Member Spotlight: Hon. District Court Judge Coleman McAllister

Tell us about yourself
I have been a district court judge since 2019. Prior to my appointment, I was a trial lawyer including serving for 20 years as a criminal prosecutor. I began as an assistant county attorney and then was elected and served for seven years as the Sioux County Attorney. In 2014, I moved back to Des Moines where I joined the Iowa Attorney General’s Office as an area prosecutor.

My wife Emily is also a lawyer and partner at a local law firm. We have been married for 28 years and we have four children.

What are some of your notable achievements?
I guess I do not view a judge’s work as being one marked by achievements. However, I do have expectations and goals that I have set for myself. Those expectations include being prepared and diligent in my work. Being fair, open minded, and impartial. Treating everyone that appears in front of me with patience, dignity, compassion, and respect. Making decisions timely and being always mindful that a litigant’s life or livelihood may be on hold awaiting my decision. If I can meet these expectations, I would consider that an achievement.

Why did you choose to practice law?
I always wanted to be a lawyer. I never seriously considered doing anything else. While everyone has a bad day now and then, I have never regretted my decision to become a lawyer or a judge.

Why did you want to be a judge?
I have always loved being in the Courtroom. As a lawyer, I tried over 100 criminal jury trials to verdict including handling jury trial in each of Iowa’s eight judicial districts. Serving as a trial judge allows me to be in the place I love every day, while also continuing my career in public service.

Did you always want to be a judge?
I doubt any child dreams of growing up to be a judge; I know I certainly did not. I was fortunate to have, first my wife, and then many other people in my life, including fellow lawyers and trial judges I practiced in front of, who encouraged me to apply. It is challenging but rewarding work and I very much enjoy it.

What do you do to get away from work?
Because my job involves a lot of sitting, I like to spend my free time outside running, hiking, or walking. I love baseball and enjoy watching and listening to Cubs games. I also enjoy reading history books.

What is the best thing about the Polk County Bar Association?
I am grateful for the support the PCBA provides to the judiciary. Thank you.

Best place to visit in Polk County?
Principal Park for an Iowa Cubs game on a warm summer evening.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be a lawyer. Truth be told, I wanted to be Atticus Finch.

If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor and why?
For mentoring, I have the luxury of having readily available the advice, support, encouragement and friendship of the other 16 District Court Judges that serve with me in Polk County.

For those looking for a person in the legal field to emulate, I would perhaps hold out Justice Christensen as an example to model. I first met Justice Christensen when I appeared in front of her as a lawyer while she was on the trial bench. Since that time, I have had a great professional admiration and respect for her. While obviously professionally accomplished, Justice Christensen remains approachable, humble and down to earth.

What is your favorite book?
Go Dog Go! by P.D. Eastman. As the father of four children, I have read it countless times. I look forward to reading it countless more times should I ever be fortunate enough to have grandchildren.

What songs would you include on the soundtrack to your life?
1980s new wave or classic country.

Words to live by?
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln.