Brandstad v. State ex rel. Nat. Res. Comm’n

After an investigation, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) determined that the release of sweet corn silage runoff from Appellant’s farming operation caused fish kill on the Winnebago River. The DNR submitted a restitution assessment to Appellant, which included a restitution amount of $61,794. After a contested hearing, an administrative law judge issued a proposed decision that affirmed the restitution assessment. The Natural Resource Commission affirmed. The district court reversed and struck the restitution assessment. On remand, the Commission reduced the restitution assessment to Appellant as a result of the fish kill to $5298. Appellant then applied for an award of attorney fees pursuant to Iowa Code 625.29. The district court denied the motion, finding that three exceptions to the requirement to award attorney fees applied. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that none of the exceptions found in section 625.29(1) applied to Appellant’s case to preclude an award of attorney fees and that the district court should have found Appellant was the prevailing party under the statute. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that the State’s role in this case was primarily adjudicative, precluding an award of attorney fees. View "Brandstad v. State ex rel. Nat. Res. Comm’n" on Justia Law