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Mott v. State

Court of Appeal of Iowa

November 6, 2013

HARLAN MOTT, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert B. Hanson, Judge.

Harlan Mott appeals the district court order dismissing his application for postconviction relief.

Thomas P. Graves of Graves Law Firm, P.C., Clive, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Jeffrey K. Noble, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

Harlan Mott appeals the district court order dismissing his application for postconviction relief. He argues the district court erred in granting the State's motion for default judgment. Because we find it was error to enter a default judgment against a represented applicant who failed to appear for trial, we reverse and remand.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

On June 1, 2007, Harlan Mott was convicted of kidnapping in the first degree and assault causing bodily injury. Mott was sentenced to life in prison, and the conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Mott, 759 N.W.2d 140 (Iowa Ct. App. 2008). On January 15, 2009, Mott filed an application for postconviction relief. Trial was initially scheduled for March 22, 2010; however, the trial was continued several times.

Trial was to be held on March 15, 2012. Mott was scheduled to appear via the prison ICN;[1] however, he was not allowed to do so after he failed to comply with search requirements imposed by the staff. After a brief discussion on the record, the district court granted the State time to research whether a motion for default judgment was proper due to Mott's absence. The State filed the motion, and a hearing was held on July 6, 2012.[2] Mott appeared at the hearing telephonically and testified regarding the circumstances of his failure to appear at the March 15, 2012 trial.

The district court entered a ruling granting the default judgment on July 12, 2012.

II. Standard of Review

We review the district court's decision to grant a motion for default judgment for an abuse of discretion. Wilson v. Liberty Mut. ...


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