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Vox Hawkeye A Study in the Intellectual Call for Open Government (and How One State Heeded It)
Unformatted Document Text:  proceedings; the law further covered the types of meetings excepted from coverage—i.e. those relating to the deliberations of a “court, jury, or military organization” (28A.6); finally, sections 28A.7 and 28A.8 covered, respectively, the availability of equitable relief for parties aggrieved under the law and the possible imposition of criminal sanction on officials guilty of willful breach of its edicts. It is often said that the devil is in the details, and when this maxim is extended to the realm of statutory law, most attorneys will readily concede that the preponderance of the demons repose in and among the definitions. So, within a couple years of enactment, several cases percolate up to the Iowa Supreme Court that required these jurists to conduct some statutory interpretation. In Dobrovolny v. Reinhardt, 173 N.W. 2d 837 (Iowa 1970), the court—in what appears to be the case of first impression dealing with any aspect of the state open meetings law—affirmed a trial court’s refusal to invalidate the action of a local school board that voted to consolidate its system with a neighboring school district pursuant to an illegally closed meeting. The basis of the supreme court’s affirmation was that no interpretation of the statute’s provisions—especially that of Section 28A.7 dealing with the specified forms of equitable relief, as read in conjunction with rules 320 to 330 in the then- existing Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure—allowed for after-the-fact invalidation of an official action that was otherwise within the authority of the governmental body in question. 52 It might be noted at this point that this particular decision did not sit well with everyone, as evidenced by one law review author who took the Iowa Supreme court to task for its opinion in Dobrovolny. 53 Specifically, the commentator disapproved of the court’s failure to recognize the rights of citizens to retroactive equitable relief in order to force public bodies to comply with the open meetings law. 54 (Tellingly, while members of the Iowa Supreme Court may have read this Note at some point, its effect was nil as the court soon thereafter affirmed and expanded its ruling in Dobrovolny with its subsequent decision in Anti-Administration Association v. North Fayette County Community School District, 206 N.W.2d 723 [1973]). 52 Ibid, 841. 53 “The Iowa Open Meetings Act: A Right Without a Remedy?” 58 Iowa. L.Rev. 210 (1972). 54 Ibid, 220.

Authors: stepanek, steve.
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proceedings; the law further covered the types of meetings excepted from coverage—i.e. those relating to 
the deliberations of a “court, jury, or military organization” (28A.6); finally, sections 28A.7 and 28A.8 
covered, respectively, the availability of equitable relief for parties aggrieved under the law and the 
possible imposition of criminal sanction on officials guilty of willful breach of its edicts.
It is often said that the devil is in the details, and when this maxim is extended to the realm of 
statutory law, most attorneys will readily concede that the preponderance of the demons repose in and 
among the definitions.  So, within a couple years of enactment, several cases percolate up to the Iowa 
Supreme Court that required these jurists to conduct some statutory interpretation.  
In Dobrovolny v. Reinhardt, 173 N.W. 2d 837 (Iowa 1970), the court—in what appears to be the 
case of first impression dealing with any aspect of the state open meetings law—affirmed a trial court’s 
refusal to invalidate the action of a local school board that voted to consolidate its system with a 
neighboring school district pursuant to an illegally closed meeting.  The basis of the supreme court’s 
affirmation was that no interpretation of the statute’s provisions—especially that of Section 28A.7 dealing 
with the specified forms of equitable relief, as read in conjunction with rules 320 to 330 in the then-
existing Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure—allowed for after-the-fact invalidation of an official action that 
was otherwise within the authority of the governmental body in question.
It might be noted at this point that this particular decision did not sit well with everyone, as 
evidenced by one law review author who took the Iowa Supreme court to task for its opinion in 
Dobrovolny.
  Specifically, the commentator disapproved of the court’s failure to recognize the rights of 
citizens to retroactive equitable relief in order to force public bodies to comply with the open meetings 
law.
  (Tellingly, while members of the Iowa Supreme Court may have read this Note at some point, its 
effect was nil as the court soon thereafter affirmed and expanded its ruling in Dobrovolny with its 
subsequent decision in Anti-Administration Association v. North Fayette County Community School 
District, 206 N.W.2d 723 [1973]).  
52
 Ibid, 841.
53
 “The Iowa Open Meetings Act: A Right Without a Remedy?”  58 Iowa. L.Rev. 210 (1972).
54
 Ibid, 220.


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