May 24, 2017
Past Issues  

All court offices closed Friday, May 26

Due to state budget cuts, all Iowa Judicial Branch offices, including clerk of district court offices, the office of the clerk of the supreme court and juvenile court services offices, will be closed Friday, May 26.

Offices will remain closed for Memorial Day on Monday, May 29, and reopen on Tuesday, May 30.

All court personnel, except judges and magistrates, will be required to take unpaid leave on Friday, May 26, affecting approximately 1,446 employees for a statewide reduction of $364,573.

The initial Fiscal Year 2017 appropriation for judicial branch operations was $5 million less than the amount needed to maintain the same level of service to all Iowans as in Fiscal Year 2016. In January 2017, the Iowa Legislature passed and the Governor signed Senate File 130, de-appropriating an additional $3 million from the Fiscal Year 2017 operating budget of the Iowa Judicial Branch.

The order closing judicial branch offices is posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch website.

Seeking members for ISBA Jury Instructions Committee

The ISBA Jury Instructions Committee currently has several vacancies to be filled for this upcoming year due to term limits.

The Jury Instructions Committee studies and produces drafts of recommended uniform jury instructions for the approval of the ISBA Board of Governors. It monitors published instructions and modifies them from time to time as required.

Committee members generally meet in-person semi-annually. The term of service is three years with reappointment to subsequent terms possible.

If you are interested in applying, please email by Tuesday, May 30. Please put “Jury Instructions Committee” in the subject line of the email and include the following information:

Judicial District
Primary area of practice
Number of years of trial practice

Positions on the committee are available for judges, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, assistant attorneys general and civil litigators. Preference will be given to bar members with five years or more of trial experience.

Call to action: Newly-released federal budget has big impact for Young Lawyers

Tom Hillers, ISBA YLD Vice President


President Trump unveiled a budget Tuesday for 2018 that ends the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, repeals the current income based repayment plans and ends subsidized student loans.

First, it ends the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for any new loans issued after January 2018. With many public service attorneys having substantial student debt over $100,000, the elimination of this program would effectively prevent most young attorneys from accepting public-service jobs. More importantly, it would exacerbate the existing oversupply of attorneys looking for legal jobs in the market.

Second, it changes the income-based repayment plan to the detriment of law students. Almost every law student qualifies for the PAYE plan which allows them to pay 10 percent of discretionary income for 25 years and then have the remainder waived. This increases the payment to 12.5 percent and extends the waiver to 30 years. This is not a good sign for young attorneys deciding whether to enter these IBR plans as the signal is that the waiver at the end of 25 years may be extended – or more importantly – not be honored.

Third, it ends subsidized student loans, meaning that all student loans will now accrue interest during school. That benefit ended for graduate students under Obama, but it would affect law students’ undergrad loans, i.e. the loans will be even larger when they go to law school.

A final note of an importance for Iowa attorneys: the budget plan calls for a complete elimination in funding for Legal Services Corporation, the civil-legal-aid-grant-making organization. LSC provides more than $2.5 million in funding to Iowa Legal Aid every year.

I would urge all YLD members concerned about the impact of these items to contact Iowa’s Congressional Delegation:

Senator Chuck Grassley
Senator Joni Ernst
Representative David Young
Representative Rod Blum
Representative Dave Loebsack
Representative Steve King

Annual Meeting in-depth: Probate/Elder Law Tracks

The 2017 ISBA Annual Meeting will feature over 80 presentations in 25 educational tracks over a span of just three days. Each week leading up the meeting, the Iowa Lawyer Weekly will provide a closer look at CLE programming and networking options available to attendees.

The Probate Track sessions on June 20 cover seven topics including a legislative update, current issues for trust and estate lawyers, ABLE accounts and income tax considerations. It is highlighted by Joseph Kizer of Resource Insurance Consultants speaking on ILIT risk management, and Joshua Weidemann of O’Connor Thomas discussing the Iowa Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which was signed by Governor Branstad on April 20.

Elder Law sessions on June 21 will feature Jo Kline Cebuhar, attorney and author. Jo will instruct attorneys on how they can help their clients with health literacy and create a solid plan for medical decision making. Dr. Robert Bender of Broadlawns Geriatric Medicine and Memory Center discusses the many basic ideas about competence and the challenges regarding the patient’s cognitive capacity and the potential for undue influence. Three other sessions cover Medicaid and managed-care grievances and appeals, elder law mediation and legal competency in guardianships and conservatorships.

A full schedule of these and other tracks is available in the Annual Meeting program. Registration is available online, with a $50 late fee assessed for those who sign up after June 5. This year, all CLE sessions will be available free of charge to YLD members in their first three years of practice.

ISBA has room blocks at Hampton Inn and Suites ($144 plus fees), Holiday Inn Mercy Campus ($109 plus fees) and the Des Moines Marriott Downtown ($147 plus fees). Please remember the rates our good until May 28. Make your reservation today.

I.O.W.A. seeks nominations for Mansfield, Rush awards

The Iowa Organization of Women Attorneys (I.O.W.A.) is seeking nominations for its annual Arabelle Mansfield and Gertrude Rush awards to be presented at the group’s annual meeting and awards banquet June 19 at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines. Deadline for submitting nominations is Monday, May 29.

The Mansfield award, started in 2002, and the Rush award, started in 2003, are presented annually to recognize women attorneys in Iowa who have promoted and nurtured women in the legal profession, who demonstrate leadership in the community and in the legal profession and who demonstrate concern for human and civil rights. Mansfield was the first woman lawyer admitted to the practice of law in the United States. Rush was the first African-American woman to be admitted to the practice of law in Iowa, in 1918.

More details about the two women and their accomplishments, and links to nomination forms can be found on the I.O.W.A. website here.

Mortgage release certificate fee increasing

Iowa Title Guaranty recently announced that the application fee for its Mortgage Release Certificate Program will be increasing to $200 on July 1, and will impact all applications received on or after that date. The application fee remains non-refundable and is waived for applications made through the Rapid Certificate Program.

According to Iowa Title Guaranty officials, the release certificate program provides a simple, inexpensive solution for mortgages that have been paid in full but not released or incorrectly released of record. Apply for a certificate online through the Iowa Title Guaranty Resource Desk. Questions should be directed to Halley Ryherd at 515-725-4923.

Legal industry survey results reveal trends among big firms

Altman Weil’s 2017 Law Firms in Transition Survey details a legal market characterized by an erosion of demand for law firm services, increasing price competition, a need for greater efficiency in service delivery, an influx of new kinds of competitors and the unstoppable force of technology innovation.

Now in its ninth year, the survey, which this year polled 386 U.S. law firms, documents trends and opinions. Highlights include:

Chronic under-performance
88 percent of firms say they have chronically under-performing lawyers. Equity partners are not sufficiently busy in 52 percent of firms, and non-equity partners aren’t busy enough in 61 percent of firms. Overcapacity is diluting profitability in 61 percent of law firms.

The levers of profitability
Cutting office space, under-performing lawyers, excess staff, and low-margin practices and offices are yielding immediate bottom-line results. Lateral acquisitions and investments in business development, while widely pursued, are less effective drivers of profitability at least in the short-term.

Linking pricing and efficiency
Only 30 percent of law firms routinely link discounted, capped and alternative fees to changes in how work is staffed and delivered – displaying a critical misunderstanding of the interdependence of the elements of their business models, which include scope, staffing, price, work flows, project management and margin.

Innovative experiments
50 percent of law firms report they are actively engaged in experiments to test innovative ideas and methods. These initiatives run the gamut from technology and data analytics to new business ventures, efficiency, pricing and staffing improvements, and efforts aimed directly at client engagement and retention.

The problem of partner resistance
65 percent of law firm leaders say their partners resist most change efforts, and 56 percent say most partners are unaware of what they might do differently. This reluctance to change is an intractable problem in many law firms.


No. 15-1032
Workers’ compensation insurer appeals judgment on jury verdict awarding actual and punitive damages after district court on summary judgment found insurer in bad faith as a matter of law.

No. 15-1348
A landlord appeals a district court’s ruling on summary judgment that certain lease provisions are prohibited under the Iowa Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and that certified a class of tenants.

No. 15-1350
A landlord appeals a district court’s ruling on summary judgment that certain lease provisions are prohibited under the Iowa Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and that certified a class of tenants.

No. 16-1014
Employer appeals district court judgment upholding local commission’s award of damages to former employee for racial discrimination.

SCOTUS limits venue in patent suits, making it more difficult to file in friendly jurisdictions
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday narrowed the locations where patent infringement suits can be filed in a unanimous decision interpreting conflicting statutes on venue.
ABA Journal

Weil’s fee gutting in Iowa leads to ‘Bargain-Basement’ billing concerns
Few tears will be shed for Weil, Gotshal & Manges after a federal judge slashed in half the firm's $1 million fee payment in an Iowa bankruptcy case. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Anita Shodeen of the Southern District of Iowa, who's overseeing the case, blasted the firm for showing "a distinct lack of billing judgment."
The American Lawyer

As clients press for discounts, are firms too quick to show their cards?
Are some law firms making a mistake by handing clients their billable hour data despite working for flat or fixed fees? If the lawyers don't want to face even tougher discount pressure, the answer may be yes. For clients, the information can be used to calculate and negotiate a lower fee when the next assignment comes around.
The American Lawyer

Why lawyers should care about these weird computers coming out
So, today Microsoft is having its conference in Shanghai to announce new Surface computers. What does that mean for lawyers though, whose Outlook calendars and pleading templates work just as well on a fourth-generation Intel i5 than on a seventh-generation i7? Does it really matter what the new computers are and how fast they can do things?
Above the Law



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Experienced Attorney
Redfern, Mason, Larsen & Moore P.L.C., Cedar Falls, IA

United States Marine Judge Advocate, United States Marine Corps, U.S.

Associate Attorney, Meardon, Sueppel & Downer, P.L.C., Iowa City, IA

Attorney - DeKoter, Thole, Dawson & Rockman, P.L.C., Sibley, IA

Osceola County Attorney -Osceola County, Sibley, IA

Attorney - Caldwell, Brierly, Chalupa & Nuzum, PLLC, Newton, IA

Firm Administrator - Ward, Murray, Pace & Johnson, P.C., Sterling, IL

Exchange Officer - IPE 1031, West Des Moines, IA

Associate Attorney - Stanley, Lande & Hunter, Davenport, IA

Executive Director - Iowa Legal Aid, Des Moines, IA

Associate Attorney - McEnroe, Gotsdiner, Brewer, Steinbach & Rothman, P.C., West Des Moines, IA


The following individual applied for admission on motion to the Iowa Bar:

Todd Steve Okesson, Athene USA, West Des Moines

Anthony F. Porto, III, Kansas City, MO

Luke James Klinker, Fraser Stryker, Omaha, NE

Paula Ann DeGrandis, University of Iowa, Iowa City

James F. Cann, Koley Jessen, Omaha, NE

David Scott Schmitt, Des Moines

Anyone with questions or comments on the above should contact: Dave Ewert at the Office of Professional Regulation, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50319; Phone: 515-725-8029.


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