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Across the Region: Critics say Iowa Bible proclamation violated Constitution

IOWA

Hospital lawyers deny tampering with jurors in malpractice case

Lawyers representing University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are denying involvement in any jury tampering in a major malpractice case.

A criminal investigation continues into an anonymous letter alleging tampering benefited the hospital during the February trial.

Jurors ruled 7-1 that the hospital was negligent in caring for a mother who suffered complications before giving birth but found that didn’t cause damage to the child, who was born disabled. They rejected the plaintiffs’ request for millions in damages.

In a filing last week, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office and a law firm that often defends the hospital “categorically denied” that they participated in any tampering. They extended the denial to another case in which jurors ruled the hospital was negligent in treating a woman’s medical condition but awarded no damages.

 

Critics: Bible proclamation violated Constitution

Three groups say a proclamation signed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad that encourages people to participate in a statewide Bible-reading marathon is illegal.

Two of the groups, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, say they are considering litigation. They claim the proclamation violates the U.S. Constitution by promoting Christianity.

The Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers also opposed the governor’s action.

The prayer events are organized by Christian-based groups and are planned at courthouses in all 99 counties in Iowa from June 30 until July 3.

Branstad signed the proclamation in April, calling it a historic event.

First Liberty Institute, a legal group focused on protecting religious freedom, says it would defend Branstad if a lawsuit is filed.

 

WISCONSIN

Court suspends ex-general counsel

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has suspended a former Hartland attorney’s license for two years for misappropriating money from his employer to benefit a company he opened for his son.

Friday’s discipline stems from a complaint the Office of Lawyer Regulation filed July 17 alleging that Matthew MacLean, while he was general counsel and compliance officer for Red Granite Advisors LLC and Ziegler Lotsoff Capital Management LLC, channeled more than $450,000 belonging to both firms to himself and another company over more than six years.

That company happened to be a limited liability company MacLean opened, which the OLR alleged amounted to a conflict of interest, to commercialize LEGO decals his son had designed.

The OLR’s complaint had asked for the justices to revoke MacLean’s license and order him to pay more than $52,000 in restitution to his former employer.

Later, however, MacLean reached a stipulation with the OLR in which MacLean agreed that the allegations in the complaint were true and the OLR agreed that MacLean could make arguments and produce mitigating factors and other evidence regarding sanctions.

Some of that evidence included that MacLean reported his conduct to the OLR, then withdrew from practicing law in May 2014, declined an employment offer from a law firm and sought assistance from Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program, which led him to be diagnosed with bi polar disorder.

At a hearing before a court-appointed referee, the OLR reduced the discipline it sought from the justices to a three-year suspension of MacLean’s license to practice law.

According to court documents, the referee sided with MacLean, recommending that the justices suspend MacLean’s license for two years because, tacking on the two years to the time MacLean has already spent not practicing law, he would have spent five years unable to practice, which is ample time to impress upon MacLean the seriousness of his actions. He also noted that MacLean had paid full restitution to the two companies.

The justices on Friday agreed with the referee. They suspended MacLean’s license for two years and ordered him to continue monitoring under WisLAP and submit reports of his participation to the OLR.

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