Commission Action Valid, Even Though Commissioner Moved Out of State

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: administrative law.

Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, et al., v. Environmental Protection Commission, et al.. IA administrative law

This case involves the validity of regulations adopted by the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission. In particular, it involves the qualifications of two members of the Commission. The opponents of the rules argued that two members were ineligible. Susan Heathcote was an employee of the Iowa Environmental Council, a group which had lobbied in regard to the regulations. With respect to her participation, the Iowa Supreme Court held that this employment did not disqualify her from a rulemaking decision.

The other contested vote came from Carrie La Seur. She was a resident of Mount Vernon, Iowa, when appointed by Governor Culver in 2009. But two months later, she moved to Montana, obtained a Montana drivers' license, and registered to vote in Montana. Clearly, she ceased to be an Iowa elector, and was thus no longer qualified to hold her seat on the Commission.

This, obviously, presented a more difficult challenge. However, the Iowa high court held that her vote could still be upheld under the de facto officer doctrine, which validates official action taken without legal authority. Justices Waterman, Mansfield, and Zager dissented from this portion of the court's ruling, who pointed out that the residency requirement is "not some mere technicality."

For another recent case upholding the validity of a judge's actions despite having ceased to be a resident of the district, see my discussion of State v. Irby, a Minnesota Supreme Court case decided in July.

No. 12-0827 (Iowa July 11, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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