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Hays v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 22, 2017

JACK LEONARD HAYS, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeanie K. Vaudt, Judge.

         An applicant appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief. AFFIRMED.

          Karmen R. Anderson of The Law Office of Karmen Anderson, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle P. Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., Potterfield, J., and Scott, S.J. Mullins, J., takes no part.

          PER CURIAM.

         Jack Hays appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief (PCR). He asserts the district court judge should have recused herself from hearing his postconviction matter because she worked for the attorney general's office at the time his direct appeal was pending. He also asserts his PCR counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to be prepared for the PCR trial, resulting in structural error.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Hays was convicted of three counts of second-degree sexual abuse and one count of first-degree burglary. See State v. Hays, No. 11-0669, 2012 WL 4513885, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 3, 2012). The facts of the underlying criminal case are not pertinent to this PCR appeal and need not be repeated here. See id. at *1-4. In July 2013, Hays filed a PCR application raising a number of constitutional claims. He also filed motions to recuse the PCR judge in light of the judge's employment with the attorney general's office at the time Hays's direct appeal was pending. The court denied the recusal motions. The matter proceeded to trial on December 21, 2015, and the PCR court issued a decision denying the application on March 22, 2016. Hays filed a posttrial motion to amend and enlarge, which was denied by the PCR court. Hays now appeals.

         II. Scope and Standard of Review.

         Our review of the district court's denial of a recusal motion is for an abuse of discretion. State v. Millsap, 704 N.W.2d 426, 432 (Iowa 2005). "The court abuses its discretion when its decision is based on untenable grounds or it has acted unreasonably. 'A ground or reason is untenable when it is not supported by substantial evidence or when it is based on an erroneous application of the law.'" Id. (citations omitted).

         Our review of a claim of ineffective assistance of postconviction counsel is de novo. Lado v. State, 804 N.W.2d 248, 250 (Iowa 2011).

         III. Recusal.

         Hays asserts the PCR court should have granted his motion for recusal because the judge was an attorney with the attorney general's office at the time his direct appeal was pending and, as such, had privity with the attorneys representing the State against him.[1] In denying the motion, the district court stated it found "no basis" for recusal and ...


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