IAJ Amicus Brief Committee

Committee Objectives and Members

The first stated object of the Iowa Association for Justice is "to uphold and defend the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of Iowa." To that end, in 2010 the Amicus Brief Committee (ABC) was formed to monitor trial court and appellate decisions and submit Amicus Curiae Briefs when significant matters of concern to IAJ membership and the people of the State of Iowa come before the Iowa Appellate Courts.

The ABC is made up of the following members who have volunteered to commit their expertise, their time and their energy to the preparation of briefs, when determined necessary according to the criteria below:

Joel Fenton, Des Moines (chair)
Kodi Brotherson, Sac City
Katie Ervin Carlson, Johnston
George Davison, Des Moines
Marty Diaz, Iowa City
Tom Duff, Des Moines
Jake Feuerhelm, Des Moines
Elaine Gray, Ft. Madison
Andrew Howie, West Des Moines
Steve Lawyer, West Des Moines
Emily McCarty, Johnston
John Moeller, Davenport
Jason Neifert, West Des Moines
Chad Swanson, Waterloo
Eashaan Vajpeyi, Waterloo
Howard Zimmerle, Rock Island, IL
Jessica Zupp, Denison
Jennifer Zupp, Denison

The committee members’ areas of expertise include, but are not limited to: personal injury, insurance/subrogation issues, professional negligence, civil rights/constitutional law, consumer rights, product liability, trial practice generally, punitive damage issues, criminal law, employment law, workers' compensation.

IAJ members are welcome to submit requests for amicus participation to the Chair of the Committee, Joel Fenton. Click here to email Joel. Requests should include information about the case and any briefs that might be applicable to the appeal. All information should be submitted in electronic form.

Information must be submitted in a timely fashion, as well. Under the Iowa Rules of Appellate Procedure, an Amicus Brief can only be filed by leave of Court. Then, if allowed, the brief is due within the same time allowed the party whose position the brief will support at the Court of Appeals level and within 14 days of an order granting further review at the Supreme Court level. Requests received too close to the deadlines or after deadlines make participation difficult or impossible (it is recommended that requests be made within 10 days of docketing).

Once information is received by the Chair, it will be distributed to the ABC members, who will discuss Amicus participation and the availability of a member to prepare a brief. The Committee will take every request seriously and an even-handed approach will be taken to applying the participation criteria to members' requests. If consensus among committee members cannot be reached, a decision will be based on majority vote. The filing of any particular amicus brief is also subject to IAJ’s Executive Board’s approval.

Committee Participation Criteria

  1. How important are the issues on appeal to IAJ and its members? The issue must be of general concern to a large group of the membership and/or be of State wide importance to Iowa citizens in order to be considered for Amicus participation. Participation is more likely to occur when it is necessary to develop an argument or view that is broader than that of a particular litigant.
  2. Have the issues already been addressed by the litigants? As with the courts' own criteria for accepting Amicus Briefs, the Committee is more likely to participate when one litigant's position has not been adequately developed and/or the Committee is able to present a unique perspective or information that will assist the court in assessing the implications of its decision as opposed to when such a brief will merely reiterate one party's arguments or may be perceived as an attempt to expand the number of briefing pages available to one litigant.
  3. Are there qualified volunteer authors available? IAJ Amicus Briefs must be of the highest quality. Although our position may not prevail in every case, IAJ must maintain its status as a true and respected "friend of the court" on issues affecting Iowans. Of primary concern to the Committee, then, is whether there are authors available who can draft a high quality appellate brief regarding an issue in a timely fashion.
  4. Which Court of Appeal is considering the case? More Amicus participation is likely to occur when the Supreme Court is reviewing a case. This is because many of the cases that the Supreme Court does take directly affect the development of tort law. Issues of first impression or issues consistently being raised at the Appellate Court level may warrant Amicus participation as well, however.