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The district court order disqualifying an attorney from representing a criminal defendant, based primarily on speculative evidence of a potential conflict, constituted “an untenable ground for the district court to exercise its discretion.” The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting the State’s motion to disqualify attorney Steven Gardner from defending Carlos Ramon Mulatillo on felony drug charges. Less than two weeks before the jury trial was to commence, Mulatillo and Gardner were informed of the name of a confidential informant and the potential conflict of interest between Gardner and this individual. Gardner had previously represented the confidential informant for approximately one month on felony drug charges. After a Watson hearing, the district court concluded that there was a serious potential for a conflict of interest that precluded Gardner from representing Mulatillo. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the evidence provided by the State did not rise to the level of substantial evidence that was necessary to prove that Gardner’s continued representation of Mulatillo created a serious potential for an actual conflict of interest. View "State v. Mulatillo" on Justia Law

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The gestational surrogacy contract in the instant case was legally enforceable in favor of the intended, biological father against a surrogate mother and her husband who were not the child’s genetic parents. Plaintiffs were a married couple who signed a contract with Defendants, the surrogate mother and her husband. The surrogate mother was impregnated with embryos fertilized with the plaintiff-father’s sperm and the eggs of an anonymous donor. After one surviving child was born, Defendants refused to honor the agreement. Plaintiffs sued to enforce the contract and gain custody of the child. The district court concluded that the contract was enforceable, terminated the presumptive parental rights of the surrogate mother and her husband, established paternity in the biological father, and awarded him permanent legal and physical custody. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly established paternity in the biological father based on the undisputed DNA evidence, terminated the presumptive parental rights of Defendants and awarded permanent custody to the biological, intended father. A contrary holding invaliding surrogacy contracts would deprive infertile couples of the opportunity to raise their own biological children and limit the personal autonomy of women willing to serve as surrogates. View "P.M. v. T.B." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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After Defendant’s initial sentence was voided for illegality, the district court resentenced Defendant to a new term of imprisonment. The district court originally suspended Defendant’s prison sentence and instead ordered a five-year term of probation. Upon resentencing, the court refused to credit the time Defendant spent on probation pursuant to the initial sentence against the new term of imprisonment. The Supreme Court held that the failure to award credit for the time spent on probation violated Defendant’s constitutional right to be free from double jeopardy under the Fifth Amendment. The court held that all time Defendant spent on probation pursuant to the voided sentence must be fully credited against a corrected sentence of incarceration because, when an initial sentence is voided for illegality, any punishments already endured must be credited against the corrected sentence. The dissent disagreed, arguing that probation should not be equated with punishment in the same way incarceration is considered for double jeopardy purposes. View "State v. Jepsen" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a conceded error in the admission of evidence in this criminal case was harmless. Defendant was charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI), third offense. During trial, the district court admitted, over Defendant’s objection, the results of Defendant’s breath test. The jury found Defendant guilty. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erroneously admitted the test result in light of Iowa Code 321J.5(2). On appeal, the State conceded that the test results should not have been admitted but that Defendant failed to preserve error below or, alternatively, any error was harmless. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that Defendant did preserve error and that the error was not harmless. View "State v. Ness" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was whether the magistrate court had subject matter jurisdiction to extend a no-contact order in a simple misdemeanor case under Iowa Code chapter 664A and whether a right to appeal exists from the extension of a no-contact order in a simple misdemeanor case. Defendant appealed from a district court order affirming a magistrate’s extension of a no-contact order for five years. The Supreme Court reversed the district court order extending the no-contact order and remanded the case for entry of an order terminating the no-contact order. The court held (1) the magistrate had subject matter jurisdiction to extend the no-contact order under chapter 664A; but (2) the district court’s findings of fact and decision were not supported by substantial evidence in the record. View "State v. Vance" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction for operating while intoxicated (OWI), second offense, and the sentence imposed on the OWI second offense charge. Defendant was convicted of the charge after he stipulated that he had previously been convicted of OWI. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the district court failed to engage in a sufficient colloquy to ensure the stipulation was made voluntarily and intelligently. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the prior conviction stipulation colloquy was insufficient to establish that Defendant’s stipulation was voluntarily and knowingly made. The court remanded the case for prior offense enhancement proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "State v. Brewster" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for failure to comply with the sex offender registry but vacated the district court sentence, which included sentencing enhancements, and remanded for further sentencing proceedings. The court held (1) despite the legislature’s ambiguous language in Iowa Code 692A.105, the legislature intended for registered sex offenders to provide notification of a change to temporary lodgings within five business days of that change; (2) the evidence was sufficient to show Defendant failed to comply with section 692A.105; (3) the district court properly instructed the jury regarding the applicable law; (4) any alleged prosecutorial misconduct did not prejudice Defendant; (5) Defendant’s stipulations to the sentencing enhancements were meaningless without a factual basis establishing whether he was represented by counsel for his prior convictions, and therefore, the case should be remanded to establish a factual basis on this sentencing issue; and (6) Defendant’s remaining claims of ineffective assistance of counsel failed. View "State v. Coleman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction for indecent exposure due to ineffective assistance of counsel and vacated the portion of the district court’s sentence imposing a surcharge for Defendant’s stalking conviction and remanded for the entry of a corrected sentence. Defendant was convicted of indecent exposure and stalking. As relevant to this appeal, the trial court imposed a $100 surcharge on Defendant’s stalking conviction under Iowa Code 911.2B. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment in part and vacated the sentence in part, holding (1) Defendant’s counsel was ineffective as a matter of law by failing to challenge, in a motion for judgment of acquittal, the sufficiency of the evidence of indecent exposure; and (2) the imposition of the second 911.2B surcharge violated the Ex Post Facto Clause. View "State v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s second-degree robbery conviction and remanded for entry of a judgment of conviction for third-degree robbery and resentencing. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in giving jury instructions on second- and third-degree robbery that failed to differentiate between those offenses. On review, the court held (1) the instruction on second-degree robbery as given did not accurately state the law; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support a finding of simple assault and conviction for third-degree robbery but insufficient to support the conviction for second-degree robbery; and (3) Defendant’s vagueness challenge to the robbery statutes failed. View "State v. Ortiz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The district court abused its discretion by awarding attorney fees beyond those caused by violations of Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.413 or necessary to deter similar misconduct and by relying on a letter the sanctioned party’s president sent to the Supreme Court after it denied review in in the first appellate decision in this case. In this quiet-title action, the district court awarded attorney fees and expenses of $145,427 as a sanction for frivolous court filings in violation of Rule 1.413. The appellate court affirmed in part the rulings and remanded the case. On remand, the district court made more specific factual findings. On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed the sanction award. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the amount awarded was excessive. The Supreme court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and modified the district court’s sanction award, holding that the appropriate sanction was $30,000. View "First American Bank v. Fobian Farms, Inc." on Justia Law