from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, James C.
from the denial of an application for postconviction relief
filed pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 822 (2015).
Blair III of Blair & Fitzsimmons, P.C., Dubuque, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
Robinson was convicted of first-degree kidnapping in 2012.
This court affirmed his conviction on direct appeal. See
State v. Robinson (Robinson I), No. 12-1323,
2014 WL 251909, at *5 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 23, 2014). On
further review, the supreme court vacated Robinson's
conviction for kidnapping and remanded the matter. See
State v. Robinson (Robinson II), 859 N.W.2d
464, 482 (Iowa 2015). After remand, Robinson was convicted of
sexual abuse in the third degree and sentenced to an
indeterminate term of incarceration not to exceed ten years.
See State v. Robinson (Robinson III), No.
15-0614, 2016 WL 1130611, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 23,
appeal arises out of Robinson's application for
postconviction relief. In his application, Robinson asserted
numerous claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel.
Robinson's postconviction counsel asserted additional
claims on Robinson's behalf. The postconviction matter
came on for trial. The district court heard the testimony of
Robinson's trial counsel. The district court received
into evidence certain exhibits related to trial counsel's
representation of Robinson. The criminal file was not made
part of the postconviction record because it was unavailable.
The docket reflects that, during the pendency of the
postconviction proceeding, the criminal file was in the
possession of the Clerk of the Supreme Court while
Robinson III was pending. Nonetheless, without
access to the file, the district court denied each of
Robinson's claims for postconviction relief. Robinson
timely filed this appeal.
court is unable to exercise meaningful appellate review of
the postconviction-relief proceeding under the circumstances
presented. Because the criminal file was not part of the
postconviction record, the criminal file is not in the
appellate record. Here, most, if not all, of Robinson's
claims cannot be resolved or properly resolved without access
to the underlying criminal file. To cite but one example,
Robinson contends his trial counsel suffered from a conflict
of interest because trial counsel had a personal and
professional relationship with the victim's mother. It is
possible trial counsel's cross-examination of the victim
was compromised due to trial counsel's relationship with
the victim's mother that resulted in prejudice to
Robinson's case. Without access to the file and
transcript, however, the issue cannot be resolved without
resort to speculation.
whose head should responsibility lie for the failure to make
the necessary record? "Both parties were under a duty to
provide the district court with the record on which to
review" the claims for postconviction relief. State
v. Allen, 402 N.W.2d 438, 443 (Iowa 1987). Robinson was
required to set forth the grounds and facts in support of his
application for postconviction relief. See Iowa Code
§ 822.4 (2015); Allen, 402 N.W.2d at 443. The
State was required to "file with its answer the record
or portions thereof that are material to the questions raised
in the application" if the "application [was] not
accompanied by the record of the proceedings challenged
therein." Iowa Code § 822.6; see Allen,
402 N.W.2d at 443. The postconviction court had a concomitant
responsibility to ensure the parties made of record those
parts of the criminal file material to the disposition of the
the limited circumstances presented here, where the
underlying criminal file was "material to the questions
raised in the application, " where the physical file was
not available to the parties, and where the lost records
exception was inapplicable, see, e.g., State v.
McKnight, 356 N.W.2d 532, 534-35 (Iowa 1984), we
conclude the district court erred in disposing of
Robinson's application for postconviction relief without
resort to the underlying criminal file. Where, as here, the
necessary record was temporarily unavailable, the district
court should have stayed the proceedings or reserved ruling
until the necessary record became available. We thus reverse
and remand this matter to allow the parties to provide the
district court with the record and to allow the district
court to consider each of Robinson's claims in light of
the record provided. See Allen, 402 N.W.2d at 443-
44; Saul v. State, No. 14-0962, 2015 WL 3624119, at
*3 (Iowa Ct. App. June 10, 2015) (reversing denial of
application for postconviction relief where the parties
failed to make available transcript of plea proceeding in
challenge to adequacy of factual basis for guilty plea).