Reynolds: State has ‘strong case’ in appeal of $1.5 million discrimination judgement

Reynolds: State has ‘strong case’ in appeal of $1.5 million discrimination judgement

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DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said her legal advisers are confident their appeal of a $1.5 million judgement levied against her predecessor’s administration will be successful, and she disputed the suggestion the best her team can hope for is a re-trial.

Reynolds’ administration has appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court a jury’s finding that former state worker’s compensation commissioner Chris Godfrey, who is gay, was the victim of discrimination and retaliation in 2011 when former Gov. Terry Branstad tried to force him to quit and then cut his pay.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday at the governor’s mansion on Terrace Hill after the annual turkey pardoning ceremony, Reynolds said her legal team is confident in its appeal, and that the cost of pursuing the appeal is worthwhile given the size of the $1.5 million judgement.

“They have a 182-page brief that outlines the issues that they saw with the case,” Reynolds said of her legal advisers. “I think it would be irresponsible for me not to at this point, take it to the next step, because the cost at this point is minimal.”

Reynolds, who was Branstad’s lieutenant governor in 2011, pushed back when asked if the best her administration could hope for is a re-trial.

“No, it doesn’t necessarily mean that. We feel that we have a very strong case, and one of the options is to be done with it, not to go to re-trial,” Reynolds said. “This is the right path to go.”

In September, after the verdict, the Iowa Executive Council approved a bill for over $488,000 for the Des Moines law firm representing the state, Branstad and his former legal counsel Brenna Findley. That brought the cost to taxpayers to defend them to more than $2.4 million, according to the Associated Press.

Reynolds soon will nominate her third Iowa Supreme Court justice following the recent passing of chief justice Mark Cady.

Reynolds’ previous Supreme Court picks were Christopher McDonald, the court’s first-ever minority, and Susan Christensen, who became the only woman on the court’s current roster.

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