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March 11, 2015
Past Issues

Be on guard against identity theft on client tax returns

A number of recent reports about fraudulent federal income tax returns being filed by thieves using individuals’ social security numbers (SSN) has led the IRS to issue tips for tax preparers on how to spot fraudulent activity and what to do about it.

According to the IRS newsletter issued Tuesday, March 3, "you may be unaware your client is a victim of identity theft until you attempt to file the tax return and it is rejected. Your client also may receive an IRS notice regarding:

  • More than one tax return was filed using your client’s SSN,
  • Your client has a balance due, refund offset or a collection action taken for a year in which your client did not file a tax return,
  • IRS records indicate your client received wages from an unknown employer,
  • A business client may receive an IRS letter about an amended tax return, fictitious employees or about a defunct, closed or dormant business.”

If your client’s SSN has been compromised, whether from a data breach, computer hack or stolen wallet, and he or she has reason to believe there is a risk of tax-related identity theft, you should take these steps, according to the IRS:

  • If your client received an IRS notice, respond immediately to the telephone number provided.
  • Complete Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Fax or mail to the IRS according to the instructions.
  • To inquire about specific client return information, you must have a power of attorney on file, and you must authenticate your identity with the IRS customer service representative.

The IRS has a number of resources available for tax preparers to help thwart tax fraud. Click here to access a page with links to those resources.

Foundations for Practice survey forthcoming

In the next few days, the ISBA will send to members an email containing survey information for the national Foundations for Practice project. The study, a part of the national Foundations for Practice project, is an ambitious effort to determine what law graduates need in order to launch successful careers in the legal profession, create models of legal education to better fulfill those needs and identify tools legal employers can use to make better hiring decisions.

The Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Initiative of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, is conducting the study on the skills, characteristics and competencies that the profession requires of new lawyers.

The views of ISBA members are essential to this study. Members should watch their emails for a link to the survey. Please complete the survey and contribute your expertise to this important endeavor.

For more information about the project, visit the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers website.

Financial assistance for student clerks could help hiring by rural attorneys

Law students who are hired by rural practitioners to clerk for the summer can apply for financial assistance through two programs offered by the ISBA and by the ISBA’s Rural Practice Committee in cooperation with Iowa Legal Aid. The assistance could benefit practitioners who would be willing to hire a summer clerk, but are reluctant to do so because of costs.

The program stemming from the arrangement between the ISBA’s Rural Practice Committee and Iowa Legal Aid gives students a stipend of $1,000 to $1,500, depending on the number who apply, for providing 50 hours of pro bono work for Legal Aid. Made possible by a grant from the Iowa State Bar Foundation, the stipend program is administered through Iowa Legal Aid, but requires the approval of, and supervision by, the hiring rural practice attorney.

The ISBA program gives students a grant of up to $500 per student to assist with commuting costs, lodging, food, etc., while clerking in a rural area. It is made possible by a grant from the ISBA that was approved by the board of governors at its September 2014 meeting.

Application for the stipend program is on a first-come, first-served basis and is limited to a maximum of 15 students. If 15 students participate, the stipends would be $1,000 per student. The form for applying is available on the Rural Practice Committee’s web page, along with other resources about the Rural Practice Committee’s programs, including resumes from 50-plus students who are interested in clerking in rural areas for the summer. Click on "Application for Rural Practice Committee/Iowa Legal Aid Stipend Program,” fill it out and email it to Alex Kornya ( Some internet browsers, such as Firefox, may require you to download the form to Adobe in order to fill it out. Application deadline is June 1.

Information about the grant for commuting costs, lodging, etc., can be accessed by contacting committee co-chairs Phil Garland or Amy Skogerson. Their contact information is: 641-923-3792, (Garland); or 515 996-4045, (Skogerson).


Iowa Legal Aid event planned for March 26

Iowa Legal Aid will host its annual Equal Justice After Hours event on Thursday, March 26, at the Temple for Performing Arts, 1011 Locust Street, in downtown Des Moines. The event, which runs from 5 – 7 p.m., is the Iowa Legal Aid Foundation’s annual fundraiser that showcases the positive impact Iowa Legal Aid makes in the lives of its clients.

At Equal Justice After Hours 2015, Iowa Legal Aid will induct Dave (former chairman and CEO, The Principal Financial Group) and Trudy Hurd into its Hall of Fame.

Dennis Groenenboom, executive director of Iowa Legal Aid stated, "The Board of Directors of Iowa Legal Aid is pleased to be honoring Dave and Trudy Hurd at this year’s Equal Justice After Hours. Their dedication to justice issues in this community and throughout the state demonstrates their passion that aligns with Iowa Legal Aid’s mission of providing hope, dignity and justice to low-income Iowans.”

Tickets and event sponsorships are available by contacting Terri Bennett at 515-243-2980, Ext. 1611, or via email at For more information about Iowa Legal Aid’s services, visit Iowa Legal Aid’s website at

2016 law school rankings

The University of Iowa College of Law is 22nd (up from 27th) and Drake University Law School and Creighton University School of Law (up from 115th) are tied at 113thin the recently released law school rankings by U.S. News and World Report.

The annual rankings of the 198 law schools fully accredited by the ABA are based on a weighted average of 12 measures of quality. The measures of quality include Quality Assessment, Selectivity, Bar Passage Rate, Faculty Resources and Placement Success. Data for this year’s rankings were collected last fall and early this year.

View the rankings of all 198 accredited schools here.

Judges needed for High School Mock Trial State Tournament next week

Thirty-two teams of high school students from around the state who are participating in the high school mock trial program will once again descend on Des Moines on Tuesday, March 24, to compete in the 34th Annual High School Mock Trial State Tournament. That means lots of judges are needed to evaluate student performance in their roles as attorneys and witnesses in the competitions, says John Wheeler, director of the ISBA’s Center for Law and Civic Education and coordinator of the mock trial program.

Each team will compete in three preliminary rounds of competition with the first round starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Iowa Events Center. The remaining two rounds will be held at 9 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday (March 25). Semi-finals and finals will be held on Thursday (March 26) at the judicial branch building.

Each preliminary round features 16 individual competitions. Three judges are needed for each competition, which translates into 48 judges per round, or 144 judges for the three rounds.

Wheeler says some judges have already signed up for slots in the preliminary rounds, but many more are needed. He asks that you sign up for one or more of the competitions if at all possible. You don’t have to be a trial attorney to be a mock trial judge.

To sign up, click here, or send Wheeler an email at To learn more about this year’s case and what you need to do as a judge, click on this link.

In Other News ...

Pollster Ann Selzer to deliver lecture at Simpson
J. Ann Selzer, who is a member of the Simpson College Board of Trustees, will discuss opinion polling and survey methods in a lecture at 7:30 p.m. March 17 in the Principal Black Box Theatre. The title of her talk is, "Public Opinion Polling: Questions & Answers.” The event, sponsored by the John C. Culver Public Policy Center, is free and open to the Simpson community and to the general public.
Simpson College News Center

Iowa court ruling lets public sector tap into solar
Tax credits to cover 30 percent of the upfront cost haven’t done much for local elected officials in Iowa eager to try solar energy for public buildings as a way to save on electric bills and to green up their environmental credentials. Until now. An Iowa Supreme Court ruling last July changed the playing field for the use of solar energy in the public sector and not-for-profit sector, and the cities of Cedar Rapids and Marion and Johnson and Linn counties are dipping their toes into the renewable energy source. So, too, is the University of Iowa.
The Gazette

High court limits wage discrimination damages to 2009
The Iowa Supreme Court says anyone claiming damages for wage discrimination that occurred before 2009 is out of luck. Three female employees of Muscatine-based Allsteel are suing the office furniture manufacturer, alleging male employees were paid more for similar work. While the lawsuit is pending, the high court's ruling greatly limits the amount of damages the plaintiffs may eventually claim.
Iowa Public Radio

State Supreme Court to consider IC landlord-tenant case
The Iowa Supreme Court will consider a case this year involving an Iowa City tenant and the city's largest student housing provider. The state's high court this week issued an order to retain a case that originated in Johnson County — Elyse DeStefano v. Apartments Downtown — rather than sending it to the Court of Appeals.


The Iowa Lawyer Weekly is an electronic newsletter published every Wednesday. Please submit comments, letters to the editor, articles, or photos, to Contact information should be included with submissions. The ISBA reserves the right to refuse any submission, but will take all submissions into consideration for future publication.


Legislative Report - March 11

March 6, 2015

No. 13–1103
On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Glenn E. Pille, Judge.

A criminal defendant challenges the judgment and sentence entered at a resentencing hearing, claiming abuse of discretion by the district court and ineffective assistance of counsel. AFFIRMED.

No. 13–1411
Certified questions of law from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Stephanie M. Rose, United States District Court Judge.

A federal district court certified two questions in a suit for wage discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act. CERTIFIED QUESTIONS ANSWERED.

No. 13–1793
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Bradley McCall, Judge.

Plaintiffs in products-liability action, who seek recovery for personal injuries from allegedly defective tire that exploded during inflation at Iowa workplace, appeal ruling dismissing Chinese tire manufacturer for lack of personal jurisdiction. REVERSED.

No. 14–1708

On review of the report of the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa.

The grievance commission reports the respondent committed multiple ethical violations and recommends a thirty-month suspension of the attorney’s license. LICENSE SUSPENDED.



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