Iowa Lawyer Weekly (10/23/2013)
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October 23, 2013
Past Issues

Newly enacted property tax law evens out taxable valuations among property classes

The Governor’s signature of Senate File 295 on June 12, addresses many property tax issues important to business, commercial, residential and agricultural property owners in an attempt to make taxes on each class of property more equitable.

On business property, for example, the first $145,000 in value will be treated as if it were residential property for taxing purposes, according to a recent memo prepared by ISBA Assistant Legislative Counsel Doug Struyk. The credit becomes available with the October 2014 tax payment but must be applied for at the city or county assessor’s office by Jan. 15, 2014.

Commercial property receives a 10-percent overall rollback in tax obligation under SF 295, but the rollback is phased in at five percent in 2014 and five percent in 2015.

The tie-in between agricultural property and residential property is changed from four to three under the new law. In the past, residential property valuation for tax purposes could grow by a maximum of four percent more than agricultural property. If residential property grew 12 percent but agricultural property values grew only two percent, the taxable value growth of the residential property was only six percent. Under the new law in this example, the value of residential property would be capped at five percent.

Read Struyk’s complete report here. Adjacent to the report is a link to the application for the business property tax credit that must be filed with the city or county assessor by Jan. 15.

District 5B, Old Judicial District 18 hold annual meetings

Approximately half of the 70 members of District 5B and 30-40 members of the Old 18th Judicial District Bar Association took part in the annual meetings held by the two groups in the last two weeks.

Attendees at the District 5B meeting were treated to a feast of wild caribou meat and turkey stew, along with potatoes and gravy and vegetables, following a one-hour ethics presentation from Tre Critelli with the Iowa Supreme Court’s Attorney Disciplinary Board. The event was hosted by Creston attorney Loretta Harvey and her husband Aaron.

District 5 Chief Judge Art Gamble provided an update of activities in the judicial district. ISBA President Guy Cook and Executive Director Dwight Dinkla spoke about activities occurring in the ISBA. A business meeting and election of officers also were part of the activities.

The bottom photo shows attendees going through the buffet line (note that one member is zonked out on the floor). The top photo shows them enjoying their meals.

Those attending the 95th Annual Meeting of the Old 18th on Monday (Oct. 14) in Rock Rapids enjoyed a dinner followed by a half hour of CLE credit from a presentation by District 3 Chief Judge Duane Hoffmeyer. The Old 18th was originally known as the 21st Judicial District. It was reorganized in 1967 to the 18th Judicial District, and then effective Jan. 1, 1973 became the current Judicial District 3 with subdistricts A and B. Even after the reorganization in 1973, the Old 18th decided to continue meeting as a six-county bar association with no official duties but to maintain the annual banquet.

Many pro bono cases accepted; need continues to grow

Attorneys around the state have volunteered to take almost half of the pro bono cases on the list at the beginning of October – pro bono month. However, the need for pro bono legal assistance for individuals who can’t afford to hire an attorney continues to grow.

The list of cases that numbered around 140 at the beginning of the month now numbers 216 as of this writing. The growth illustrates the reality of providing access to justice for all Iowans, and the urgent need for assistance from attorneys trained to provide that access.

"This is your chance to respond to an Iowan in need,” said ISBA President Guy Cook. Click here to view the case list and select a case. Each case has a brief description that includes the email address of the individual at the placement program responsible for the case. That individual will contact you with more details about the case.

The goal by the end of the month is to have all cases placed so that, in the words of the organizers: "Every client who is waiting for a volunteer, will get an attorney to assist them.”

Open house for visitation room at Mitchellville prison set for Oct. 28

The Iowa Correctional Institute for Women at Mitchellville will have an open house Monday (Oct. 28) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to show off its new visiting room for moms and their children. The open house provides an opportunity for visitors to see the many books and other educational items provided by the Visiting Mom Project.

As reported in an earlier issue of this newsletter, the Visiting Mom Project grew out of a visit to the prison by judges attending the joint Iowa Judges Association/ISBA Annual Meeting last June. Following the visit, attorneys and judges contributed money to buy books, educational toys, games and puzzles for the visiting room to foster positive interactions between the inmates and their children.

According to Senior Judge Donna Paulsen, the effort raised $15,000 – $5,000 more than the initial goal of $10,000. The contributions enabled the organizers to buy among other things 360 books, a doll house, Thomas the Train table, a child’s picnic table and adult and child rocking chairs, along with a toy storage unit and shelving.

Ribbon cutting and speeches at the open house begin at 11 a.m. The event is open to the public.

YLD hosting Fall Social for Drake students Nov. 5

The ISBA Young Lawyers Division is hosting its 2013 Fall Social for Drake law students Tuesday (Nov. 5) at the Exile Brewing Company, 1514 Walnut St. in Des Moines. The event runs from 5 – 7 p.m., and is co-sponsored by the Polk County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, the SBA Advancement Committee and Drake Law School’s Development Office.

Appetizers will be provided, and drinks will be free for a limited time. Organizers ask that you RSVP by Friday (Nov. 1) to Jennifer Zwagerman at 515-271-4119, or via email at

Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals looking for contract attorneys

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) on Oct. 15 seeking an Iowa-licensed attorney to serve as an independent reviewer for state informal conferences and federal informal dispute resolutions.

The deadline for submitting an application is 4:30 p.m. Nov. 13. The department anticipates that it will issue a Notice of Intent to Award by Dec. 11, with the actual contract to begin Jan. 1.

The contract is for one year. Details are available here.

Check out ISBA’s Hunter’s Rights audio podcast

Have a client or clients who are avid hunters? Tis the season when individuals can’t wait to get out in the field.

The ISBA Public Relations Committee’s Podcast Subcommittee has produced an audio program that provides general information about Iowa’s regulations affecting a hunter’s rights. Attorney Luke Craven, a hunter himself, discusses regulations such as not using two-way radios when hunting deer, and not discharging a firearm within 200 yards of a building housing people or domestic livestock unless given permission to do so by the landowner.

You can hear the podcast by clicking here.

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 18, 2013

No. 13-0102

Certified questions of law from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Edward J. McManus, Judge.

Certified questions from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa concerning ratification of a contract and whether a party is estopped from denying a signature on a contract. CERTIFIED QUESTION ANSWERED.

No. 13-0506

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

Grievance commission reports respondent committed ethical violations and recommends suspension of his license to practice law. LICENSE SUSPENDED.