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D.D. v. Davenport Community School District

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 24, 2013

D.D., A.D., and DAVID C. ROSTON, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
DAVENPORT COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT and JULIO ALMANZA, Superintendent, Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Nancy Tabor, Judge.

D.D., A.D., and attorney David C. Roston (hereinafter "Plaintiffs") appeal the district court's denial of their motion for attorney's fees in an open records case.

David C. Roston, Coralville, for appellants and appellant pro se.

Mikkie Rae Schiltz of Lane & Waterman, L.L.P., Davenport, for appellees.

Heard by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Danilson and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

D.D., A.D., and attorney David C. Roston (hereinafter "Plaintiffs") appeal the district court's denial of their motion for attorney's fees in an open records case. Plaintiffs presented several arguments concerning the district court's denial of their motion for sanctions. Defendants, Davenport Community School District and Julio Almanza, Superintendent, cross-appeal a prior award of attorney's fees as well as the district court's refusal to levy sanctions against Roston. Because the issue of attorney fees is untimely, it is dismissed, and the cross-appeal lacks merit, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Plaintiffs filed a petition pursuant to the Iowa Open Records Act on October 14, 2010. In the petition the plaintiffs claim to have sent a letter to the Davenport Community School District requesting certain documents under chapter 22 (2009) of the Iowa Code[1] and asking the court to compel compliance by the defendants. Defendants did not initially file an answer. Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment on December 13, 2010, requesting the court find the defendants in default, issue an injunction requiring compliance with the open records request, award attorney fees, and require the payment of court costs. The defendants' answer was filed after the motion for summary judgment was filed. A flurry of filings resulted, including a motion to strike, a resistance, and a reply to the resistance.

On March 18, 2011, the district court ruled on the motion for summary judgment. The court found the defendants had violated the Open Records Act, though it denied their request for damages and injunctive relief. The court further found the plaintiffs were entitled to attorney fees, to be determined upon submission of a proper affidavit. Significant confusion occurred following the summary judgment ruling. The plaintiffs believed the district court's denial of their request for an injunction meant the underlying issue would proceed to trial. The defendants understood the district court's ruling on the issue of the injunction to be a final order concluding all litigation. In replying to the plaintiffs' certification of fees, the defendants requested a clarification from the court on the meaning and effect of the summary judgment ruling.

On June 17, 2011, the district court clarified the summary judgment ruling. In the ruling, the court noted an error on the issue of injunctive relief. Correcting the error, the district court revised the earlier summary judgment ruling and granted the requested injunction, awarding plaintiffs the "full relief requested in their petition, " including attorney's fees in the amount of $9, 692.46. An injunction was filed ten days later. No appeal was taken from the June 17, 2011, ruling.

On June 30, 2011, the plaintiffs filed a motion requesting additional attorney fees for the period from March 18, 2011, the date of the original summary judgment ruling, through June 28, 2011. The district court denied the request on August 8, 2011. The plaintiffs then filed a motion to reconsider, which was resisted by the defendants. In their resistance defendants also requested the imposition of sanctions. The motion to reconsider was denied on September 13, 2011; however, the clerk of court failed to notify the parties of the ruling. Three months later, on December 13, 2011, the court entered an order finding there were no further issues for the court to decide. It was at this time the parties became aware of the September 13, 2011 ruling.

Plaintiffs filed a motion to extend the time for filing a notice of appeal under Iowa Rule of Appellate Procedure 6.101(5). On January 19, 2012 our supreme court granted the motion, providing the plaintiffs with ten days to file their notice of appeal. The plaintiffs filed their appeal on February 1, ...


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