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Van Hamm, L.L.C. v. Iowa District Court For Keokuk County

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 25, 2017

VAN HAMM, L.L.C., d/b/a NEIGHBORS GAS & GRILL, Plaintiff,
v.
IOWA DISTRICT COURT FOR KEOKUK COUNTY, Defendant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Keokuk County, Joel Yates, Judge.

         Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of certiorari claiming the district court illegally granted an attorney's request to view a county attorney's criminal file.WRIT SUSTAINED.

          Mark J. Wiedenfeld and Joshua R. Strief of Elverson, Vasey, Wiedenfeld & Abbot, Des Moines, for plaintiff.

          Matthew B. Moore of The Law Offices of Matthew B. Moore, P.L.L.C., Oskaloosa, for defendant.

          Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         Van Hamm, L.L.C., doing business as Neighbors Gas and Grill, filed a petition for writ of certiorari claiming the district court illegally granted an attorney's request to view a county attorney's criminal file in anticipation of filing a dram shop action against Van Hamm. Prelitigation discovery is permitted by the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure in limited circumstances, which are not applicable to the current situation. We determine the writ of certiorari should be sustained.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         On April 2, 2015, there was an altercation between Justin Shipley and Nathan Slagter outside Neighbors Gas and Grill in Delta, Iowa. There was a criminal prosecution against Shipley as a result of the incident. Slagter gave notice to Van Hamm he intended to file a dram shop action, claiming Shipley had been served liquor while he was intoxicated or to the point he became intoxicated. Prior to filing the dram shop action, Slagter sought the Keokuk County Attorney's file from the criminal prosecution of Shipley. The county attorney requested a court order prior to releasing the investigative materials.

         On January 26, 2017, Slagter filed a "friendly" application requesting the court issue a subpoena, pursuant to Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure 1.722 and 1.723, permitting him to obtain:

the documents and data obtained and/or created and in the custody and control of the law enforcement authority responsible for its creation and preservation including, but not limited to, photographs; video, CDs of unknown content; reports; interviews with witnesses; and other evidence that is currently incapable of determination at this time due to the refusal of the Keokuk County Attorney's Office to produce the same absent a subpoena.

         The application stated the request was not for the purpose of discovery and was made in order to prevent delay and promote justice. Van Hamm filed a motion to quash the subpoena, claiming Slagter's application was improper under the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure.

         A hearing was held on February 17, 2017.[1] The court denied the motion to quash but stated the information would be provided to Slagter in a controlled setting. The court directed Slagter, Van Hamm, and the county attorney to meet at the Keokuk County Courthouse to permit inspection of the county attorney's material. The court stated no copies of the material could be made and the material could not leave the courthouse.

         Van Hamm filed a petition for writ of certiorari, claiming the district court exceeded its authority, and requested a stay of the proceedings. Slagter resisted the petition and stay.[2] The Iowa Supreme Court granted the petition for writ of certiorari and granted a stay during the pendency of the appeal. See Iowa ...


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