A local attorney representing two faith-based student groups suing the University of Iowa is leaving both cases and joining the Trump administration — years after an unsuccessful political bid in Eastern Iowa and a failed attempt to join the Iowa Court of Appeals.
Attorney Matt M. Dummermuth, a founding partner of Hagenow Gustoff & Dummermuth who leads the firm’s Eastern Iowa office in Cedar Rapids, has accepted appointment to a position in the U.S. Department of Justice, according to federal court documents filed last week.
Those court records indicate Dummermuth is leaving his private law practice and starting his new job Sept. 10. The documents don’t disclose details of his new job, but other media outlets report he will head the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs — which, according to its website, “provides innovative leadership to federal, state, local, and tribal justice systems, by disseminating state-of-the art knowledge and practices across America, and providing grants for the implementation of these crime fighting strategies.”
Dummermuth didn’t return a call or email from The Gazette on Friday. Washington, D.C.-based Becket Law Firm, leading the student groups’ representation against UI, also didn’t respond to questions from The Gazette.
Eric Baxter, with Becket, is serving as lead counsel on behalf of Business Leaders in Christ and InterVarsity in their discrimination cases against UI. Dummermuth had been serving as associate counsel in a local capacity on both cases.
Becket, in its court filing, reported Christopher D. Hagenow, another attorney with Dummermuth’s local firm, will take over his duties on the BLinC and InterVarsity cases.
Hagenow also didn’t respond to an email and phone call from The Gazette.
Dummermuth, according to his website’s biography, served as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa from 2007 to 2009 — working as “chief federal prosecutor and law enforcement official for 52 counties in Northern Iowa.”
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In 2011, Dummermuth ran to fill a vacancy in Iowa Senate District 18, in northern and western Linn County, and lost to Liz Mathis, who now represents a redrawn 34th district. In 2013, he applied with the State Judicial Nominating Commission to fill an Iowa Court of Appeals vacancy.
His representation of BLinC and InterVarsity started at the onset of both cases. BLinC’s came first, in December 2017, after UI officials deregistered the group for barring an openly-gay member from becoming a leader.
After a judge agreed with BLinC’s argument the university was unevenly enforcing its human rights policies — which are still in dispute — the university laid out new requirements for all student groups, resulting in the automatic deregistration of dozens more, including InterVarsity.
That group then sued, prompting the university to backtrack again and allow all faith-based student groups to remain on campus until the lawsuits are decided. Both cases are ongoing.
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