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  • 2023 ICRA Midyear Seminar

2023 ICRA Midyear Seminar

  • Saturday, November 04, 2023
  • 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
  • Luana Savings Bank, 855 W Bridge Road, Polk City, Iowa


Registration is closed

2023 Midyear Seminar
Saturday, November 4, 2023
Luana Savings Bank - Polk City Branch
855 W Bridge Road
Polk City, IA 50226

.7 CEUs

Hotel room block is reserved at

Country Inn and Suites

2510 SE Tones Drive, Ankeny

(515) 644-6164

ICRA Room rate-$108

Title of Session





8:30 a.m. to

9:00 a.m.


Registration and

Continental Breakfast

St v Rivera

9:00 a.m. to

11:00 a.m.


Scott Brown, Assistant Attorney General



11:00 a.m. to

11:10 a.m.




Day in the Life

11:10 a.m. to

12:10 p.m.


Judge Petersen/John Sandy, District Judge, Third Jud. Dist.


12:10 p.m. to

12:20 p.m.




Lobbyist and DMACC update

12:20 p.m. to

1:50 p.m.



Tim Coonan/Sydney Gangestad, Legislative Counsel, and DMACC


1:50 p.m. to

2:00 p.m.




Behind Blue Curtains

2:00 p.m. to

3:30 p.m.


Lizzie Hershberger, Victim

Advocate, Author, and



3:30 p.m. to

3:40 p.m.




Trafficked to Hero

3:40 p.m. to

5:10 p.m.


Amber Causey, Assistant Public Defender

St v Rivera
Scott Brown, Assistant Attorney General
(9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.)

Scott Brown is a Special Assistant Attorney General with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office Statewide Prosecutions Section (formerly the Area Prosecutions Division). He was hired by the Attorney General’s Office in August of 1997 and became director of Area Prosecutions in June of 2006. Prior to his employment with the Iowa Attorney General, he was the First Assistant County Attorney in Des Moines County, Iowa, from 1993 to 1997 and an Assistant Municipal Counselor in the Criminal Division for the City of Oklahoma City Municipal Counselor’s Office from 1991 to 1993.
In addition to his administrative duties as division director, Scott prosecutes a number of major criminal cases across the State of Iowa, including homicides, serious domestic violence cases, physical child abuse, and adult and child sexual assaults. He received a B.A. in Communication from the University of Oklahoma in 1988 and his J.D. from Oklahoma City University in 1991.
Scott lives in Grimes, and is married with three adult children. He enjoys reffing football games and biking.

On July 18, 2018, Mollie Tibbetts vanished outside her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa, while out for a run. Family members and co-workers feared something was wrong when Tibbetts did not show up for her summer job at a daycare the next morning.  Hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officers searched for weeks, but came up empty. The investigation turned to Christian Bahena Rivera after surveillance video from a nearby homeowner showed him driving past her multiple times while she ran.  Scott Brown will go over the details of this Iowa case and will discuss the history of the case leading up to his involvement in prosecuting this defendant, including the vital role a homeowner’s video surveillance played in bringing justice to Mollie Tibbetts. He will then discuss the legal proceedings; his preparation for trial to include legal research, legislative updates, and trial strategies; as well as the process of trying a highly-publicized case with expanded media and the extra precautionary measures necessary to protect the integrity of the record and the proceedings.  Mr. Brown will talk about his involvement in this (as well as many other high-profile cases), the stress that a trial of this magnitude places on home and work life, and methods he has developed to manage the stress.


Day in the Life/Top 10 Perspectives from the Bench
John M. Sandy/ Carl J. Petersen
(11:10 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.)

John Sandy was born and raised in the Iowa Great Lakes and a graduate of Spirit Lake High School. He earned his undergraduate degree with honors from the University of St. Thomas in 2007. He then attended the University of St. Thomas School of Law, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Law and Public Policy, and graduated with Dean’s honors in 2010. After law school, Judge Sandy served as a 1st Assistant Public Defender for the State of Minnesota and was a private practice trial lawyer at Sandy Law Firm, P.C. Judge Sandy is a member of the Iowa State Bar Association, the Minnesota Bar Association, the South Dakota Bar Association, and the Iowa Judges Association. He is married to his wife Elizabeth of 15 years, has four children under the age of nine (John, Thomas, Charles, and Claire) and resides in Okoboji, Iowa. In his free time you can find John in a tree stand bow hunting whitetail deer near Lamoni, Iowa, or at the local gym swinging kettle bells. Above all, John loves to cook and travel. John also wanted his biography to include the fact that he is blessed with one of the best court reporters in the entire State of Iowa: Stephanie Early.
Carl Petersen, Spirit Lake, was appointed to the bench in 2012. He was born and raised in Hartley, Iowa. Judge Petersen received his undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa in 1990 and his law degree from Hamline University in 1993. He practiced law in Atlantic, Iowa, from 1993-2000 and served as the Cass County Magistrate Judge from 1997-2000. Judge Petersen then served as the Lyon County Attorney from 2000-2012. He served as the President of the Iowa County Attorneys Association in 2007. Judge Petersen served as an adjunct professor in areas of criminal law and evidence. After being appointed to the bench, Judge Petersen has lectured for associations and seminars throughout the United States. Judge Petersen is the father of five daughters and coaches AAU volleyball. He and his wife Mary love to golf, boat, and travel.
Judge Sandy and Judge Petersen will provide an upbeat presentation on the Top
10 Perspectives from the Bench. They will speak regarding their
courtroom experiences and how advancements in technology such
as having a court reporter providing a realtime feed have been life
changing. Judge Sandy and Judge Petersen will speak regarding the
importance of professionalism and business etiquette inside and
outside the courtroom, the vital role court reporters play in the
judicial system, and the necessity of creating a healthy work/life


Lunch and Learn
Lobbyist Update
Tim Coonan/Sydney Gangestad
Attorneys and Lobbyists for ICRA
(12:50 p.m. to 1:20 p.m.)

Tim Coonan, Government Relations Special Counsel, serves as the Chair of the Dentons Davis Brown, PC, Government Relations Department. He is a 2002 graduate from Drake University Law School and has over 15 years of experience lobbying before the Iowa Legislature and Executive Branch agencies. Additionally, Tim has over 25 years of public policy experience, which includes three years performing policy work in Washington D.C.
Sydney Gangestad, Special Counsel, is also a Drake University Law School graduate (2013). She joined Dentons Davis Brown, PC, in 2018, and has eight years, plus, of public policy experience. Immediately prior to joining Dentons Davis Brown, PC, Sydney worked with the Iowa Judicial Branch, serving as Special Counsel and Legislative Liaison.
 Tim and Sydney will give us an update on legislative issues affecting court reporters. Most significantly, they will speak regarding the proposed changes of Iowa’s Governor, which would eliminate the Board of Examiners of Shorthand Reporters, the action that has been taken to this point, as well as the upcoming process of the Executive Branch. Tim and Sydney will also discuss the importance of grassroots advocacy and will provide information on ways court reporters can network to make a difference and protect the statewide sentiment that stenographic court reporters are the gold standard.
Lunch and Learn
DMACC Update
Dr. Patricia Ziegler
(1:20 p.m. to 1:50 p.m.)

Dr. Patricia Ziegler is a Professor in the Realtime Court Reporting program at the Des Moines Area Community College Newton Campus. She has taught in the court reporting field for more than 20 years and has served as a Vice President and Academic Dean and as a Professor of Realtime Reporting at AIB College of Business in Des Moines. Subsequent to her work at AIB College of Business and prior to her current work at DMACC, she was an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Information Reporting Technology at St. Louis Community College.
In her current work, Dr. Ziegler oversees all aspects of DMACC's Realtime Court Reporting program, including academic requirements, recruiting, and mentoring students enrolled in the program. Dr. Ziegler is a member of the National, Iowa, and Missouri Court Reporting Associations. She is also a Certified Court Reporting Instructor and a Certified Program Evaluator for NCRA. She earned an M.A. from the University of South Dakota and most recently a Doctorate of Education from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Dr. Patricia Zielger will talk about the court reporting program at DMACC. She will discuss the theory and software students are learning/using, as well as how they are doing overall. Additionally, she will speak about recent changes the DMACC court reporting program has made and how that has gone. She will talk about other technology the students are utilizing, including virtual learning and MyRealtimeCoach.


Behind Blue Curtains
Lizzie Hershberger
(2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.)

Lizzie Hershberger was raised by ultra-conservative Swartzentruber Amish in Minnesota. In 2019, after Lizzy Hershberger successfully brought her abuser to justice, Lizzy became recognized as an expert on Amish culture, as well as an advocate, panelist, speaker, and Amish language interpreter for victims of abuse. She is the co-founder of Voices of Hope, a national support network helping women to find their own voice. She volunteers with groups like Victim Services and other groups working to improve the lives of women
and children. Lizzy has been a hired girl for local families and a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. She married and became a mother to four children, served as a school board member, and is president of her children’s 4-H club. She also became a co-founder of a support group for parents. In 2018, she testified as an expert witness of the Amish community and culture for a wastewater case that resulted in substantial environmental improvements. Lizzy’s story has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Rochester Women, and other multimedia platforms and podcasts.
Lizzy will be speaking about her true crime memoir Behind Blue Curtains: A True Crime Memoir of an Amish Woman’s Survival, Escape, and Pursuit of Justice, which follows the plight of 14-year-old Lizzy Hershberger as her schooling ends at eighth grade, and she has no choice but to leave home to work as an unpaid maid for another family. To avoid being shunned by her ultra-conservative Swartzentruber Amish family and community, Lizzy is forced to abandon her dreams as “too worldly.” After being raped by an Amish deacon over two dozen times, Lizzy makes her first attempt at “jumping the fence” to pursue a non-Amish lifestyle. But without any modern life experience or education, Lizzy must decide whether the risks of this unpredictable and dangerous world are worth losing the ties to her Amish friends and family forever.
Almost 30 years later, after she has created a new life for herself, her small community is rocked by disturbing sexual assault allegations. Lizzy must decide whether to keep silent for her newly-created family’s sake or come forward against the church to advocate for the Amish children she left behind. In 2019, Lizzy Hershberger successfully brought her abuser to justice in an extraordinarily rare case addressing sexual abuse in the Amish church. She faced death threats and intense pressure to stop telling her story. Lizzy refused to back down and forged ahead to spark a national movement bringing awareness to the prevalence of sexual abuse in isolated communities protected by religious liberties.
Lizzie Hershberger will speak of her
traumatic upbringing in an Amish community, including the physical
and sexual abuse women, in particular, experience in their homes, as
well as while performing their job duties. Ms. Hershberger will talk
of her experience leaving the Amish community; what led her to her
role of advocating for equality of women, particularly Amish women;
the difficulties she encountered with English grammar and
punctuation while writing a novel with her limited Amish education;
her transition to testifying as an expert witness in court and the
discrepancy of justice between the “English” justice system versus
the “justice system” in the Amish communities. She will touch on
some of the different terms used in the Amish communities and will
provide education to raise awareness on how “English” people can
help if they see something concerning when encountering Amish
people in public.


Trafficked to Hero
Amber Causey
(3:40 p.m. to 5:10 p.m.)

Amber Causey is an Assistant State Public Defender serving with the Waterloo Adult Public Defender’s Office. She is originally from Chicago; however, became a transplant in Iowa after serving 8 ½ years in the United States Army. She attended law school on an Academic Scholarship at Mitchell Hamline School of Law where she received recognition for her advanced writing topic on Reconsidering the Feres Doctrine: The test of “Incident to Service” against The Crisis of Sexual Violence in the Military. She has appeared on various media outlets to raise awareness on sex trafficking. As a survivor, she is deeply passionate about combatting sex trafficking in our communities and has worked with numerous organizations that focus on targeting at-risk youth in combatting this issue.
She recently received the Melanie Thwing-Eastman Young Attorney of the Year award. She says “My philosophy in practice is that the “why” matters. People’s stories matter. So, I do my very best to be the best author of their stories.”
Amber hopes to one day become a Judge within the Juvenile Court system where it all started; Cook County. She entered the criminal justice system first as a child of two incarcerated parents, and later as a juvenile facing her own criminal proceedings. She is proof that even second, third, and forth chances can make a difference.
In her free time, Amber enjoys spending time with her two children, Aaliyah and Armoni. Outside of her children, she also teaches group fitness classes and likes riding her peloton. 

Amber Causey will talk about her traumatic upbringing and what led her to being victimized hundreds – and more likely, thousands – of times. She will discuss the historical views, lack of knowledge, and/or legal deficits in
communities and the role they have played in allowing the abusive cycle to continue and grow. More specifically, the slow but progressing transition of situations like hers being viewed in the past as prostitution even when she was a minor, to now, where similarly-situated minors are more-commonly viewed as victims.
Amber will tell of the fortunate circumstances which removed her from her traumatic lifestyle and the strength and ambition she found within herself to re-write her story as a survivor, Army veteran, advocate, and successful professional. She will talk about the residual trauma and PTSD, how she copes, and the importance of making mental health a priority, especially in the professions she and many of us are working.
Ms. Causey will discuss her efforts at bringing further awareness and advancements to this important issue, as well as how that influences her work as an Assistant Public Defender. She will provide education to raise awareness on how people can help if they see something concerning

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