encroaching upon the pardoning power of the governor. Slater v. Olson, 230 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • State ex rel. Morrison v. Sebelius, No. 98,691.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • March 11, 2008
    ...doctrine has been recognized as applying when duties are delegated to the judiciary. See Warren County v. Judges of the Fifth Jud. Dist., 243 N.W.2d 894 (Iowa 1976) (judges allowed to 179 P.3d 393 determine if full-time magistrate can be substituted for part-time magistrate). On the other h......
  • Board of Sup'rs of Linn County v. Department of Revenue, Nos. 2-58954 and 2-59663
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 22, 1978
    ...established property tax equalization procedure. I. A similar problem was presented in Warren County v. Judges of Fifth Jud. Dist., 243 N.W.2d 894, 897 (Iowa 1976), where a county and several resident taxpayers challenged constitutionality of legislation concerning appointment of full-time ......
  • Bd. of Water Works Trs. of Des Moines v. Sac Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, No. 16-0076
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • January 27, 2017
    ...to mount a constitutional attack upon state legislative enactments." (quoting Warren County v. Judges of Fifth Judicial Dist., 243 N.W.2d 894, 897 (Iowa 1976) )); Charles Hewitt & Sons Co. v. Keller , 223 Iowa 1372, 1377, 275 N.W. 94, 97 (1937) ("Counties and other municipal c......
  • Webster County Bd. of Sup'rs v. Flattery, No. 60825
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 26, 1978
    ...functions when unaccompanied by standards or other safeguards. See cases collected, Warren County v. Judges of Fifth Jud. Dist., 243 N.W.2d 894, 898-901 (Iowa 1976). We have struck down as unconstitutional a statute encroaching upon the pardoning power of the governor. Slater v. Olson, 230 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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