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Iowa Supreme Court contender was sued over unjustified case
Legal Interview | 2019/01/25 03:25
An eastern Iowa county agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit against its top prosecutor last month, days before he applied for a seat on the Iowa Supreme Court.

The payment settled a lawsuit that alleged Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren abused his power during his unsuccessful two-year prosecution of former West Liberty city manager Chris Ward. Ostergen pursued misconduct and fraud charges against Ward that courts later ruled were unjustified.

Ostergen, 46, a Republican considered a strong contender for the Supreme Court vacancy, has been involved in several high-profile cases. He applied for the opening created by the retirement of Justice Daryl Hecht last month and disclosed the lawsuit against him as required in his application .

He and other candidates will interview with the judicial nominating commission next week. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds will make the appointment from three finalists recommended by that panel. Her choice is expected to tilt the historically progressive court to the right at a time when a major abortion rights case is unfolding.

Ostergren was one of three finalists recommended last year by Republican Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst to be the top federal prosecutor in southern Iowa but was passed over by President Donald Trump. He narrowly won re-election in November in Muscatine County, where he's been the top prosecutor since 2011.

Ostergen has raised his profile by using his position with an organization representing county attorneys to file several friend-of-the-court briefs with the Supreme Court. Civil liberties advocates have been concerned by some of his actions including his support of limiting the voting rights of felons and his unsuccessful prosecution of an immigrant on identity theft charges.

The lawsuit that prompted the settlement accused Ostergren of filing unsupported criminal charges against Ward and taking actions to interfere with his new job as city manager in Vinton, Iowa. The lawsuit noted that Ward was one of three African-American city managers in Iowa but did not allege race was a factor in the prosecution.


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