Member Spotlight: Judge William P. Kelly

WPK_HRWilliam P. Kelly, Judge, Fifth Judicial District, was appointed to the bench in October of 2015. He can be reached via email at, by phone at 515-286-2169, or via mail at Polk County Courthouse, 500 Mulberry Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1967 and am the oldest of six children. We moved to a horse farm in Kickapoo, Illinois, when I was in second grade. I graduated from Academy of Our Lady Spalding Institute High School in Peoria and from Brown University in Providence Rhode Island in 1990. I met a beautiful Iowa girl in Chicago. She went back to Drake to get her Master’s Degree in Special Education. I went to Drake University Law School and graduated in 1999. I joined Davis Brown Law Firm in 1998 and practiced there until December of 2015. I have been married to Marcia Kelly for 21 years and we have four children: Catherine 20, Sarah 19, Grace 12, and Will 9. My two oldest daughters attend the University of Iowa. I joined the Army in 1996 and am currently a Judge Advocate in the Iowa Army National Guard.


Your notable achievements?

Two years All-Conference High school Football Team. During my senior year, I broke my high school’s rushing record and led the State of Illinois in Rushing Yards in 1986. All-State Illinois Football and Baseball. I played in IL East-West Shrine Games for both football and baseball. I played four years Varsity Baseball at Brown University, and I was President of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity at Brown University.

I completed two years of R.O.T.C while at Drake University Law School where I was a Public Service Scholar; managing editor of the Drake Law Review; a Robert J. Kromminga Award winner, and one of the winners of the Ferguson Prizes for public service.

In addition, I served as an adjunct professor of law at Drake University Law School, Pre-trial Advocacy 2004-2009. And I was a Shareholder at the Davis Brown Law Firm (Best Lawyers in America (Family Law 2013-2015); Great Plains Super Lawyers (Family Law 2013-2015); PCBA Board of Directors (2012-2016). I served as a Major in Iowa Army National Guard, and I served in Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star, Operation Enduring Freedom (2011). I was appointed to the Iowa District Court Bench in 2015.


 Why you do what you do?

I have taken an oath two times in my life to support and defend the Constitution – once as an attorney and once as a soldier. I am proud to be an American and proud to be an Iowan. Being a judge allows me to be part of a great legal system and peacefully resolve disputes. Being a soldier allows to me to actively participate in the defense of our country and to help commanders, soldiers, and those in need of our assistance.


What you do to get away from work?

I like to coach youth sports. I loved coaching my daughters in soccer. I now coach my son in football and baseball.


What you do to give back to the community?

I had great coaches and teachers growing up. I try to coach and pass on the great knowledge I have gotten from people who cared. I like working in the Iowa Army National Guard and being a part of an organization that is ready to help in floods or disasters or being deployed to a war zone helps me give back to the community.


Best thing about the Polk County Bar Association?

There are some amazing people who help make the PCBA a great Bar Association including past presidents, the Board and Committee Chairs. My two favorite things offered are the VLP and the Mediation Program. Those two organizations bring out the best in our lawyers. The VLP helps us do pro bono work for people who really need it and the mediation program brings a quality alternative dispute resolution process.


Words to live by?

I have a three quotes from saints that help me get by: 1.) “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” 2.) “Teach us to give and not count the cost.” 3.) “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”


Your favorite book?

Leadership: The Warrior’s Art


Best place to visit in Polk County?

Principal Park


Anything you would change about Polk County?

The weather in January and February.


Your leadership philosophy?

Be a caring leader capable of empowering and developing a competent, communicating team that believes in the mission.


If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor and why?

Luckily, the Polk County Judges have a mentor program. I have Judge Robert Blink. It is great to have a mentor judge. I respected him when I practiced and it is great gaining wisdom from someone who has over 20 years of experience on the bench.


What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to be a cowboy, baseball player or fireman.


What songs are included on the soundtrack to your life?

I would be happy with music from: Rocky, Platoon, and The Mission.


Last movie you saw?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens