Area students, and residents, had a unique opportunity last week — to watch as the Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments in an off-site court session that took the justices out of Des Moines and put them into Clinton High School.
The session was one of the many that have taken place over the past 41/2 years as the Iowa Supreme Court works to show Iowans how their judicial branch works. Clinton is the 22nd community to be visited. As part of the visit, the justices the next day traveled individually to area high schools — as of last week 140 schools had been visited by the justices in that same time period.
The case argued Thursday night at Clinton High School did not orginate in Clinton County, but the justices’ decision is one that will affect every student in the state. The case before court was the State of Iowa v. Mar’yo D. Lindsey Jr., who was convicted and sentenced following a bench trial in Black Hawk County District Court for possession or dominion of a firearm as a felon, a Class D felony; carrying weapons on school grounds, a Class D felony; carrying weapons, an aggravated misdemeanor; and possession of a controlled substance, a serious misdemeanor.
Lindsey, who was a member of the Dunkerton High School football team, was injured during a game at the Riceville Community School District in 2014. The coaches requested that emergency medical technicians administer care. When it became apparent Lindsey would not be returning to the game and would be transported to the hospital, he allegedly became concerned about what would happen to his travel bag, stating a number of times that he did not want anyone to get in the bag.
According to the appellant’s brief, the superintendent then requested that the head coach seize Lindsey’s bag for search at a later time. The bag that belonged to Lindsey was taken from the Riceville locker room by the head coach and transported to the Dunkerton school locker room, where the head coach placed the bag in a restricted area. The superintendent moved the bag and, placing it on the floor, heard a metallic sound. The document states the superintendent believed the sound was that of a firearm hitting the tile floor. The superintendent unzipped the bag to search it. Inside the bag, he found another smaller, closed bag. He opened the smaller bag and discovered a long-barreled handgun, a baggie that appeared to contain marijuana, rolling papers and other paraphernalia. The superintendent secured the bag and contacted the police department.
Lindsey is arguing whether school officials had reasonable grounds to search his bag under the Fourth Amendment. Through his counsel, he also is questioning whether the superintendent could have recognized the sound definitively as a firearm.
Assistant Attorney General Tyler J. Buller, however, argued the transporting of the bag was not a seizure since the bag was moved as part of routine school activity, adding Lindsey’s reasonable expectation of privacy was not violated. He said school officials are allowed to act in place of a parent when parents have entrusted school officials with the care of children. He says this authorizes a school to move students’ belongings at an away football game.
Based on Thursday night’s hearing, which covered the case in full, the justices will convene and make a written decision that will be rendered anywhere from 60 to 90 days from now.
It is one of a little over 100 cases the Iowa Supreme Court hears each year, said Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady when meeting with the Clinton Herald Editorial Board as part of the visit.
Cady has served on the Iowa Supreme Court since 1998, and as its Chief Justice since 2010. Among his goals are to educate the state about human trafficking, and connecting the dots that show when defendants are actually committing acts while being victims of human trafficking; protecting children and helping families through the Family Treatment Courts that educate families, provide the treatment they need and most often keep them out of future trouble; and spreading the word that Iowa has a strong, transparent court system that addresses the needs of its residents.
It is his job to pull together all the components, from district court on up, to make sure that happens. It is a deeply complex process, but Iowa is successful at it. In fact, Iowa is one of the top states that other Supreme Courts look toward when making decisions. Taking a look at Iowa’s rulings has been known to give guidance as other states tackle precedent-setting cases.
The Supreme Court’s visits to hold court, meet with students and openly talk with the media are great for the state of Iowa and its residents, and indicate our state and its judicial system are in a very good place.