ANDREW LENNETTE, Individually and on behalf of C.L., O.L., and S.L., Minors, Plaintiff-Appellee,
STATE OF IOWA, MELODY SIVER, AMY HOWELL, and VALERIE LOVAGLIA, Defendants-Appellants.
from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Christopher L.
in a civil lawsuit appeal a district court ruling partially
denying their pre-answer motion to dismiss.
J. Miller, Attorney General, Jeffrey S. Thompson, Solicitor
General, and Julia S. Kim, Assistant Attorney General, for
Diaz, Swisher, for appellee.
by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
Defendants in a civil lawsuit appeal a
district court ruling partially denying their pre-answer
motion to dismiss.
Background Facts and Proceedings
September 2017, Andrew Lennette, on behalf of himself and his
three children, filed a petition at law against defendants
asserting, among other things, "a claim for
violation" of his and his children's "Iowa
Constitutional Rights as recognized by the Iowa Supreme Court
in Godfrey v. State." See generally
898 N.W.2d 844 (Iowa 2017). Lennette alleged the rights
violated "include liberty, property, privacy, procedural
and substantive due process rights in the parent-child
relationship and in avoiding physical and emotional
harm." The defendants promptly filed a pre-answer motion
to dismiss in which they argued, among other things, the
constitutional claims should be dismissed for failure to
state a claim on which relief may be granted because
qualified immunity shielded them from liability as to
Lennette's constitutional claims under Godfrey.
to its ruling on the motion to dismiss, Lennette alerted the
district court in a supplemental resistance that a federal
district court certified a question of law to the Iowa
Supreme Court as to whether a defendant could raise a defense
of qualified immunity to a constitutional claim for damages
under certain provisions of the Iowa Constitution. Lennette
argued the district court should not apply qualified immunity
to Godfrey-type claims until the supreme court
decided the issue. In its ruling on the motion to dismiss,
the district court concluded:
[T]he issue of qualified immunity for Iowa constitutional
claims remains an open question and that to guess the answer
to that question without a dispositive holding from the Iowa
Supreme Court risks unnecessary expenses and proceedings for
all involved. Further, even if the Iowa Supreme Court
declines to consider the certified question described here,
the doubt must be resolved in [Lennette's] favor, because
the current motion is a motion to dismiss. The Court cannot
say with any certainty whether qualified immunity exists in
this scenario and thus cannot grant the motion on the basis
of qualified immunity.
the court's ruling, the defendants filed an application
for interlocutory appeal on the issue of qualified immunity.
The application was initially denied in a single-justice
order. The application was granted following defendants'
motion for a three-justice review. The supreme court stayed
the proceedings in the district court and transferred the
matter to this court for resolution.
Standard of Review
review of a district court ruling denying a motion to dismiss
is for correction of errors at law. Ackerman v.
State, 913 N.W.2d 610, 614 (Iowa 2018); Madden v.
City of Iowa City, 848 N.W.2d 40, 44 (Iowa 2014).
"A motion to dismiss should only be granted if the
allegations in the petition, taken as true, could not entitle
the plaintiff to any relief." King v. State,
818 N.W.2d 1, 9 (Iowa 2012) (quoting Sanchez v.
State, 692 N.W.2d 812, 816 (Iowa 2005)). Denying a
motion to dismiss is appropriate unless the petition "on
its face shows no right of recovery under any state of
facts." Ritz v. Wappello Cnty. Bd. of
Supervisors, 595 N.W.2d 786, 789 (Iowa 1999) (quoting
Schaffer v. Frank Moyer Constr., Inc., 563 N.W.2d
605, 607 (Iowa 1997)). We do not consider facts ...