The Iowa Supreme Court chamber is a magnificent venue for the seven justices who referee the thorniest legal questions in our state. The courtroom seats a few dozen spectators. Last week, it’s a shame there weren’t thousands of people listening to the justices’ questions and the lawyers’ responses in the appeal of Christopher Godfrey’s lawsuit against former Gov. Terry Branstad. There is much riding on the decision the Supreme Court will make this spring. The stakes go beyond the district court jury verdict that taxpayers must pay the former Iowa workers compensation commissioner $1.5 million in damages for Branstad’s decision in 2011 to cut his salary by one-third.
That occurred, according to the lawyers for the two sides, either because Godfrey is gay and because a handful of Branstad business supporters disliked Godfrey’s decisions in cases involving workers hurt on the job, or because the governor was merely exercising his administrative discretion as the state’s chief executive.