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Across the Region: Iowa judge backs use of stun guns against Iowa suspect who died

IOWA

Judge backs use of stun guns against Iowa suspect who died

A judge says deputies in northern Iowa did not use excessive force when they repeatedly deployed stun guns against a violent suspect who died after their 2013 confrontation.

U.S. Magistrate Judge C.J. Williams dismissed a lawsuit Sunday filed by Larry and Cheryl Zubrod, the parents of 39-year-old Michael Zubrod of Northwood.

Williams ruled that Worth County deputies were justified in using Tasers because Zubrod actively resisted arrest after using a hammer to severely wound his girlfriend. Williams says Zubrod posed a threat to the woman and the deputies until he was handcuffed.

Williams says there’s no evidence that deputies stunned Zubrod after he was cuffed, or that they were aware Zubrod was high and mentally ill. He says the jolts were at most a contributing factor in Zubrod’s death, which an autopsy said was caused by a heart condition and methamphetamine abuse.

Williams says it’s “the type of case where courts cannot use 20/20 hindsight to second-guess law enforcement officers’ split-second decision-making.”

 

Chief justice: Iowa Legislature not providing enough money

The head of Iowa’s court system says the Legislature is not providing enough money to sustain effective court programs that have been implemented in recent years.

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady made the remarks Wednesday to lawmakers, one day after Gov. Terry Branstad directed Iowa’s judicial branch to cut more than $7 million from its roughly $181 million budget to plug a spending shortfall. A judicial spokesman says Cady’s remarks were prepared before his office was given Branstad’s recommendations.

Cady says the state has saved millions of dollars by investing in family treatment courts that handle parental rights questions and programs that keep youth out of the adult court prison system. His office is seeking about $191 million for the budget year that begins in July.

 

NORTH DAKOTA

North Dakota rejects changes to reflect gay marriage ruling

North Dakota’s Republican-led Senate rejected a measure Tuesday that would have changed state law to reflect the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that same-sex couples have the right to marry.

The bill failed 15-31. It would have changed dozens of references, such as “husband and wife,” to gender-neutral terms. North Dakota law lists “one man, one woman” or “husband and wife” for everything from marriages and divorces to fishing licenses.

The measure got a hearing last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which voted 4-2 to recommend against passage.

North Dakota had state laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and 73 percent of North Dakota voters approved a state constitutional amendment in 2004 limiting marriage rights to man-woman couples.

The Supreme Court in 2015 declared that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, and a federal judge ruled shortly afterward that North Dakota’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

Democratic Sen. John Grabinger worried that not changing state law to reflect the high court decision could leave the state open to lawsuits

“Same-sex marriage is the supreme law of the land,” he said.

GOP Sen. Kelly Armstrong, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a lawyer, said rejecting the measure is only symbolic since same-sex marriage is now legal nationwide.

“I think it’s a pretty drastic over-estimation that we would end up in litigation if we don’t pass this bill,” Armstrong said.

More than 150 same-sex couples were legally married in North Dakota since the high court ruling, said Donnell Preskey Hushka, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Association of Counties.

 

WISCONSIN

Attorney general: Boost pay for all prosecutors

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel wants to give a raise to every prosecutor in the state in each of the next two years.

Schimel said he’s asked Gov. Scott Walker to use $4.8 million in revenue from a consumer protection lawsuit settled by the Department of Justice to pay prosecutors. Schimel said this proposal concentrates on recruiting and retaining prosecutors.

If Walker agrees, the raises would be included in the governor’s 2017-2019 state budget proposal and take effect in July 1, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

“We can fund pay progression for both years of the biennium for all of the prosecutors,” Schimel said.

Walker’s spokesman, Tom Evenson, declined to comment, saying it would be premature to discuss the raises because the governor’s office was still drafting the next budget. The state budget proposal is expected to pass by the end of June, after revisions are made by lawmakers.

Schimel has also asked for about $16 million to add 113 prosecutor positions around the state. District attorneys have also asked for $7.9 million to fund pay raises for assistant district attorneys and deputy district attorneys.

In recent years, the total number of cases brought to local district attorneys’ offices has declined, while the number of available lawyers has increased.

However, Schimel and other law enforcement officials are in agreement that more staff is still needed because cases in recent decades have become more complicated and time-consuming. They say full-time staffing in district attorneys’ offices has not kept up with the workload.

The state’s district attorneys and public defenders are overseen by the Wisconsin Department of Administration, not the state Department of Justice.

One comment

  1. There seem to be a disconnect in our Govt We have three branches in our Govt. the executive, legislative, and the Judiciary. Each branch is under the Constitution. The Executive branch must follow the Constitution, the Legislatures must follow the Constitution but why is it that the SCOTUS can make a ruling and they seem to be above our Constitution? If they do not have to follow the Constitution like the others then what recourse does our nation have? It seems impossible that one branch can just rule and not be held accountable to the Constitution. SCOTUS cannot “lock” the nation out without a back door to get in.

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