Iowa Lawyer Weekly (10/16/2013)
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October 16, 2013

Maximizing the new ISBA website: Using ‘connections’

If you haven’t logged in to the new ISBA website yet, you’re missing out. One of the beauties of the new website is that it lets you create connections with other members, much the same as with Facebook or LinkedIn.

These connections are restricted to other members of the bar – no spouses, children, other family members and non-lawyer friends – unless they are ISBA members. This gives you the opportunity to talk business with other members individually or as a group that you might not be comfortable doing if you knew non-lawyers could see the correspondence.

Creating connections is easy. Just follow the step-by-step instructions, including screenshots of the steps involved, at the "Help Desk” on the ISBA website homepage. Clicking on "Help Desk” will bring up a list of topics for which you can receive help. Click on "Connections” to see how to add people to your list.

More information about how to maximize use of the new website will be offered in upcoming issues of this newsletter and in the Help Desk on the homepage.

Polk County courthouse referendum

A group of lawyers and concerned citizens are working to convince voters in Polk County to approve a bond issue that will improve access to, and administration of, justice in the county. The bond issue will be voted on Nov. 5.

Specifically, the Public Safety for Polk County Committee is asking voters to approve an $81 million bond to refurbish the historic courthouse, remodel what most recently was the Wellmark building, formerly the J.C. Penney building, and repurpose the old jail into a new justice complex. Under the plan, the old courthouse will be used for probate, family and civil court matters. The Wellmark building would be remodeled to create a justice center annex that houses juvenile court and juvenile court services, as well as small claims and traffic court, the county attorney’s office and record storage for the clerk of court’s office. The old jail would be renovated to handle criminal cases.

Polk County has the busiest courthouse in the state because of its location in the capitol city.The overcrowded conditions (28 courtrooms have been squeezed into a space that was designed for four, as an example) present numerous security and safety risks. It has been said that more arrests are made inside the courthouse than in any other single spot in the county.

"I'm excited about this effort,” says ISBA President Guy Cook, who is on the steering committee for the project.” I'm hopeful the measure will succeed and solve the longstanding deficiencies at the Polk County Courthouse."

More information is available on the committee’s website.

Family Law seminar has room for more participants

This year’s Family Law seminar is filled with great programming, and as of this writing (Oct. 16), there are still openings for more participants. The seminar is being held at the West Des Moines Marriott Hotel in West Des Moines starting at 8 a.m. on Thursday (Oct. 24) and ending at 5 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 25).

Some examples of the presentations you’ll hear include.

Business valuation: what is hiding behind the curtain – tips to guide you through the haunted forest (Alan Ryerson and James Nalley, BCC Advisors)

In this presentation, Al and Jim will explain the differences in valuation credentials, discuss some of the common mistakes made in valuation analyses and highlight the divorce-specific issues that should be considered in preparing or reviewing a business valuation report.

Family Law update (Jim Meade)

Get the latest Iowa family law news and developments from Jim. He will update and discuss his 100-page outline reference to Iowa Family Law. New this year, the outline is searchable.

Unraveling the mysteries of Social Security, Medicaid and SSI which family lawyers need to know (Joe Basque and Elizabeth Norris)

Joe and Elizabeth will provide an explanation of the sometimes illogical and often confusing world of Social Security, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income benefits.

For the complete list of topics and speakers, and to register, click on Family Law.

Attend free CLE and free lunch to learn what information internet companies are gathering

Enjoy a free lunch and pick up a couple of hours of state CLE at a free seminar sponsored by the ISBA next Wednesday (Oct 23) from noon to 2 p.m. at the bar headquarters building.

Marc Hirschfield, a senior vice president of computer forensics and E-discovery at the Morningside Group of Companies in New York City, will discuss the information major internet companies are quietly collecting about you and your clients and what information can be useful in the commercial litigation context. As an example, he says if you have ever used Google's navigation on your phone, Google stores your historical GPS information for as long as you have used the service.

He will discuss how to obtain this and other surprising information about your clients’ online presence and whether the information can be authenticated as evidence in litigation. While you may think about Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin as the major Social Media players, the really big internet companies gathering critical data about you and your clients are Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google, he says.

See more details and register at Social Media and Offensive and Defensive Strategies.

Tis that time of year when judges are needed for mock trial

The Middle School Mock Trial season starts this Saturday (Oct. 19) and John Wheeler, director of the ISBA’s Center for Law & Civic Education, is looking for judges and attorneys who are willing to judge regional and state competitions.

This year there are nine regional competitions scattered around the state. (See the list of locations and dates.). Approximately 400-450 judges are needed for the nine regional contests, and another 100 or so for the state tournament. The state tournament, which is held in Des Moines, begins in the late afternoon on Nov. 18 and continues all day on Nov. 19, with the semi-finals and finals held on Nov. 20.

You do not have to be a trial lawyer to participate as a mock trial judge, John says. Your role as a judge will be to assess students' performances as they take on the roles of attorneys and witnesses.

To sign up as a judge, click on Middle School Mock Trial Judges Signup, then click on "Register for this event.” You will see the list of regional competitions as well as a place to sign up for the state tournament.

More than 600 ISBA members assisted as judges and coaches last year. Your participation as a licensed attorney or judge means a lot to the students who have worked hard to prepare their cases for the competitions.

Special note: The Upper Midwest Regional Moot Court Tournament is being held at Loras College in Dubuque on Friday and Saturday (Nov. 8-9). Attorney Deone Merkel needs judges for the tournament, which is the qualifying tournament for the national competition. Contact her at Loras College, 563-564-5096, if you can help.

District 5C seeks applicants for district judge; deadline is Nov. 8

Applications are being accepted for a district court judgeship in Judicial Election District 5C. The vacancy is a result of Judge Christopher McDonald’s resignation.

More information on how to obtain application forms and where to submit them is contained in Chief Judge Arthur Gamble’s letter. The deadline for submitting applications is 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 8.

Interviews will be held on Monday, Nov. 18. The chairperson of the District 5C Judicial Nominating Commission will notify selected applicants with the times of their interviews.

ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education releases draft report, seeks comments by Oct. 28

The ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education recently released a draft report on the future of legal education and is now seeking comments from members of the legal profession by the end of October.

Among the conclusions reached in the report are:

  • A need to re-engineer the pricing and funding of legal education
  • Repeal or dramatically liberalize accreditation standards
  • Encourage use of a "variance” system to foster experimentation and innovation by law schools
  • Increase experiential learning
  • License persons other than holders of a J.D. to deliver limited legal services, and authorize bar admission for individuals whose preparation may be other than the traditional four years of college plus three years of classroom-based law school education.

Read the full draft report here. Submit your comments to Center for Professional Responsibility Director, Art Garwin, by Oct. 28.

Be sure to read the annual pro bono services list in the October Iowa Lawyer

The October Iowa Lawyer contains a list of all attorneys in the state who have reported time spent providing pro bono services to individuals who couldn’t afford an attorney.

The list is divided by county and is compiled from data provided by the Iowa Legal Aid Volunteer Lawyers Project, the Legal Aid Society of Story County, the Polk County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project and the Pro Bono Project of Scott County. It is based on information attorneys reported to these organizations from July 2012 through June 2013.

Only cases that were closed during Fiscal Year 2012-2013 are counted. A case is closed when all work on the case is completed and the final disposition of the case is reported to the volunteer lawyers project.

Some attorneys who participate in a volunteer lawyers project report cases through their firms, and these firms are included on the list. Other Iowa attorneys worked on volunteer lawyers project cases in 2012-2013, but are not listed as the case was not closed during this period.

Did You Know...

You can get rates as low as four cents per minute per line on conference calls using InterCall? The ISBA has partnered with this conferencing service provider to bring these rates to members. There is no reservation requirement. Simply have each participant dial the toll free number and enter the participant code you assigned to a project and everyone will be connected. Check it out at "Member Benefits,” which can be found under "Membership” on the ISBA website homepage.

Benefit of the Week

The ISBA has a variety of practice manuals available to ISBA members at a discounted rate. To see the manuals available, visit the ISBA store.

Iowa Supreme Court Decisions

October 11, 2013

No. 12-1515

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Paul D. Miller, Judge.

Plaintiff appeals from the district court’s grant of summary judgment to two municipalities and their law enforcement officers based on an immunity in the Iowa Tort Claims Act. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

No. 13-0480

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

Grievance commission reports respondent has committed ethical infractions and recommends a suspension of respondent’s license to practice law. LICENSE SUSPENDED.