Postma v. Iowa Dist. Court for Plymouth County, 87-1594

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation439 N.W.2d 179
Docket NumberNo. 87-1594,87-1594
PartiesHarold O. POSTMA, Plaintiff, v. IOWA DISTRICT COURT FOR PLYMOUTH COUNTY, Defendant.
Decision Date19 April 1989

Page 179

439 N.W.2d 179
Harold O. POSTMA, Plaintiff,
No. 87-1594.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
April 19, 1989.

Page 180

Harold O. Postma, Orange City, pro se.

Robert J. Dull, Co. Atty., for defendant.

Considered en banc.


In this original certiorari action, plaintiff Harold O. Postma challenges the district court's order setting his fees for working as a court-appointed attorney in a criminal case. Postma contends that: 1) the county attorney is equitably estopped from asserting the cost guidelines for court-appointed counsel; 2) these guidelines violate the federal and state constitutions; 3) they also contravene the statutory requirement for reasonable compensation; and 4) the guidelines were incorrectly applied. We find no merit in these assertions.

Postma was the privately-retained attorney for a defendant charged with assault with intent to commit murder. A week later, the criminal defendant applied for the appointment of counsel. After an extended hearing, Postma was appointed on March 2, 1987, to represent the defendant at public expense. At that time, the defendant was charged in one information with three counts: 1) riot; 2) going armed with intent; and 3) assault without intent. The case was set for trial on March 18, 1987. However, the case was continued on two occasions and finally commenced on June 2, 1987. The defendant was ultimately acquitted of all charges.

Postma submitted a claim for attorney fees, requesting payment for 109.1 hours at $60 per hour and expenses of $96.50. At the fee hearing, it was brought to the court's attention that Postma failed to receive prior court approval for exceeding the cost guidelines for court-appointed counsel contained in a supreme court supervisory order dated August, 1985. The appropriate guideline allowed a fee of $1,000.

The district court found the usual fee for such matters was $45 per hour. However, the court interpreted the supervisory order to mandate that a court-appointed attorney must obtain prior approval before exceeding the guidelines. Accordingly, the trial court limited the fees allowed to the sum of $1,000 plus expenses of $96.10.

The supervisory order of August 19, 1985, providing guidelines for the cost of court-appointed counsel, in pertinent part states:

1. In implementation of its constitutional duty to exercise supervisory and administrative control of the judicial department, the supreme court deems it necessary to adopt these guidelines to establish procedures for carrying out judicial department responsibilities relating to payment of attorney fees and expenses for indigents when the law requires such payment from public funds.


4. In performing services, attorneys shall be governed by applicable statutes and rules as well as by relevant provisions

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of the Iowa Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers.

a. When required to do so by law or when the attorney has any questions about the propriety of incurring a particular expense, the attorney shall obtain court approval before incurring the obligation.

b. In addition, the attorney must obtain advance district court approval for anticipated compensation in excess of amounts that shall be established for particular categories of cases from time to time by the supreme court. Until modified by subsequent order of this court, those amounts are as shown on exhibit "A" attached to these guidelines.

(1) The purpose of requiring such approval is not to inhibit reasonably necessary services, but to provide a system for monitoring and a basis for predicting and budgeting amounts necessary for such compensation.

(2) In determining whether an application should be sustained, the court shall consider whether the anticipated services are necessary in the reasonable professional judgment of counsel. The requirement that an application be made shall not have any bearing on whether an application should be sustained. Moreover, the court shall not require disclosure by the attorney of any information not subject to discovery under applicable law.

(3) Such applications, except as to appeals, ordinarily shall be made at arraignment, and in any event within the period available for discovery prior to trial. They shall not be made later except upon a showing of good cause.

c. Nothing in these guidelines shall affect the duty of the court to determine the amount of allowable compensation for court appointment services in accordance with applicable statutes.


6. When applicable law requires compensation to be made on the basis of ordinary and customary charges for like services in the community, the court shall not reduce compensation based on an attorney's duty to represent the poor but shall consider all of the factors dictated by pertinent statutory law and supreme court decisions, including certainty of payment. Moreover, the court shall consider the evidence, its own knowledge on the subject, and any other relevant information bearing on the issue. In order to provide...

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4 cases
  • Simmons v. State Pub. Defender, 07-0870.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 24, 2010
    ...and statutory constraints." Id. ¶ 2. Compensation afforded under the guidelines was challenged in Postma v. Iowa District Court, 439 N.W.2d 179 (Iowa 1989). In Postma, an appointed lawyer sought to recover $6546 at $60 per hour. Postma, 439 N.W.2d at 180. The district court, however, approv......
  • Lewis v. Iowa Dist. Court for Des Moines County, s. 95-561
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • October 23, 1996
    ...representation to which every defendant is entitled. State v. Nelson, 279 N.W.2d 1, 3 (Iowa 1979). In Postma v. Iowa District Court, 439 N.W.2d 179 (Iowa), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 918, 110 S.Ct. 278, 107 L.Ed.2d 258 (1989), we considered the question of whether the same fee guidelines for co......
  • Asbury Square, L.L.C. v. Amoco Oil Co., 4:03-CV-40199.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • February 10, 2005
    ...F.3d 1127, 1129 (8th Cir.1997); In re Marriage of Harvey, 523 N.W.2d 755, 756 (Iowa 1994); Postma v. Iowa Dist. Ct. for Plymouth County, 439 N.W.2d 179, 181 (Iowa 1989); Serv. Employees Int'l, Local No. 55 v. Cedar Rapids Cmty. Sch. Dist., 222 N.W.2d 403, 408 (Iowa 1974); In the Matter of S......
  • State Public Defender v. Iowa Dist. Court for Warren County, 97-908
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 28, 1999
    ...out certain amounts which cannot be exceeded without prior approval of the court. Supervisory Order at p 4(b); Postma v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 439 N.W.2d 179, 182 (Iowa 1989). The State Public Defender contends a contract attorney's hourly rate is fixed by the contract and only the maximum amount......

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