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Iowa Business Specialty Court Pilot Project Opens for Business May 1 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Iowa Judical Branch   
Monday, 29 April 2013 15:17

Des Moines, April 29, 2013 —The Iowa Business Specialty Court Pilot Project will begin accepting qualifying cases Wednesday, May 1. The three-year pilot project will accept a broad range of qualifying complex commercial cases with $200,000 or more in dispute and will be staffed by judges specially trained in the complex issues facing businesses.


The supreme court, with assistance from the state court administrator, selected three outstanding judges to preside over the business court docket. The selection was based on the judges' educational background, judicial and trial practice experience in complex commercial cases, and personal interest in the project. The judges are Michael Huppert, of Des Moines; Annette Scieszinski, of Albia; and John Telleen, of LeClaire.


The three judges and Iowa Supreme Court Justice Daryl Hecht, who chaired the Iowa Civil Justice Reform Task Force, will be available to the media for interviews during a 3:30 p.m. conference call May 1. Members of the media interested in joining the conference call should contact Iowa Judicial Branch Communications Officer Steve Davis at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 515-725-8058. Biographies of each of the judges are at the end of this news release. Group and individual photographs of the judges are also available.


In August 2010, the 84 member Iowa Civil Justice Reform Task Force was formed to study and consider court innovations to make Iowa's civil justice system faster, less complicated, more affordable, and better equipped to handle the demands of Iowa litigants and users of the civil justice system. The membership represented business, labor, medicine, industry, consumer groups, the bench and the bar. For more than a year, the task force studied innovative litigation procedures and programs that have been implemented in other parts of the country. One of the recommendations of the task force was a business specialty court pilot project.


The Iowa Supreme Court formalized the three-year pilot project by supervisory order on December 21, 2012. The pilot project's memorandum of operation, details on the criteria for case eligibility, the joint consent form used for transferring cases to the business court, and additional information about the pilot project are posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at:


Business Court Judges

District Judge, Michael D. Huppert, Polk County

Business Court Judge Michael D. Huppert was appointed to the district court bench in December of 1999 and serves Iowa's 5th Judicial District. He earned his bachelor's degree summa cum laude from Drake University in 1979, and his law degree from Drake University Law School in 1982, where he was inducted into the Order of the Coif.


Prior to his appointment to the bench, Judge Huppert was a partner with the Patterson Law Firm in Des Moines, where he maintained a general civil litigation practice with emphasis in insurance defense, commercial litigation, real estate, and debtor-creditor relations. During his tenure as an attorney, he was also responsible for managing an asbestos litigation caseload of approximately 1,000 cases in state and federal court. During his judicial career, Judge Huppert has presided over a wide range of cases that would currently qualify for inclusion in the Business Court program, including matters with issues such as breach of commercial contracts, banking transactions, certification of class actions, and complex insurance coverage issues.


Judge Huppert is a member of The Iowa State Bar Association, the Polk County Bar Association, the American Judicature Society, and the American College of Business Court Judges. He is also a member and former director of the Iowa Judges Association and currently serves that organization as the chair of its Legislative Policy committee. He is a Master of the Bench and former president of the C. Edwin Moore American Inn of Court.


District Judge, Annette J. Scieszinski, Monroe County

Business Court Judge Annette J. Scieszinski is in her 17th year serving Iowa's 8th Judicial District. She graduated valedictorian of her class from Winfield-Mt. Union High School in 1973, graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College in 1977, and received her law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1980, where she served on the editorial board of the Iowa Law Review.


Judge Scieszinski practiced law for 15 years in Albia, and was elected Monroe County Attorney for two terms.   She has served in many civic roles and has been appointed to several state leadership posts, including President of the Iowa Judges Association in 2004.   In her work with The Iowa State Bar Association, Judge Scieszinski has guided programming at the statewide Bench-Bar Conference for many years and continues to be active on the Board of Directors of the Public Service Project. Judge Scieszinski brings a broad variety of case and trial management experience to the business court, with an emphasis on expeditious and cost effective trial practices.


Judge Scieszinski is a frequent speaker on professionalism and ethics for lawyers and judges, both in Iowa and nationally. She represented Iowa judges at the first National Conference on Public Trust and Confidence in the Courts. She is an Iowa delegate to the National Conference of State Trial Judges, has been elected an officer of that group, and has also chaired the Ethics Committee for the American Bar Association's Judicial Division.


District Judge, John D. Telleen, Scott County

Business Court Judge John D. Telleen was appointed to the district court bench in Iowa's 7th Judicial District in April, 2011. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, in 1980 (Political Science Major; cum laude) and his law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law (Juris Doctorate with Distinction) in 1984. Prior to his judicial appointment, Judge Telleen was in private practice with Lane & Waterman, L.L.P., Davenport, Iowa, as an associate from 1984 through 1989 and a partner from 1990 until 2011.


Judge Telleen's primary practice area as an attorney was civil litigation, including personal injury, medical negligence, environmental insurance coverage, commercial, asbestos exposure, and broker/dealer litigation, in addition to advising general business and corporate clients. A significant focus of his practice became complex insurance coverage matters in Iowa and other states including Ohio, Wisconsin, California, Kentucky, Idaho, and Kansas. Judge Telleen became a certified civil mediator in 1988 and regularly mediated tort, contract, and other disputes.


Judge Telleen's current professional associations include the Iowa Judges' Association, American and Iowa Bar Associations and the Inns of Court. Professional associations while in private practice included: Induction into Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers 2006; American Bar Association; The Iowa State Bar Association; Scott County Bar Association; Iowa Defense Counsel Association; Illinois State Bar Association; Rock Island County Bar Association; and Illinois Defense Counsel Association.


Iowa Supreme Court Justice Daryl Hecht

Justice Hecht, Sioux City, was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 2006.


Raised near Lytton, Iowa, he received his bachelor's degree from Morningside College in 1974 and his J.D. degree from the University of South Dakota in 1977. He received his L.L.M. degree from the University of Virginia Law School in 2004.


Justice Hecht practiced law in Sioux City for twenty-two years before his appointment to the court of appeals in 1999.


Justice Hecht is a past president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Home and Family Services, the Morningside College Alumni Association, the Woodbury County Judicial Magistrate Nominating Commission, and the Woodbury County Compensation Commission. Justice Hecht served as chairperson for the supreme court's Iowa Civil Justice Reform Task Force. The Task Force final report was presented to the members of the Iowa Supreme Court on January 30, 2012.



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6 Unconventional Things You Should Do to Save Your Marriage PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 29 April 2013 15:06
Many Tips about Marriage are Wrong, Says World-Renowned Expert

The lifelong probability of a marriage ending in divorce is between 40 and 50 percent, according to’s estimates. Couples in trouble often seek advice from friends, family and counselors. But global marriage expert Mort Fertel, creator of the Marriage Fitness Tele-Boot Camp and author of “Marriage Fitness,” (, says much of the advice couples get is bad.

“Much of the advice people get about their marriage problems is wrong. It sounds good. It makes sense. The problem is: it usually doesn’t work,” Fertel says. “Reconciling a broken marriage is tricky. The process is not intuitive. You really have to be careful that the advice you’re following has proved to achieve the outcome you’re looking for.”

Fertel says his tips often run counter to many ideas existing within our culture’s zeitgeist.

“A lot of the advice people get is logical, but it’s not psychological,” he says. “It’s ineffective because it doesn’t take into account the unique dynamics that occur between a husband and wife who are emotionally disconnected.”

• Go at it ALONE. Most people think, “I need my spouse to work with me to fix our marriage.” But it does not take two to tango. One person’s effort can change the momentum of a marriage, and very often, it’s that effort that motivates the obstinate spouse to join in the process of saving the relationship.

• The wrong question. Many people wonder, “Did I marry the right person?” But that’s the wrong question. The key to succeeding in marriage is not finding the right person; it’s learning to love the person you found. Love is not a mystery. Just as there are physical laws of the universe – like gravity, which governs flight – there are also relationship laws that, depending on your behavior, dictate the outcome of your marriage. You don’t have to be “lucky in love.” It’s not luck; it’s choice.

• Absence does not make the heart grow fonder. That might have been true in junior high school when you went away for the summer. But in marriage, particularly in a broken marriage, absence separates people. It creates distance, and that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve, which is closeness.

• Don’t talk about your problems. Talking about the problems in a marriage doesn’t resolve them; it makes them worse. It leads to arguments and bad will. Besides, you’ll never talk yourself out of a problem that you behaved yourself into. Marriages change because people change. Say little; do much. Speak in the vocabulary of your actions. New choices resolve marital problems; discussion don’t.

• Don’t think marriage counseling is the answer. Marriage counseling does not work in most situations. The success rate is dismal. Most couples report being worse off after marriage counseling. One of the reasons relates to point 4 above.

• Don’t talk to family or friends about your situation. One of the most important values in a marriage is privacy; therefore, it’s a mistake to talk about your marriage or your spouse to family or friends. It’s a violation of your spouse’s privacy and it’s wrong.

About Mort Fertel

Mort Fertel is a world authority on the psychology of relationships. He has been featured as an expert on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and Fox television networks, as well as dozens of publications including Glamour Magazine and Family Circle, to discuss his Marriage Fitness System. His program is endorsed by a wide variety of mental-health professionals, and he has helped save thousands of marriages. Fertel graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, was the CEO of an international nonprofit organization, and is a former marathon runner. He lives with his wife and five children (including triplets!) in Baltimore, MD.

Branstad, Reynolds launch “Residential Relief Calculator” to demonstrate property tax savings for Iowa homeowners PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Albrecht   
Monday, 29 April 2013 14:35

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today launched a “Residential Relief Calculator,” which allows Iowans to calculate their property tax savings under the Senate Democrats’ plan versus the plan put forward by the governor’s office and House Republicans.

The Residential Relief Calculator is found here:

“Iowans are facing a $2 billion property tax increase over the next eight years, and the majority of that increase will fall on Iowa homeowners,” said Gov. Branstad. “Our Residential Relief Calculator demonstrates the significant savings our legislation provides.”

Lt. Gov. Reynolds noted that Iowa’s economy is improving, making it the wrong time to start raising taxes on Iowans.

“The Residential Relief Calculator gives Iowans the opportunity to see for themselves the savings under our property tax relief plan,” said Reynolds. “We have the opportunity to provide permanent property tax relief to Iowans, help put people back to work and make Iowa more competitive.”


Philanthropist Lauds Unsung ‘Human Angels’ PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 29 April 2013 14:32
Sharing Their Stories Can Make Us a Better Society, He Says

It’s easy to spot the largely unsung heroes in these three recent news stories:

• Fifteen National Guardsmen run 26 miles carrying full backpacks to raise money for the families of fallen soldiers.

• An off-duty firefighter rushes to a dangerous chemical blaze because he knows the local volunteer force may not be equipped to handle it.

• A middle school student in Georgia rallies youngsters and businesses to collect comfort items for troops deployed in Afghanistan.

“But each of these stories also has a surprising twist – one that underscores just why it’s so important to share them,” says philanthropist John Shimer, founder of the Angels Among Us project (

“If we want people to be their best, we need to shine a light on what that looks like.”

Shimer notes that in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Americans took comfort in seeing and hearing about the many acts of selflessness.

“We were horrified by the fact that there’s someone evil enough to place a ticking bomb next to children. But, thank goodness, we were also heartened by the bravery of the civilians who rushed into danger to help the injured, and the many area residents who opened their homes to stranded race participants.”

In January, Shimer launched Angels Among Us to recognize just such people. Community “human angels” are selected from among nominations and, in addition to receiving an Earthly Angel Award and a donation to their charity of choice, Angels Among Us produces professional, high-quality videos that tell their story.

“The video productions are top quality, so any broadcast outlet can use them, and they’re compelling, so people will watch them,” Shimer says. “And that’s how we spread the word,  inspire others, and even create a society where everyone is an Earthly Angel.”

Angels Among Us, which accepts nominations at its website, has no shortage of amazing stories, Shimer says.

Consider these recent examples:

• National Guard ‘Tough Ruckers’: Fifteen Massachusetts National Guardsmen donned full gear, including backpacks weighing 40 pounds or more, to run the Boston Marathon in memory of fallen soldiers. The “Tough Ruck” also raised money for the families of deceased soldiers through the Military Friends Foundation.

But that’s not the end of the story.

The men were near the finish line when the bombs exploded April 15. They’re the guys in fatigues seen on countless videos rushing to pull down barricades to get to the injured.

• An off-duty, volunteer firefighter: Capt. Kenny “Luckey” Harris, 52, worked for the Dallas Fire Department but lived 80 miles away in West, Texas, where he also served with the all-volunteer station. He was off duty on April 17 when fire erupted at a fertilizer plant in West. He rushed to the plant.

"He was worried the volunteer guys wouldn't be safe on a chemical fire," his friend and fellow firefighter Ronnie Janek said. "He said he had to help them stay safe."

Harris was among the 14 people who died when the fertilizer plant exploded – 11 of them were first responders.

Volunteer firefighters, who put their lives on the line for their communities for no pay, make up 69 percent of U.S. firefighters.

• A boy with a heart for soldiers: As a 10-year-old fifth-grader, Remington Youngblood understood the hardships facing troops in Afghanistan and wanted to do something both to help them and to express his appreciation for their sacrifices. So he created a nonprofit, Change4Georgia, partnered with a Veterans of Foreign Wars post, and hit the speaking circuit to rally other schools, businesses and communities to the cause.

Today, the middle school student’s charity not only regularly fills troops’ wish lists for items like chewing gum and chapstick, last Christmas it delivered hundreds of gifts and foods to the children of active-duty soldiers. It also provides school supplies to those children, and even makes an annual scholarship donation to one student veteran.

As these stories demonstrate, angels surround us in many forms, Shimer says.

“If we look for them and follow their example,” he says, “who knows how we can change the world?”

About John Shimer

John Shimer is a director of Fortune Family Foundation, a charitable corporation that provides assistance to non-profits focused on fostering self-sufficiency. For 33 years, Shimer was a fundraising manager and consultant for hospitals, human welfare agencies, and similar organizations. He is the author of “Turn Right at the Dancing Cow,” the story of a “human angel” from Seattle and the vocational school she established in Uganda. He’s the founder of the new Angels Among Us Project, which seeks to spotlight the best and most inspiring of human behavior.

Statement from Governor Pat Quinn on the Passing of Former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Moses Harrison PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Monday, 29 April 2013 14:05
CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn issued the following statement regarding the passing of former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Moses Harrison:

"Moses Harrison was a great supreme court justice.

"He served as a strong and passionate advocate against the death penalty, and devoted his life to ensuring that justice was served fairly.

"He was a steadfast defender of everyday people. As he said best himself, his job as judge was to 'protect ordinary citizens against wrongdoing by the government, large corporations and powerful individuals.' He did his job well."


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