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Judge Orders Branstad Trial Moved

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 | 741 | 0 | 73 min read

The civil trial of a former Iowa governor accused of discriminating against the state's workers' compensation commissioner is set to resume today, after a week of dramatic testimony from both sides and a change in venue because the plaintiff's attorney fell ill.

Chris Godfrey

Chris Godfrey

The trial in the lawsuit against former Republican governor Terry Branstad was moved from Des Moines to Newton, 30 miles east, on Thursday after attorney Roxanne Conlin was hospitalized with respiratory distress, which she blamed on construction under way at the Des Moines courthouse.

Conlin's son was arrested after conducting air-quality tests in the courtroom without authorization, and for resisting an officer's attempts to remove him from the premises, according to news reports.

On Thursday, the judge had had enough, and ordered the trial to resume in the Newton courthouse. That was after Branstad, now U.S. ambassador to China, testified that he did not discriminate against former comp commissioner Chris Godfrey because he didn't know that Godfrey is gay.

Godfrey, who was appointed and reappointed by Democratic governors, brought the lawsuit after Branstad won election in 2010 and asked Godfrey to resign, despite five years remaining in Godfrey's statutorily protected term of office. When Godfrey refused, Branstad had Godfrey's pay slashed.

Godfrey, now the chief judge over federal workers' comp claims in Washington, D.C., also gave gripping testimony about his life and his career. He said that he has known since fourth grade that he's gay, but that he's always refused to be bullied about it.

"After I had been asked to resign twice, after my pay was slashed, I felt obviously personally attacked," Godfrey testified. "I needed justice. I also felt as though the system in Iowa had been attacked."

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