The landowners appealed, objecting that the Commission included private members who lacked eminent domain authority. The Commission subsequently tried to correct this legal problem, by amending the 28E agreement showing that all members who individually lacked the power of eminent domain, had withdrawn from the 28E.
The Supreme Court addressed two issues in the appeal: whether a joint public-private commission organized under chapter 28E can exercise the power of eminent domain and whether the withdrawal of the private members from the 28E entity after the case was filed rendered any further decisionmaking moot.
The Iowa Supreme Court decided that a 28E entity with both public and private members cannot exercise the power of eminent domain. The court stated that statutes that give the power of eminent domain must be strictly construed and the Court would not infer the power to exercise eminent domain to a 28E that includes private entities when the statute does not specifically grant it.
The court remanded the case back to the District Court for further consideration. It is unclear at this time if this means that the whole proceeding, including the prior public use determination must be started over. It is also unclear if this ruling will have any impact on pending legislation to stop the Clarke County Reservoir from moving forward.