James R. Wainwright






100 Court Avenue, Suite 600
Des Moines, IA 50309-2231

Court Admissions

All Iowa Courts

U.S. District Courts – Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa


J.D. (with Honors), Drake University, 1999

B.A., Boston College, 1992

Bar Admissions

Iowa Bar, 1999


Jim is a member of the firm’s Litigation and Public Finance practice groups, serving cities, city utilities, counties, school districts, special districts, and other local governments in the exercise of their powers and in litigation. Jim’s expertise in local government law allows him to serve as a resource for city attorneys and local government officials.
His representation of municipal entities includes litigation in federal and state courts, as well as practice before administrative agencies in regard to such matters as election contests, franchise fees, special assessments, Chapter 573 claims, public improvement contract litigation, open meetings, public records requests, public bidding, eminent domain, annexation, and the exercise of home rule powers.
Since 2019, Jim has also assisted school district clients with the issuance of governmental bonds. As bond counsel, Jim prepares the proceedings necessary for issuance of the bonds and assists clients in compliance with state and federal laws related to the issuance, including federal tax regulations. As disclosure counsel for a bond issue, Jim assists clients with compliance with the federal securities laws and regulations. Jim also assists clients with finance issues unique to schools, including lease-purchase financing, bond elections and the adoption of special levies and taxes.

Representative Projects

  • Successfully defended taxpayer challenge to City’s special assessment for the costs associated with street improvements in a residential subdivision.  Nelson, et al. v. City of Hampton, 802 N.W.2d 224 (Iowa 2011). The Iowa Supreme Court held that a city may waive its subdivision plat approval standards when the objectives of its standards would not be met by strict adherence to them and when waiver would not otherwise conflict with the mandatory platting standards contained in Iowa Code chapter 354.
  • With Ivan Webber, successfully defended taxpayer challenge to city's special assessment for paving gravel road. Gray, et al v. City of Indianola, 797 N.W.2d 112 (Iowa 2011). The Iowa Supreme Court reaffirmed the use of the Flint formula in the allocation of special assessments to benefitted properties was proper.
  • With Ivan Webber, successfully defended class action claims brought against the cities of Dubuque, Bettendorf, and Waterloo alleging that cable television franchise fees were an illegal tax and seeking refunds.  The Iowa Supreme Court held that the legislature was authorized to cure the city's lack of authority to impose franchise fees on cable television services in excess of the cost of regulation, and that retroactive ratification of city's unlawfully collected cable television franchise fees did not violate due process.  Thus, our clients do not have to issue any refunds of the cable television franchise fees collected since 2001.  Zaber v. City of Dubuque, 789 N.W.2d 634 (Iowa 2010)
  • Defended a breach of employment contract claim brought by a former city administrator.  Summary Judgment for the City was affirmed in an unpublished opinion by the Iowa Court of Appeals.  Bass v. City of Huxley, 728 N.W.2d 852, 2007 WL 257914 (Iowa App. 2007)
  • Successfully defended employee’s suit against school district for disability discrimination and retaliatory discharge.  Summary judgment for the school district was affirmed in an unpublished decision of the Iowa Court of Appeals.  Brown v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 2004 WL 433853 (Iowa App. 2004)


American Bar Association

Iowa State Bar Association

Polk County Bar Association

Iowa Municipal Attorneys Association

Iowa Defense Counsel Association

International Municipal Lawyers Association

Blackstone Inn of Court


Best Lawyers in America©, Litigation - Municipal (2020)


Jim's most recent speaking engagements include:

Iowa Association of School Board Officials, Virtual Spring Conference, "SAVE & Bonding in a New Era," with Ron Peeler, May 2020

Ahlers & Cooney P.C., Webinar, "SEC Amendments to Rule 15c2-12 on Disclosure for Municipal Securities," January 2019

Iowa School Business Management Academy, Spring Academy, "Bonding and Contracting Class" with Ron Peeler, April 2018

Iowa Municipal Attorneys Association, Annual Seminar, "Case Law Update," November 2017

Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Municipal Utilities Law 101 Workshop, “Compliance with Public Bidding Requirements,” October 2017

Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities - Annual Water and Wastewater Operator’s Training Workshop, “Legal Considerations,” November 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Iowa Section - American Water Works Association, “Legal Issues and Challenges Facing the Water Industry in Iowa,” October 2016

Professional, Community and Civic Leadership

Iowa Legal Aid, Volunteer Intake Attorney

ISBA Government Practice Section Council, 2016-2019

St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Catholic Church, School Board member (2010-2012)