Iowa lawyer accused of lying to the court links Capitol riot to his discipline

A Polk County man and his daughter have been awarded a total of $8 million in a defamation case against a Des Moines lawyer. (Creative Commons photo via Pxhere.com)

A criminal-defense lawyer who was reprimanded for allegedly lying to the court says his discipline is in some way linked to the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

In 2018, attorney Allan M. Richards of Tama, who handles high-profile murder cases, applied for appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court. He was asked on that application whether he had ever been a party to any legal proceedings. He answered, “No.” State officials later concluded that Richards was a defendant in at least eight lawsuits filed within Tama County.

In a written response to the Iowa Attorney Disciplinary Board’s request for an explanation to his answer on the form, Richards wrote:

”The law of nature produces the greatest legal proceeding daily. I recall sitting on our rooftop watching the black dirt fields turn into rows of green before your eyes. The rays of sunlight transferring in a process of osmosis creating energy. Or the crackling of the corn stalks as the tassels rise to the sky. The first legal proceeding everyone encounters is at birth; the birth certificate is created …

“I am sad and sorry that the application was less than adequate for selection. I have been reluctant to state my qualification in the grand manner that I believe and experienced … What is it you want to know about my life? If my propositions are true, you have more to worry about in our legal system then (sic) some question, one year later, to a question on an application, where at all levels appears to be as truthful as other applicants.”

In reviewing the matter, the board told Richards that it “found no ambiguity in the question and concluded that you lied on your judicial application.”

The board publicly reprimanded Richards. Richards remains licensed to practice law in Iowa, and says he is handling murder cases as well as other serious criminal matters. In 2018, Richards served briefly as the defense attorney for Cristhian Bahena Rivera, the man accused of the July 2018 killing of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student. Rivera’s trial on first-degree murder charges is now ongoing.

Asked about the nature of his written response to the board’s inquiries, Richards told the Iowa Capital Dispatch on Wednesday, “I’m a deeper thinker than some of these people who are so shallow … What I was saying is that life is complicated — and that as a judge, you know, if God can make everything turn green at a certain moment in time, you know, that’s the power of a judge.”

Richards said some unspecified filings in the disciplinary case concerning his 2018 application didn’t surface until Jan. 6 of this year, the same day rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. “If you look specifically as to when that reprimand was filed, it was filed at the same time — on January 6 — when they were trying to take over the Capitol,” he said.

Asked what the connection was between the riot and his disciplinary case, Richards said, “I don’t know … There’s some reason why somebody down at the Supreme Court decided to file it at that particular time.”

Court records indicate the Attorney Disciplinary Board issued its reprimand of Richards in November 2020, and the Iowa Supreme Court last month ordered the reprimand to be made public.

Richards said when he answered “no” to the question on the application for appointment to the court, he was indicating that he wasn’t going to answer the question, not that he hadn’t been involved in any legal proceedings. He said over the years he has been passed over for at least 10 openings for magistrates and judges.

In 2003, Richards was reprimanded for his handling to a child-support case in which he allegedly made false representations to the court.

Clark Kauffman
Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.