Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

June 25, 2014

Appeals court rejects local cases

Courier staff writer

---- — DES MOINES — The Iowa Court of Appeals released rulings on two area cases Wednesday, siding with the district court on both cases.

The first case was appealed from Appanoose County. Joseph Agan wanted the court to overturn the district court’s decision on his sentencing.

The state’s inmate locator shows Agan currently serving a sentence on drug charges, with a long history of prior convictions.

Agan was, in a sense, appealing the result of an appeal. He had filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which is when someone convicted of a crime seeks correction of errors. Agan giled a “petition alleging illegal sentence” in 2012. The filings included an application for a transcript of court proceedings and an application for Agan’s attorney to withdraw, thus clearing the way for a possible claim of ineffective counsel.

The court rejected the requests and granted the prosecution’s motion to dismiss the petition “for failure to state a claim.”

The court assessed Agan’s petition as a series of complaints about treatment. He felt he should have been offered a plea bargain, as prosecutors did with two co-defendants. Agan criticized the Appanoose County Sheriff’s Department charging him for his incarceration, which resulted in a restitution judgement for more than $13,000. And he questioned whether online mention of his sentences might lead the parole board to think he required more time behind bars than what his sentence said.

The appeals court agreed with the district court judge that Agan “did not raise any claim that would make him eligible for postconviction relief,” nor did it err in denying the motion to withdraw and the motion for a transcript.

The second case comes from Mahaska County, where William Kuba appealed dismissal of his suit against William Penn University.

William Penn hired Kuba beginning with the 2007-2008 academic year. The job had the potential for turning into a tenured position, though that wasn’t guaranteed.

The university’s employee handbook requires the employee to “initiate,” a pre-tenure evaluation near the end of the employee’s second full year, though the court said the method for doing so is not specified. The evaluation was not carried out with Kuba.

A formal review for tenure, again initiated by the employee, must begin by Dec. 1 of the employee’s fifth full academic year. When the school rejected Kuba’s candidacy for tenure, he sued, claiming breach of contract and seeking reinstatement as a tenure track employee.

The district court ruled against him, saying he failed to seek the pre-tenure evaluation and that acceptance of the university appeals committee recommendation, which had suggested extending his deadline for tenure, was not guaranteed.

The appeals court agreed.

“Kuba was unable to produce any credible evidence William Penn failed to fully comply with any specific provision or requirement of the employment contract,” the court ruled. “Absence such proof, there is no breach of contract.”