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Plaintiff brought claims against her former attorney for legal malpractice. The district court submitted to the jury four claims (1) legal malpractice in Defendant’s representation of Plaintiff in her divorce, (2) legal malpractice in Defendant’s representation of Plaintiff in her potential claim for assault and battery against her ex-husband, (3) assault and battery by Defendant, and (4) punitive damages. The jury returned verdicts for Defendant on the legal malpractice claims and verdicts for Plaintiff on the assault and battery and punitive damages claims. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in the district court rulings granting motions for directed verdict on certain claims; (2) the evidentiary rulings of the district court were not in error; and (3) while Defendant’s cross-appeal was untimely, on the merits, the award of actual damages and punitive damages did not exceed the range permitted by the evidence. View "Stender v. Blessum" on Justia Law

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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lacked statutory authority to issue an emergency order that imposed a quarantine on land used as a whitetail deer-hunting preserve. Landowners challenged an emergency order issued by the DNR to order Landowners to quarantine land formerly used as a whitetail deer preserve for five years after the deer harvested on the property tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). An administrative law judge found that the DNR lacked the statutory authority to issue the emergency order, but the Iowa Natural Resources Commission (NRC) reversed. The district court reversed the NRC, holding that, in issuing the quarantine order, the DNR was acting outside the legislature’s grant of authority. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the DNR lacked the authority to issue the emergency order and that the emergency order did not amount to an impermissible taking under the United States or Iowa Constitutions. View "Brakke v. Iowa Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to attempted murder and burglary in the second degree for a crime he committed when he was a juvenile. Following a resentencing hearing, the district court sentenced Defendant to a term of incarceration of twenty-five years for attempted murder, with seventy percent of the sentence to be served prior to parole eligibility. Defendant appealed, arguing that the district court failed properly to apply the relevant sentencing factors in sentencing him to a period of incarceration without eligibility for parole. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s sentence and remanded for resentencing consistent with the sentencing factors as explained in State v. Roby, __ N.W.2d __ (Iowa 2017), also filed today, holding that the district court abused its discretion in imposing a minimum period of incarceration without eligibility for parole where the court (1) misapplied the relevant factors identified and explained in Roby; and (2) failed to consider some of the relevant factors and gave improper weight to factors beyond those described in Roby. View "State v. Majors" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Iowa Const. art. I, section 17 does not categorically prohibit a district court form sentencing a juvenile offender to a minimum term of incarceration without the possibility of parole, provided that the court only imposes the sentence after a complete and careful consideration of the relevant mitigating factors of youth. Defendant, who was a juvenile at the time of his offense, was resentenced to a minimum term of incarceration of seventeen and one-half years for sexual abuse in the second degree. Defendant appealed, arguing that any minimum term of incarceration without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional. The court of appeals affirmed the sentence. The Supreme Court remanded for resentencing, holding that, while the Iowa Constitution does not require abandonment of the practice at issue, the district court abused its discretion in this case by imposing a sentence of incarceration without parole eligibility. View "State v. Roby" on Justia Law

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A civil service employee may enter into a valid last-chance agreement, which remains subject to principles of contract law, and the civil service commission need not sanction the agreement for it to be effective. A municipal firefighter pled guilty to domestic abuse assault. The municipality offered to discipline him instead of terminating his employment but required that the firefighter agree that the municipality have the discretion to terminate him immediately and without appeal if he violated the related no-contact order. The firefighter agreed to the proposal and signed a written "last-chance agreement." One year later, the firefighter violated the no-contact order, and the municipality terminated the firefighter’s employment in reliance on the agreement. The firefighter attempted to appeal, but the civil service commission declined to hear the appeal. The district court, however, concluded that the last-chance agreement was invalid because the commission had not approved or reviewed it before the parties entered into it. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the last-chance agreement in this case was valid and enforceable. View "Whitwer v. Civil Service Commission of the City of Sioux City" on Justia Law

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Defendant did not have a right to counsel under Iowa Const. art. I, section 10 when he voluntarily participated in a noncustodial police interview under the supervision of an Iowa county attorney even though the State’s criminal investigation was focusing on Defendant as the primary suspect at the time. Defendant was found guilty of murder in the first degree. During trial, the district court instructed the jury that it could infer Defendant acted with malice aforethought from his use of a baseball bat. The jury found Defendant killed the victim without justification and with malice aforethought. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment and sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the level of prosecutorial involvement at the time of the interview did not create a prosecution or case that would trigger the right to counsel under article I, section 10; and (2) the jury could properly infer malice aforethought from Defendant’s use of a deadly weapon even though Defendant did not bring the weapon to the encounter. View "State v. Green" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Defendant must be allowed to withdraw his plea of guilty to a criminal offense because Defendant would not have accepted the plea agreement if he had been provided the effective assistance of counsel to which he was constitutionally entitled. Defendant, who entered the United States without examination by the Department of Homeland Security, pleaded guilty to aggravated misdemeanor forgery. Based on this conviction, he was removed from the United States to Mexico. After Defendant returned to the United States he filed for postconviction relief, asserting that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel because counsel did not advise him pleading guilty to an aggravated felony has severe immigration consequences. The district court agreed and vacated Defendant’s conviction. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals, affirmed the district court, and remanded to allow Defendant to withdraw his plea and stand for trial, holding that counsel provided constitutionally deficient performance, and this deficiency resulted in prejudice. View "Diaz v. State" on Justia Law

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Iowa’s forgery statute is preempted on its face by federal immigration law. Further, Iowa’s identity theft statute is field preempted as applied in this case, and enforcement of the identity theft statute is conflict preempted in this case. Appellant was an undocumented citizen who was brought to Iowa by her parents when she was eleven years old. Appellant was educated in Iowa public schools, lived in Iowa continuously, and was a mother of four children who were United States citizens. Appellant applied for and received temporary lawful immigration status from the Department of Homeland Security pursuant to the Department’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Appellant was later prosecuted by the State for using false documents to obtain federal employment authorization. Appellant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that federal law preempted her prosecution under the Iowa identity theft and forgery statutes. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the charges of identity theft and forgery were state crimes independent of Appellant’s immigration status. The Supreme Court reversed. View "State v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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In this premises liability action, the district court entered judgment finding that a high school’s negligence was responsible for injuries sustained by a high school baseball player after a foul ball struck him while he was standing in an unprotected part of the visitor’s dugout at the high school’s baseball field. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the high school owed a duty of care to the player, and substantial evidence supported the jury verdict; but (2) the district court abused its discretion in not allowing the high school to present evidence of custom and erred when it failed to instruct the jury on the player’s failure to maintain a proper lookout. The court remanded the case to the district court for a new trial. View "Ludman v. Davenport Assumption High School" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Parents of a child born with severe disabilities may bring a wrongful birth claim based on the physicians’ failure to inform them of prenatal test results showing a congenital defect that would have led them to terminate the pregnancy. Plaintiff filed suit against several medical defendants, alleging that the doctors negligently failed to accurately interpret, diagnose, and respond to fetal abnormalities in her ultrasound and that, as a result of this negligent care, Plaintiff gave birth to a child with severe brain abnormalities. The district court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Iowa has not recognized “wrongful birth” as a cause of action. On appeal, Defendants alleged that a wrongful birth claim is a new cause of action unsupported by Iowa law. Plaintiffs, in turn, noted a clear majority of other jurisdictions allow parents to sue under these facts. The Supreme Court held that wrongful birth fits within common law tort principles governing medical negligence claims, and no public policy or statute precludes the cause of action. The Supreme Court thus reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Defendants, holding that wrongful birth is a cognizable claim under Iowa law. View "Plowman v. Fort Madison Community Hospital" on Justia Law