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Vox Hawkeye A Study in the Intellectual Call for Open Government (and How One State Heeded It)
Unformatted Document Text:  council but—rather—emboldened them to issue a titanic struggle with the open meetings law. Specifically, a preponderance of the original defendants in Greene sued to declare chapter 28A’s criminal sanctions as being unconstitutionally vague. In Knight, et al. v. Iowa District Court of Story County, 269 N.W.2d 430 (Iowa 1978), the Iowa supreme court thus reviewed the law yet again and concluded that “Chapter 28A makes no reference to individual conduct,” and that it does not “sufficiently specify what those within its reach must do in order to comply.” 57 In reaching this conclusion the court pointed out that in “the criminal cases below these plaintiffs were charged with ‘participating’ in a closed meeting of the council. But ‘participation’ is neither mentioned nor defined in chapter 28A. Obviously, participatory conduct could run the gamut from an active instigation of a closed meeting to reluctant presence after objecting to or voting against a secret session. By reading chapter 28A no individual would know when, if ever, his or her involvement with a prohibited meeting becomes a criminal act.” 58 As such, the law “violates the vagueness standards . . . and resultantly deprives plaintiffs of due process.” 59 The plaintiffs’ prospects were not diminished by the fact that by the time the supreme court decided their case in mid-1978, a proposed massive change in the Iowa Open Meetings Law was already set to take effect on January 1, 1979—and that the new statute positively addressed (and corrected) the very issue before the bar in Knight (although the court took pains that its decision to find in favor of the plaintiffs’ was strictly based on a reading of the then-current version of chapter 28A). “We need not treat here plaintiffs’ contention the new act provides evidence the legislature recognized the constitutional infirmities in the penal section of chapter 28A, nor do we pass on the constitutionality of the new enactment, a question not now before us.” 60 . Knight clearly signaled the last hurrah of the original chapter 28A and served to anticipate a new open meetings regime. It also culminated a time in which citizens, public officials and academics who 57 269 N.W.2d 430, 434 (Iowa 1978). 58 Ibid, 433. 59 Ibid, 434. 60 Ibid.

Authors: stepanek, steve.
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council but—rather—emboldened them to issue a titanic struggle with the open meetings law. 
Specifically, a preponderance of the original defendants in Greene sued to declare chapter 28A’s criminal 
sanctions as being unconstitutionally vague. 
In Knight, et al. v. Iowa District Court of Story County, 269 N.W.2d 430 (Iowa 1978), the Iowa 
supreme court thus reviewed the law yet again and concluded that “Chapter 28A makes no reference to 
individual conduct,” and that it does not “sufficiently specify what those within its reach must do in order 
to comply.
   In reaching this conclusion the court pointed out that in “the criminal cases below these 
plaintiffs were charged with ‘participating’ in a closed meeting of the council.  But ‘participation’ is 
neither mentioned nor defined in chapter 28A.  Obviously, participatory conduct could run the gamut 
from an active instigation of a closed meeting to reluctant presence after objecting to or voting against a 
secret session.  By reading chapter 28A no individual would know when, if ever, his or her involvement 
with a prohibited meeting becomes a criminal act.
   As such, the law “violates the vagueness standards . 
. . and resultantly deprives plaintiffs of due process.
  
The plaintiffs’ prospects were not diminished by the fact that by the time the supreme court 
decided their case in mid-1978, a proposed massive change in the Iowa Open Meetings Law was already 
set to take effect on January 1, 1979—and that the new statute positively addressed (and corrected) the 
very issue before the bar in Knight (although the court took pains that its decision to find in favor of the 
plaintiffs’ was strictly based on a reading of the then-current version of chapter 28A).  “We need not treat 
here plaintiffs’ contention the new act provides evidence the legislature recognized the constitutional 
infirmities in the penal section of chapter 28A, nor do we pass on the constitutionality of the new 
enactment, a question not now before us.
.  
Knight clearly signaled the last hurrah of the original chapter 28A and served to anticipate a new 
open meetings regime.  It also culminated a time in which citizens, public officials and academics who 
57
 269 N.W.2d 430, 434 (Iowa 1978).
58
 Ibid, 433.
59
 Ibid, 434.
60
 Ibid.


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