Rick Mullin


DES MOINES | The Iowa Supreme Court on Friday is expected to file a ruling in a Woodbury County case that could affect the future of political campaigning.

In January, the court heard arguments in Bertrand vs. Mullin, a case which state Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, successfully sued his Democratic opponent Rick Mullin for defamation.

Bertrand filed suit in the wake of their 2010 senate race, claiming that a television ad run by Mullin and the Iowa Democratic Party during the campaign saying that Bertrand "put profits ahead of children's health" during his former job as a regional manager of a pharmaceutical company was both slanderous and libelous.

A Woodbury County District Court jury in April 2012 awarded Bertrand $231,000 in damages, an amount District Judge Jeffrey Poulson later reduced to $50,000.

Mullin appealed the jury's verdict and Bertrand appealed the reduction in damages.

After the initial verdict, political experts said the jury's decision could influence other politicians to tone down so-called attack ads.

During January's hearing before the Supreme Court, Bertrand's attorney, Jeana Goosmann, of Sioux City, said upholding the jury's initial award would "help clean up politics."

At that same hearing, Des Moines attorney Mark McCormick, who represented Mullin and the Democratic Party, said the case represented the "combat of ideas" found in political speech and that the case had First Amendment ramifications that were bigger than just Iowa.

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