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Iowa Supreme Court intervenes before legal malpractice trial

The Iowa Judicial Branch Building, which holds Iowa's Supreme Court, in Des Moines (Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Ctjf83 / CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Iowa Judicial Branch Building, which holds Iowa's Supreme Court, in Des Moines (Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Ctjf83 / CC BY-SA 3.0)(KCRG)
Published: Oct. 28, 2019 at 4:09 PM CDT
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An Iowa educator who spent years in prison in a sex abuse case that was later dismissed will have to wait to seek damages in a lawsuit against the public defender who allegedly botched his representation.

A three-justice panel of the Iowa Supreme Court has taken the rare step of granting the state's pre-trial appeal in a lawsuit filed by Donald Clark.

The move cancelled a legal malpractice trial set to begin Tuesday in Johnson County in which Clark was seeking millions in damages from the state. A single justice had earlier denied the state's appeal.

Clark's lawyer says the unintended impact is cruel to his client, delaying an outcome by years.

Clark, a former counselor at Lemme Elementary in Iowa City, was convicted in 2010 of abusing a student during the 2003 school year.

Clark was freed in 2016 after a judge ruled that his now-deceased public defender provided ineffective assistance. The alleged victim admitted to some false testimony and the county prosecutor's office dropped the case. Clark maintains his innocence.

The high court will now consider when defense lawyers can be sued for malpractice.

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