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Friday, May 24, 2013

Statement of Muscatine County Attorney Alan R. Ostergren on approval of HF 119

Today, May 24, 2013, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad approved House File 119 - a bill for an act relating to the duties of the County Attorney in juvenile court.

Muscatine County Attorney Alan R. Ostergren released the following statement:

"HF119 restores the County Attorney to his or her traditional role of being the independent voice of the people in juvenile court cases dealing with children who had been neglected or abused. A 2007 decision of the Iowa Supreme Court had interpreted Iowa law in manner which required County Attorneys to treat the Iowa Department of Human Services as our client. This court decision placed a serious structural conflict in our duties as prosecutors and our duty to DHS.

"The Iowa County Attorneys Association worked with the Governor, the Attorney General, and legislators to craft a response to this court decision. We were motivated by the need to eliminate the structural conflict and to ensure that the people had their representative in court. This issue had been the number one priority of ICAA for the past three legislative sessions.

"During the past session of the legislature an agreement was reached between the interested parties to find a way to fix this problem. I was pleased that this agreement was approved by the legislature in a bipartisan and unanimous fashion. I would like to particularly thank the Muscatine County legislative delegation of Sen. Chris Brase, Sen. Tom Courtney, Sen. Robert Dvorsky, Rep. Mark Lofgren, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, and Rep. Tom Sands for their votes in favor of this legislation. I would also like to thank House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Chip Baltimore and Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Rob Hogg for their leadership. Finally, I would like to thank Governor Branstad for his leadership and close concern on this issue.

"HF119 ensures that the County Attorney is the representative of the people and their interest in seeing justice be done in juvenile court. It allows us to be the independent voice of the people and to ensure that children are protected to the maximum degree possible. The Governor's action today in approving the bill was a tremendous event."