June 2014

June 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Says Inherited IRA's Not Exempt in Bankruptcy

On June 12, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a bankruptcy debtor’s inherited IRA does not constitute “retirement funds” and, as such, is not exempt from creditors.  The Court’s opinion has planning implications for clients, but the Court’s holding may not have application to debtors in all states.  

The debtor's mother established a traditional IRA and named her daughter (the debtor) as the sole beneficiary.  About a year later, the mother died and the IRA account containing approximately $450,000 passed to the daughter as an inherited IRA which the daughter rolled into her own IRA. The daughter elected to take monthly distributions from the account before retiring. Approximately nine years later, the daughter (and her husband) filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy and claimed the IRA account (with a balance of approximately $300,000 at the time) as an exempt asset by virtue of 11 U.S.C. §522(b)(3)(C).  

Read more.


Iowa Supreme Court Says That The Federal Clean Air Act Does Not Preempt State Common Law Claims Against Grain Processor

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that neither the federal Clean Air Act (CAA), nor its Iowa counterpart, Iowa Code chapter 455B, preempts state common law claims alleging negligence, nuisance, or trespass. In so holding, the Court denied summary judgment to a grain processing company and allowed a lawsuit demanding injunctive and monetary relief filed by eight Muscatine residents to continue.  The court’s opinion has significant implications for agricultural activities in Iowa that could give rise to claims under the CAA.

For the past 30 years, the grain processing company operated a corn wet milling facility in Muscatine, turning corn kernels into products for commercial and industrial use. In 2011, the Iowa Attorney General, on behalf of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, filed an action against the company, seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties stemming from the company’s alleged violations of the CAA and the Clean Water Act (CWA). In 2012, eight Muscatine residents filed a putative class action against the company, seeking injunctive relief and actual and punitive damages for common law and statutory nuisance, trespass, and negligence.  Read more.


Iowa Supreme Court Opens the Door to More Post-Conviction Challenges Based Upon Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

In what can be characterized as a startling departure from established case law, the Iowa Supreme Court found on June 13 in Rhoades v. State that a criminal defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel because his attorney failed to predict how the Court’s interpretation of the law would evolve five years later. This case has tremendous implications for our readers practicing criminal or appellate law or for those prosecuting crimes.

Defendants convicted of state crimes may appeal those convictions. Once direct appeals are exhausted, the defendant has a final attempt at a state court remedy: post-conviction relief. A post-conviction proceeding does not open the case for reconsideration of the verdict. The sufficiency of the evidence to convict the defendant is not at issue. Such questions can be addressed only on direct appeal.  Rather, the post-conviction application is a collateral attack on the judgment, successful only, for example, if the applicant can show that the conviction violated Iowa or federal statutory or constitutional law.  Post-conviction relief is almost always denied. Read more.

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