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Baker v. City of Iowa City

Supreme Court of Iowa

May 22, 2015

JOHN BAKER and VALERIE BAKER, Appellants,
v.
CITY OF IOWA CITY, IOWA and IOWA CITY HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, Appellees

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Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Paul D. Miller and Marsha M. Beckelman, Judges. Plaintiffs asserting a federal civil rights claim against a city and a human rights commission appeal a district court grant of summary judgment in favor of the city and the commission. The city and the commission cross-appeal the district court's decision to allow the plaintiffs to amend their petition.

AFFIRMED.

Michael J. Pitton of Pitton Law P.C., Iowa City, for appellants.

Susan M. Dulek, Assistant City Attorney, Iowa City, for appellees.

OPINION

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WIGGINS, Justice.

Employers appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment to a city and a human rights commission based on the conclusion that the city and the commission did not violate the employers' constitutional

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rights when the city and the commission attempted to enforce an antidiscrimination ordinance. The city and the commission cross-appealed the district court's decision to allow the employers to amend their petition before the court granted the city and the commission's motion for summary judgment.

The employers allege the city and the commission's enforcement of an antidiscrimination ordinance, which we previously held was unconstitutional as exceeding the city's home rule authority, violated their federal constitutional rights of freedom of association, freedom of speech, due process, and equal protection. Although we previously found the ordinance as an unconstitutional extension of the city's home rule authority under the Iowa Constitution, in this appeal, we find the ordinance did not violate the employers' federal constitutional rights. Thus, the city and the commission are not liable for damages or attorney fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1988 (2012). We also find the district court did not abuse its discretion when it allowed the employers to amend their petition. Therefore, we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the city and the commission and we affirm the court's grant of the motion to amend in favor of the Bakers.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

This case is before us for the second time. See Baker v. City of Iowa City ( Baker I ), 750 N.W.2d 93 (Iowa 2008).[1] The facts of the case have not changed. The Bakers own property in Iowa City and employ one or two people to manage the property because the Bakers live out of state. Id. at 95. In 2003, the current resident managers were moving out and the Bakers posted a job opening for a new resident manager. Id.

The Bakers turned down one applicant for the position because she failed to provide requested references and she indicated her eleven-year-old son would perform the outside property maintenance required by the position. Id. The Bakers were concerned for the child's safety and worried about violating Iowa's child labor laws. Id. After the Bakers rejected the woman for the position, she filed a complaint with the Iowa City Human Rights Commission claiming employment and housing discrimination. Id.

The City[2] claimed the Bakers' rejection of the woman for the position violated the City's ordinance making it unlawful for

any employer to refuse to hire, accept, register, classify, upgrade or refer for employment, or to otherwise discriminate in employment against any other person or to discharge any employee because of age, color, creed, disability, gender identity, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.

Iowa City, Iowa, City Code § 2-3-1(A). The ordinance applied to employers who employ one or more employees. Id. § 2-1-1.

During the pendency of the civil rights case the Bakers filed a petition against the City seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Bakers claimed the city ordinance was unconstitutional under the home rule provisions of the Iowa Constitution due to the irreconcilable conflict between

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the ordinance and the provisions of the Iowa Code. Baker I, 750 N.W.2d at 95. The Code provision exempted an employer who regularly employed fewer than four individuals, while the ordinance did not contain such an exemption. Id. at 96. The Bakers also claimed the enforcement of the ordinance against them violated their federal constitutional rights of due process and equal protection. Id. at 98. Initially, the Bakers' lawsuit did not include a claim for a violation of their rights of freedom of association and freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

After the Bakers filed their initial petition, they filed a motion to amend the petition to include claims that the City also violated their rights of freedom of association and freedom of speech. The Bakers also filed a motion for summary judgment claiming the ordinance was unconstitutional on its face. Id. at 96. The City resisted the motion and filed its own cross-motion for summary judgment. Id. at 96-97.

During the pendency of the district court proceedings and prior to the court ruling on the outstanding motions, the Bakers settled the civil rights proceeding. Id. at 96. Thereafter, the district court held the settlement of the underlying civil rights proceeding rendered all pending motions moot and did not rule on the Bakers' motion to amend and entered summary judgment for the City. Id. at 97.

The Bakers appealed this ruling. We reversed the district court finding the Bakers' 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim was not moot. Id. at 98. We also held the city ordinance prohibiting discrimination by all employers unconstitutional under the Iowa Constitution because the ordinance exceeded the City's home rule authority. Id. at 99-102. We remanded the case for further proceedings. Id. at 103.

On remand, the Bakers refiled their motion to amend the petition to include First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of association claims. The City resisted the amendment arguing (1) the amendment substantially changed the issues before the court and (2) the Bakers waived their right to add the new issues on remand because they failed to brief the dismissal of their motion to amend in the initial appeal. The district court granted the Bakers' motion to amend.

The parties again filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The Bakers argued the City was liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as a matter of law for attempting to enforce the antidiscrimination ordinance in violation of the Bakers' First Amendment rights of freedom of association and freedom of speech, and their federal constitutional rights of due process and equal protection. The district court denied the Bakers' motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment in favor of the City, finding a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 violation did not occur. The Bakers appealed the decision finding the City did not violate their constitutional rights under the Federal Constitution. The City cross-appealed the district court ruling allowing the Bakers to amend their petition to include the First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of association claims.

II. Issues.

We must first decide if the district court was correct in allowing the Bakers' amendment adding First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of association claims. Then we must decide whether the City violated the Bakers' federal constitutional rights of freedom of association, freedom of speech, due process, and equal protection such that the City is liable for these ...


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