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Weekend feature: Iowa Supreme Court holds historic hearings in Toledo

April 19, 2014
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Court was in session Wednesday night, April 9, at the Wieting Theatre in Toledo. It wasn't Paul Newman on the silver screen. Iowa's Supreme Court Justices heard oral arguments in a pair of unrelated cases. Retired Toledo attorney James Roan was the host for the Supreme Court appearance. Steve Kenkel, a Toledo attorney, explained the working of the proceedings and 6th Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Grady made introductions.

A crowd estimated at more than 150 then listened as attorneys for each side presented their sides of the stories. Each attorney is allowed 15 minutes and the attorney representing the case under appeal is allowed an additional five minutes for rebuttal.

Chief Justice Mark Cady explained the proceedings here are part of an ongoing outreach to allow Iowans to become more familiar with how the Supreme Court operates. Justices said Wednesday while their proceedings in Des Moines are open to the public, they don't expect many "to get up in the morning and drive to Des Moines for 9 a.m. oral arguments."

Article Photos

The Iowa Supreme Court is in session at the Wieting Theatre in Toledo on Wednesday, April 9. The court conducts four or five court appearances acrosss the state each year Chief Justice Mark Cady said. Chronicle photos/John Speer

The proceedings were found to be far from just a couple of lengthy speeches filled with legal jargon.

Not long after the attorneys begin their arguments, the Justices are jumping in and pepper the attorneys with questions to the surprise of at least some of the audience.

The questions sounded to be a test not only of the cases but, in some cases of the preparation and research of the attorneys appearing.

Both a criminal and a civil case were heard Wednesday night.

One involved whether defendant Nathan Olsen should have been convicted on the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Olsen was represented by Cedar Rapids lawyers Alfred Willett and Keith Larson, with Willett presenting the case. Assistant Attorney General Heather Quick, Des moines, represented the prosecution.

Olsen was granted a deferred judgment on a felony count in Wisconsin and questions arose whether he was actually ever deemed guilty there. It was reported to the court a Wisconsin judge had told Olsen he could go hunting. He did so. In iowa. His attorney told the Iowa Supreme Court an Iowa felony conviction will result in a probation revocation in Wisconsin and he could face up to 50 years in prison there. The prosecution maintains Olsen violated Iowa law which does not allow felons to possess firearms.

The second case arose from a Benton County case, Hussemann vs. Hussemann. Daniel Scufferlein, Cedar Rapids, was the attorney for Velma Hussemann. Attorneys for the Herbert Hussemann Trust were Amy Van Wechel and Mark Mossman, Vinton. Van Wechel presented the arguments.

The Hussemanns, a married couple living in Florida signed a post-nuptial agreement after being married in Florida in the 1990s. They moved to Benton county in 2005. He died and the widow was denied a share of her late husband's trust based upon their post-nuptial agreement. The State of Iowa public policy does not recognize post-nuptial agreements as valid. Should the Hussemanns' freely-signed contract be valid or should Iowa policy prevail?

Chief justice Mark Cady said the court would rule on the cases in June.

Following the court session, the judges attended a reception hosted by the Wieting Theatre Guild at the Toledo Community Building. This carried something of a second surprise. To the Justice, each of the seven mingled freely with local residents, answered questions and shared court stories.

The Justices were scheduled to split up to go to area high schools on Thursday to meet with students.



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