Des Moines, Iowa — The ACLU of Iowa is pleased to award its prestigious Dan Johnston Cooperating Attorney Award to Nixon Peabody partners Seth A. Horvath, F. Thomas Hecht, and Tina B. Solis, based in the firm’s Chicago office. The three attorneys will receive the award at the ACLU of Iowa Bill of Rights Brunch on Sunday, October 12 in Des Moines.
Nixon Peabody Attorneys Honored with Dan Johnston Award
The three were chosen for the award after volunteering hundreds of hours and lending their extensive experience on two connected transgender rights lawsuits challenging the denial of coverage under Iowa Medicaid for medically necessary gender-affirming surgery.
In Good et al. v. Iowa Dept. of Human Services, the ACLU of Iowa, ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, and the Nixon Peabody legal team, challenged a discriminatory state Medicaid rule that banned coverage for medically necessary gender-affirming surgery. Their clients, Carol Ann Beal and EerieAnna Good, had both been denied coverage by Iowa Medicaid in 2017, just because they are transgender.
In March 2019 the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in EerieAnna and Carol Ann’s favor, striking the discriminatory rule as a violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act. The trial judge below had also determined that the rule violated the equal protection guarantee of the Iowa Constitution.
Nixon Peabody joined with the ACLU team again to file Covington et al. v. Reynolds. That second lawsuit was filed because, just two months after the victory at the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa legislature passed an amendment to the Iowa Civil Rights Act to specifically authorize the discriminatory mistreatment of transgender Iowans on Medicaid struck down in Good.
Hours after the discriminatory bill was signed into law, the team began working on the new lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Iowans Mika Covington, Aiden Vasquez, and One Iowa, the LGBTQ advocacy organization. The case challenges the new law as a violation of the equal protection guarantee of the Iowa Constitution.
ACLU of Iowa Legal Director, Rita Bettis Austen, said, “We knew we would need the support of the NP team again to mount this new challenge. When we called Tom, Seth, and Tina, they didn’t hesitate. They’ve stood by us and with transgender people in Iowa for the long haul to protect their right to equality under the law in our state.”
“Tina, Tom, and I are honored to work with the ACLU of Iowa on this litigation,” said Seth A. Horvath, who along with Tina and Tom are part of Nixon Peabody’s Complex Commercial Disputes practice. “It’s a privilege to collaborate with such a dedicated organization on such an important set of issues for the LGBTQ community.”
Bettis Austen said that in litigating the district court proceedings in the Good case alone, the Nixon Peabody attorneys donated well over 600 billable hours.
“They continued to litigate the appeals in that case, and now in the Covington case, we haven’t begun to tally the time they’ve volunteered on this case, but they measure into the hundreds of additional hours. Their support has been absolutely essential to our success and our ability to continue to do this important impact litigation work,” Bettis Austen said. “They have brought to bear their tremendous substantive experience and savvy litigation skills to promote equality in our state in a way only a handful of attorneys have. The impact of their work cannot be overstated.”
The Dan Johnston Award was named after the distinguished longtime ACLU of Iowa cooperating attorney who represented the Des Moines students in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Case, Tinker v. Des Moines Schools.
Nixon Peabody was featured for its groundbreaking work in the Good case in the July 2019 edition of American Lawyer magazine.
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About the ACLU of Iowa
The ACLU of Iowa is a private, non-partisan organization that fights to advance civil liberties for all. It is the state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU prides itself in upholding everyone’s civil liberties, no matter who they are or what they believe. We work to assure the rights of all Iowans—from atheists to devout Christians, from labor unions to businesspeople and more—to make sure the constitutional rights of all are preserved. For more information, please go to www.aclu-ia.org.
About Nixon Peabody LLP
At Nixon Peabody, we see 21st-century law as a tool to help shape our clients’ futures. We are constantly thinking about what is important to our clients now and next so we can foresee obstacles and opportunities in their space and smooth the way. We work together to handle complex challenges in litigation, real estate, corporate law, intellectual property, and finance anywhere in the world. For more information, go to www.nixonpeabody.com.