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Case No. 21-0348

In the Matter of the Guardianship of J.W.

The mother seeks further review of the court of appeals decision reversing and remanding the dismissal of Jacob van Cleaf’s petition for involuntary guardianship of a past client’s minor child. The court of appeals found that even assuming without deciding that van Cleaf violated the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct, dismissal of the guardianship action was inappropriate because neither the rules of civil procedure, the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct, nor case law support dismissal.


J.V., Appellant.

Attorney for Appellant

Jacob van Cleaf, pro se

Attorney for Appellee

Alexis R. Dahlhauser

Attorney for Minor Child

Cynthia A. Bahls

Supreme Court

Oral Argument Schedule


Dec 15, 2022 1:30 PM


Supreme Court Opinion

Opinion Number:
Date Published:
May 26, 2023
Date Amended:
Jul 27, 2023

Court of Appeals

Court of Appeals Opinion

Opinion Number:
Date Published:
Aug 03, 2022

            Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, William A. Price, District Associate Judge.  REVERSED AND REMANDED FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS.  Heard by May, P.J., Greer, J., and Potterfield, S.J.  Opinion by Potterfield, S.J.  Special Concurrence by Greer, J.  (17 pages)

            Iowa Attorney Jacob van Cleaf petitioned to take involuntary guardianship of a former client’s child.  The former client—the child’s mother—asserted van Cleaf’s bringing of the action violated numerous Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct.  The district court agreed with the mother; ruled that van Cleaf had violated Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct 32:1.9 and 32:1.8; and, as the remedy, dismissed the guardianship action.  On appeal, we consider whether the rules van Cleaf was found to have breached apply to attorneys who are representing themselves and what the proper remedy is for violating any of the applicable rules.  OPINION HOLDS: Dismissal of the guardianship action was inappropriate; neither Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.421(1)(f), the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct, nor case law support it.  Therefore, we reverse the dismissal and remand for further proceedings.  SPECIAL CONCURRENCE ASSERTS: I concur with the majority but write separately to highlight that van Cleaf may wish to avail himself of the informal process allowing any Iowa lawyer to seek advisory opinions about an issue through the Ethics Committee of the Iowa State Bar Association before the proceedings on the merits of his involuntary guardianship petition continue.

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