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Simon Seeding & Sod, Inc. v. Dubuque Human Rights Commission

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 12, 2018

SIMON SEEDING & SOD, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DUBUQUE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION and JERMAINE STAPLETON, Defendants-Appellants.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Michael J. Shubatt, Judge.

         Jermaine Stapleton appeals the district court's ruling denying his application for appellate attorney fees.

          Charles E. Gribble and Christopher C. Stewart of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann, LLP, Des Moines, for appellant Stapleton.

          Erik W. Fern of Putnam, Fern & Thompson Law Office, PLLC, Decorah, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Jermaine Stapleton filed a race discrimination complaint with the Dubuque Human Rights Commission, naming Simon Seeding & Sod, Inc. as the violator. He prevailed and was awarded attorney fees in connection with the administrative and judicial review proceedings. The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed the awards. See Simon Seeding & Sod, Inc. v. Dubuque Human Rights Comm'n, 895 N.W.2d 446, 451 -55 (Iowa 2017). Stapleton did not ask the supreme court to grant attorney fees in connection with that appeal, and the opinion was silent on the issue.

         After the court filed its opinion but before procedendo issued, Stapleton filed an affidavit in the district court requesting $7065 in appellate attorney fees. Following issuance of procedendo, the district court denied the fee application. The court reasoned it lacked authority to make an award absent an appellate remand to consider the issue. In pertinent part, the court stated:

The Supreme Court did not remand the case to the District Court with a direction to make a determination regarding appellate attorney fees and impose a judgment for same. This is reflected in both the decision and the procedendo. The procedendo states that the appeal was concluded and directs the District Court "to proceed in the manner required by law and consistent with the opinion of the (appellate) court."
. . . .
In the present case, there was no remand or direction given to the District Court. . . .
. . . .
The Court accepts the proposition that a party may be entitled to appellate attorney fees in cases of this nature. However, for the reasons stated above, the Court has no authority to impose them at this stage of the proceedings. Accordingly, Stapleton's application for attorney fees is denied.

         On appeal, Stapleton contends "the district court erred in failing to award appellate attorney fees after the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed the underlying issues on all counts."[1] Stapleton concedes the supreme court opinion "was silent on an award of appellate attorney fees for that specific appeal." But, in his view, the district court "retain[ed] jurisdiction to proceed as ...


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