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Judge Refuses to Set Aside Verdict Against Branstad

Thursday, November 21, 2019 | 134 | 0 | 9 min read

An Iowa judge has rejected the former governor's request to set aside a jury verdict that found the governor had discriminated against the state's former workers' compensation commissioner.

Terry Branstad

Terry Branstad

A jury in July decided that former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, now President Trump's ambassador to China, had discriminated against comp Commissioner Chris Godfrey because of Godfrey's sexual orientation. The governor had urged Godfrey, a Democrat, to resign before his term was finished. When Godfrey refused, Branstad slashed his pay.

The jury awarded Godfrey $1.5 million in damages. Branstad asked to have the verdict set aside, but Judge Brad McCall this month declined, according to an Iowa news report.

“Having had the opportunity to evaluate Branstad’s denials as he testified, the jury verdict clearly reflects the jury’s rejection of Branstad’s denials,” McCall wrote, noting that the jury heard substantial evidence about the reasons for Branstad’s actions.

Branstad's attorney argued that the verdict wasn’t supported by substantial evidence and conflicted with the law. He called the trial “a political circus with the court serving as ringmaster.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if Branstad’s attorneys would appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. Godfrey’s attorney, Roxanne Conlin, said that if an appeal is successful, the most likely outcome is another trial.

“There comes a time when they should pack it in,” she said. “I will retry this case until the end of my days if necessary. I believe strongly in the principle and I believe strongly in the man, and we will fight to the bitter end.”

Legal costs in the case have reached almost $8 million, and Iowa taxpayers may be stuck with the bill, according to news reports.

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