An attorney has asked a Scott County District Court judge to reconsider his ruling assessing costs of Scott County Supervisor John Maxwell's successful appeal of a vacancy panel ruling to Scott County residents Matt Trimble and Carlton Wills, who petitioned for a March 15 vacancy hearing before the panel.
Iowa City attorney Jim Larew argues that his clients should not be penalized for raising a legitimate question about a potential conflict in Maxwell's dual roles as both a supervisor and North Scott school board member and for exercising their First Amendment rights "to petition their grievances to their government."
"I don't think citizens should be deterred from asking a panel that is created by law to address exactly the topic that was addressed here," Larew said. "While they didn't win, the issue was a legitimate one. ... And at the end of the day to be assessed (court) costs, I don't see any basis for that."
Such a precedent, Larew argues in his motion, "could serve to discourage citizens from exercising their rights, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and similar provisions under the Constitution of the State of Iowa."
He also questioned why his clients, as opposed to the vacancy panel, were listed as a party and served notice of the appeal.
Larew has asked the court to amend its ruling and list Trimble and Wills as third-party interveners representing "the interests of Scott County voters who signed petitions to trigger a public hearing pursuant to Iowa Code," and to assess the costs of the appeal to Maxwell.
A district court judge earlier this week sided with Maxwell and overturned a three-person panel’s decision to declare his spot on the county board vacant because of his membership on the North Scott School Board.
The question arose out of Maxwell's dual roles on the Davenport City Conference Board, which appoints and oversees the city assessor, as both a supervisor and North Scott School Board member.
Larew said his clients had not decided if they would appeal District Court Judge Patrick McElyea's ruling.
"As much as I disagree with the results and some of the assumptions, I think the court issued a very thoughtful and reasoned opinion," Larew said. "I do think matters were carefully considered, no matter how strongly my clients and I disagree with the result."
Larew said it was not clear what his clients would be made to pay in court costs. Maxwell's attorney, Alan Ostergren, said the costs would likely amount to $60 for hiring a court reporter for the appeal hearing before McElyea.
"If they want to litigate $60 in court costs, we can see what the court says," Ostergren said.