Preservation, Primacy, and Process: A More Consistent Approach to State Constitutional Interpretation in Iowa

Author:Eric M. Hartmann
Position:J.D., University of Iowa College of Law, 2017; B.A., Drake University, 2014
Pages:2265-2290
SUMMARY

Between 2010–2015, the Iowa Supreme Court decided multiple cases under article 1, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. However, the court's reasons for deciding issues under the Iowa Constitution were less than principled. The Iowa Supreme Court's current practice of spontaneously interpreting the Iowa Constitution raises significant jurisprudential problems: it does not necessarily require... (see full summary)

 
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2265
Preservation, Primacy, and Process:
A More Consistent Approach to State
Constitutional Interpretation in Iowa
Eric M. Hartmann*
ABSTRACT: Between 2010–2015, the Iowa Supreme Court decided
multiple cases under article 1, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. However,
the court’s reasons for deciding issues under the Iowa Constitution were less
than principled. The Iowa Supreme Court’s current practice of spontaneously
interpreting the Iowa Constitution raises significant jurisprudential
problems: it does not necessarily require lawyers to adequately argue, brief,
and preserve state constitutional issues for appeal, it does not prioritize federal
or state constitutional claims in any order, and the approach seems arbitrary
on its face. A more principled approach to state constitutional interpretation
could remedy these issues. The primacy approach is an approach to state
constitutional interpretation under which state supreme courts decide issues
under the state constitution when the parties adequately argue and brief the
state constitutional issue. This Note argues that the Iowa Supreme Court
should adopt the primacy approach to state constitutional interpretation to
continue the Court’s role as an important part of the United States’ federalist
system and an imperative protector of Iowans’ individual rights, to improve
the efficiency of state constitutional interpretation, and to improve the process
by which the Iowa Supreme Court reaches issues under the Iowa Constitution.
I. INTRODUCTION ........................................................................... 2266
II. DEVELOPMENT AND METHODS OF STATE CONSTITUTIONAL
INTERPRETATION ........................................................................ 2268
A. A STATE COURTS ROLE IN STATE CONSTITUTIONAL
INTERPRETATION .................................................................. 2270
B. APPROACHES TO STATE CONSTITUTIONAL
INTERPRETATION ............................................................. 2272
* J.D., University of Iowa College of Law, 2017; B.A., Drake University, 2014. Thank you
to Peter Chalik, Elizabeth Heffernan, and Michael Kaufmann for their helpful advice and
suggestions throughout the publication process.
2266 IOWA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 102:2265
III. IOWAS INDEPENDENT APPROACH ............................................... 2274
A. STATE V. OCHOA ................................................................. 2274
B. STATE V. PALS ...................................................................... 2276
C. STATE V. BALDON ................................................................ 2277
D. STATE V. SHORT .................................................................. 2279
E. STATE V. GASKINS ................................................................ 2279
IV. A PRIME SOLUTION ..................................................................... 2282
A. ARGUMENTS FOR THE PRIMACY APPROACH ............................ 2282
B. ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE PRIMACY APPROACH ARE
UNPERSUASIVE ...................................................................... 2284
C. THE SUPPLEMENTAL AND LOCKSTEP APPROACHES ARE
UNPERSUASIVE ...................................................................... 2285
1. The Cons of the Lockstep Approach Are Too
High ............................................................................. 2285
2. The Supplemental Approach is Also
Unpersuasive ............................................................... 2287
D. IMPLEMENTING THE PRIMACY APPROACH .............................. 2288
V. CONCLUSION .............................................................................. 2290
I. INTRODUCTION
In a 1977 Harvard Law Review article, Justice Brennan argued that state
courts1 should independently interpret their state constitutions to maximize
individual liberty.2 Motivated by federalism, Justice Brennan feared the
Supreme Court’s approach to constitutional interpretation would
inadequately protect individual rights.3 Justice Brennan urged state courts to
independently interpret their state constitutions, and not to simply mirror
federal precedent defining the Bill of Rights.4
Other scholars and courts have echoed Justice Brennan’s rationales for
independent state constitutional interpretation. Generally, scholars advocate
for independent interpretation of state constitutions based on principles of
federalism.5 Additionally, they note that state courts have a different role than
the Supreme Court due to their local concerns, and should be mindful of
their role as imperative protectors of individual rights.6 There are three
1. This Note uses the phrase “state courts” to refer to the courts of last resort in each state
that have the power to definitively interpret their state’s constitution.
2. See generally William J. Brennan, Jr., State Constitutions and the Protection of Individual Rights,
90 HARV. L. REV. 489 (1977).
3. Id. at 495.
4. Id. at 501.
5. See infra Part II.
6. See infra Part II.B.

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