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May 6, 2015
Past Issues

WARNING: Judicial Branch Meltdown

Disastrous consequences imminent as judicial branch budget slashed

Iowa attorneys should brace themselves for significant judicial complications with the Iowa Legislature's judicial budget proposals. Because 96 percent of the judicial budget is allocated for personnel, the drastic underfunding will likely result in 22 layoffs per $1 million not budgeted. Depending upon the amount of reduced funding, this could mean as many as 160 judicial employees being permanently laid-off, directly affecting Iowans statewide.

Earlier in the session, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad requested a $182.7 million budget for the judicial branch in order to provide the funding necessary for current operations. The Senate approved $176 million, and the House approved only $171.4. The potential budget equates to a $5.5 million shortfall between the Senate and the House.

The underfunding of the judicial branch will result in a significant reduction of services and closure of clerks’ offices around the state. In addition, Iowans can expect:

  • Major trial delays
  • Delays in child support payment processing
  • Delays in implementation of the new expedited civil trials
  • Scaling back of family treatment, drug, veterans, mental health and business courts
  • First-time offenders of juvenile courts will not be able to have face-to-face meetings with officers
  • Travel restrictions for all judicial branch personnel

The judicial budget, only two percent of the total state budget, is depended upon by Iowa citizens every day. According to ISBA leaders, the shortfalls are a very real and genuine step back in serving Iowans. They urge immediate action to protect the system and clients’ needs. Please inform your local legislators that adequate funding of the third branch of government is essential to the citizens of our state.

Contacting your legislator is simple. Visit the Iowa Legislative website for your legislator’s contact information here.

Indigent defense funding cuts could mean $25 hourly rates for attorneys

Yesterday, the Iowa House debated the justice system’s budget bill (SF 497). The House passed an amendment replacing the original Senate file with its own language. The new House amendments include language that significantly drops court-appointed counsel reimbursement rates from $65 to $25 per hour for simple misdemeanors.

"This language is an insult to the hard-working lawyers who take these cases and provide constitutionally-guaranteed counsel,” said ISBA Legislative Counsel Jim Carney. "Paying attorneys $25 per hour is an insult to our profession. The Iowa State Bar Association cannot allow this language to become law and further diminish the value of Iowa lawyers.”

The House amendments reduced funding for indigent defense and the state public defender compared with last year. The amendment reduced the state public defender’s budget from $26.03 million to $24.74 million. Indigent defense was reduced from $29.75 million to $28.23 million. The ISBA is very concerned about the potential of a $1.5 million dollar cut to indigent defense.

"We need to let our elected officials know immediately that these changes will have a drastic impact on lawyers in Iowa and the availability of court-appointed counsel,” Carney said.

The bill now returns to the Senate and can be amended by the Senate or sent to conference committee. The ISBA urges members to contact Iowa Senators immediately. Members should ask the Senate to restore indigent defense funding to $29.75 million and to remove the language inserted by the House reducing simple misdemeanor reimbursement to $25 per hour.

Members can find their district senator’s contact information by clicking here to be navigated to the Iowa Legislature website.

Law Day event to focus on empowering youth

A consortium of community organizations in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, area will sponsor a Law Day activity next Wednesday, May 13, designed to allow citizens – particularly youth – to gain a deeper understanding of the justice system, law enforcement and human rights.

Entitled "Law Day 2015: From Selma to Cedar Rapids,” the event starts at 9 a.m. with addresses by Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, Des Moines attorney Alfredo Parrish and U.S. District Court Chief Judge for the Northern District of Iowa Linda Reade. Following those presentations, participants will take part in a symbolic march in downtown Cedar Rapids from the U.S. Federal Courthouse to the Linn County Courthouse. From there, participants will move to the Veterans Memorial Building where they will have lunch and listen to three presentations: Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot; The Edna Griffin Story (State of Iowa v. Katz, 1949); and Race Relations in America.

The goals are to empower youth to take an active role in the community; highlight positive relationships between law enforcement and the community; positively challenge law enforcement and the judicial system to review practices that may be counterproductive to community relationships; and highlight the connection between historical events and present-day law enforcement.

The five-hour event is open to anyone who would like to attend. Organizers expect around 300 students to participate. Those who are 18 years of age will be able to register to vote while at the Veterans Memorial Building.

View a brochure on the law day event here.


States asked to adopt standards on electronic publishing

The ABA Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress and the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is asking states to enact the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA). The act was approved by the Uniform Law Commission in 2011, and by the ABA House of Delegates at the 2012 Midyear Meeting in New Orleans.

State governments have moved rapidly to electronic publishing of official legal documents such as state constitutions, state session laws, codified law and agency regulations that have the effect of law, etc., according to the law commission. However, with the increasing use of electronic publishing of documents, states need to adopt UELMA to ensure that electronic legal material will have the same level of trustworthiness traditionally provided by print publication. UELMA doesn’t specify how states should authenticate or preserve their electronic information, leaving the choice of technology for authentication and preservation up to them.

Twelve states have enacted UELMA thus far: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Five others have introduced legislation this session: Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Texas.

Read the full act here.

Government job opening: Administrator for Attorney Discipline

The Office of Professional Regulation recently informed the ISBA of the planned retirement of Charles Harrington, administrator of the Attorney Disciplinary Board, later this year. The Iowa Judicial Branch posted the soon-to-be-open job position to the Iowa court's website May 1 announcing the opportunity.

The position requires graduation from an accredited law school and admission to practice law in the State of Iowa with a law license in good standing, ability to effectively manage and administer a multi-lawyer prosecutorial office with a high intake load and high levels of personal and professional honesty and integrity. Five years experience in trial or appellate practice is strongly preferred. Additional details for the position can be found on the job opening announcement here.

Those interested in applying for the vacancy must complete the Iowa Judicial Branch Application for Employment and send the application with cover letter and resume to Paul Wieck II, director of the Office of Professional Regulation. Closing date for applications is June 5.

Reminder: Annual Drake v. Iowa golf battle 12 days away

Only 12 days remain until the annual battle between Drake University Law School and the University of Iowa College of Law for bragging rights on which school produced the best golfers. The 11th Annual Dean’s Cup fundraiser, which raises money for Iowa Legal Aid, will take place Monday, May 18, at Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City, Iowa.

Golfers of every skill level who are affiliated with either school are encouraged to support their alma maters by participating in the event, which features match play and best-shot contests. Even attorneys who didn’t graduate from either school can participate in the best-shot competition as long as they declare temporary allegiance to one of the law schools when registering.

Non-golfers can help one school or the other to victory by contributing $25 or more to support Iowa Legal Aid and having their names added to the "Dean’s List.” The school with the longest "Dean’s List” receives an advantage in the best-shot competition.

To secure a spot in this year’s challenge, or to indicate an interest in being a sponsor, click on this registration form. The registration fee is partially tax deductible.


In Other News ...

Supreme Court: Judges are not for sale
After years of striking down campaign finance laws, the U.S. Supreme Court on April 29 upheld a Florida rule that bars judicial candidates from personally asking for campaign contributions… Justice Ginsburg cited the 2010 Iowa Supreme Court election, in which justices were targeted by out-of-state groups for their vote for marriage equality, and concluded that "disproportionate spending to influence court judgments threatens both the appearance and actuality of judicial independence.”

Local business professionals honored for excellence
Attorney Randal Caldwell of Newton was recently inducted into the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel at its recent annual meeting. Caldwell was one of 35 new Fellows from across the country. As a member of the firm Caldwell, Brierly, Chalupa and Nuzem, PLLC, Caldwell has been practicing since 1979 and is one of only 46 ACTEC Fellows in the state of Iowa. He is a former chair of the Probate Section Council of The Iowa State Bar Association and is a member of the Iowa ACTEC.
Newton Daily News

City code change would eliminate jail time for simple misdemeanors
City staff have proposed an amendment to Iowa City Code that would remove the possibility of jail time for offenders sentenced with simple misdemeanors... The Iowa City Council [gave] its first consideration to the amendment at its meeting Tuesday. Council packet information indicates the amendment stems from an April 3 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that requires the court to appoint legal counsel for "indigent defendants in simple misdemeanors if the penalty includes the possibility of jail time.”
Iowa City Press-Citizen


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 - May 6

May 1, 2015

No. 14–0262

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger, Judge. The defendant appeals his conviction and sentence for fraudulent practice following a jury trial. REVERSED AND REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS.

No. 15–0147

On review of the report of the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa. Grievance commission recommended one-year suspension of attorney’s license. LICENSE SUSPENDED.

No. 15–0156

On review of the report of the Grievance Commission of the Supreme Court of Iowa. The grievance commission reports an attorney committed ethical misconduct and recommends a public reprimand. ATTORNEY REPRIMANDED.



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