Friday, January 28, 2022

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Civic Skinny

Judge Bennett calls a litigant a jerk;


CVA_02PAGE 6Edward P. Hagen is an obstetrician who practiced in Sioux City with Siouxland Obstetrics and Gynecology, P.C. from 1993 until November of 2009, when he was fired by his three partners. In May of 2011, he sued his former partners in federal court in Sioux City, charging everything from fraud to forgery to breach of contract to intentional infliction of emotional distress. In September of 2012, the defendants filed for partial summary judgment on all but one of the 12 counts.

The case is before Judge Mark Bennett.

As Cityview has periodically reported, Judge Bennett is a man not known for having a judicial temperament. He has berated government attorneys — he once went into court carrying a long two-by-four labeled ABMT, which he said stood for “attorney behavior modification tool.” According to affidavits, he told an assistant U.S. attorney that he was “fucking sick and tired” of the office objecting to his sentencing recommendations. And he told an assistant U.S. attorney that “I’m fucking sick and tired of you always disagreeing with me!”

Now, in a 22-page decision, Bennett has carefully analyzed each claim, and then has denied the Siouxland partners’ motion for partial summary judgment. But in the paragraph before his ruling, he said:

“A fair reading of the summary judgment record is that Hagen will almost certainly come across to the jury as an arrogant jerk, and that would be on a good day. In my nineteen years of experience as a federal district court judge, I believe it is highly unlikely the recovery, if any, will be worth the trial risks. Also, going to trial on so many claims is a real dumb idea for many reasons. All I have ruled is that there are material questions of fact for a jury to decide. I would be surprised if Hagen wins, and I would be even more shocked if he wins a substantial verdict.” …


Nice work if you can get it:

Former Gov. Chet Culver picked up $89,616 in cash and stock last year for the nine months he served as a presidential appointee to the board of the federal Agricultural Mortgage Corp., or Farmer Mac, according to the proxy statement issued Friday. Farmer Mac is the rural cousin of Ginnie Mae and Freddie Mac, quasi government organizations that increase the availability of credit for borrowers.

Culver is one of five presidential appointees to the 15-member board, and he serves at the pleasure of the President. The board meets eight times a year, and directors get an annual retainer of $24,000, $1,200 a day plus expenses for each meeting of the Board and of a committee of the board, and $1,200 a day for certain other meetings and conferences. They also get stock grants — last year’s was stock valued at $61,014 at the time, and already this year they have received stock valued at $63,000 as of the other day.

The board is chaired by Lowell Junkins, a former majority leader of the Iowa Senate who has been on the board since 1996. Last year, he got $129,360 in cash and stock for his services. He now owns around 11,700 shares of Farmer Mac stock, valued at around $365,000.

Meantime, the American Wind Energy Association named a new chief executive officer on Thursday, and it wasn’t Culver. Washington politicians say Culver was in the running for the job, but it went to Tom Kiernan, who had been president of the National Parks Conservation Association. The previous holder of that job made $563,000 a year, according to tax returns.

Several weeks ago, Cityview said the word was that former legislator Swati Dandekar of Marion was thinking of running for Congress. She didn’t return Cityview’s phone call — and still hasn’t — but now there’s a website called “Swati Dandekar for Iowa.” It calls on Iowans “to join us as we encourage her to run for Congress.” It’s not likely that the site was put up without her knowledge or approval.

Dandekar apparently is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat being vacated by Bruce Braley, who is running for Tom Harkin’s seat in the Senate. If she runs, she’ll have to take on legislator Pat Murphy of Dubuque. Neither Democrat is a favorite of labor, which is strong in the district, and both have on occasion irritated fellow Democrats. Murphy was not considered a strong Speaker, when Democrats controlled the Iowa House, and Dandekar infuriated colleagues when she quit in mid-term to take a lucrative job on the Iowa Utilities Board. Her resignation imperiled the Democrats’ 26-24 edge in the Senate, though the election of Liz Mathis let the Democrats keep control. …

Skinny joins those mourning Luther Hill Jr., who died last week. He was one of the last of the courtly gentlemen from another era, an era of seersucker suits and white shoes and straw boaters from Memorial Day to Labor Day, an era of serious conversation at small dinner parties, an era of moderate Republicans and semi-moderate Democrats who enjoyed one another’s company.

skinny register obit

He was an Iowa-born southerner, a nephew of Alabama’s Sen. Lister Hill and son of Gen. Luther Hill, a West Point graduate whose World War I service took him from Alabama to Germany to Des Moines, where he stayed, married and eventually became publisher of The Des Moines Register and Tribune. Young Luther was a Harvard-educated lawyer and one of the few Iowans who ever was a clerk for a Supreme Court justice — in this case, the famed Justice Hugo Black of Alabama.

Through his mother, he was connected to some of the grand old Des Moines families — the Hippees and Herndons and Polks and others. He became counselor, friend and modern-day gray eminence for the Cowles and Hubbell families, serving long as a director of the Cowles’ Register and becoming executive vice president and general counsel of the Hubbells’ Equitable Life Insurance Co. With those connections, and with his role as a trustee of the Thompson Trust that owned much land in downtown Des Moines, he was in on everything in his day, though rarely out front.

For years, he presided over a lunchtime table at The Des Moines Club, where the likes of Jim Hubbell and David Kruidenier and Bob Mannheimer and Addison Parker and Alvin Kirsner and Fred Lorber and assorted irregulars would debate and discuss issues great and small. But one thing always was clear: Hill, always dapper and always bow-tied, sat at the head of the table, and he controlled the topics.

Though unbudgeable in his views, he loved great conversation and debate, but he resigned from a prominent discussion club when it decided to admit women. He also loved Simpson College — though he himself went to Williams — and spent countless hours working on its behalf. He spent years wooing Amy Robertson, a wealthy alumna from tiny Promise City, chauffeuring her and advising her and flattering her in hopes she would leave the bulk of her money to Simpson. She did.

When he died last week at age 90, he had outlived his era. CV

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