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State Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on Iowa Juvenile Home Closing

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TOLEDO, Iowa - The Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether Gov. Terry Branstad has the authority to close the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.

The court also overruled a lower court ruling that ordered the immediate reopening of the home. The court issued a one-page decision filed Friday.

Both Branstad and the group of lawmakers who sued challenging the governor's authority to close the home welcomed the news.

"This keeps it moving on up the chain," said state Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, one of four lawmakers who joined American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61 President Danny Homan in filing the suit against the governor. "It will get a fair and public hearing, and we'll get a decision from a court that even the governor can't ignore."

Hatch is seeking the Democratic Party's nomination for governor in order to challenge Branstad in 2014.

Branstad's office sent a statement Friday afternoon.

"I am encouraged the Iowa Supreme Court has agreed to hear our appeal regarding the Iowa Juvenile Home," Branstad said. "Since learning about the situation at the Juvenile Home, my utmost concern has been the health, safety and education of the children. We believe the children are now being well-served in licensed and accredited facilities where they are receiving the quality treatment and education they deserve."

Earlier this month, Polk County District Judge Scott Rosenberg ordered the state to reopen the Toledo home, saying the governor overstepped his authority when he ordered the facility closed in January.

The state-run facility has been the subject of controversy since last summer when the advocacy group Disability Rights Iowa criticized the home's practice of placing young girls in extended isolation.

The revelation led to investigations by other state agencies and a legislative oversight panel. A state task force recommended the home remain open, if economically feasible. Part of the recommendation was that the facility house only female delinquents instead of female delinquents and foster children as it had done in the past, if it were to remain open.