President’s Message: August/September 2017

PCBA President William Miller

There are exciting things happening in Polk County as I begin my year as President of our bar association. The new criminal courts building is rising quickly from the ashes of the former jail building. One can hardly recall how the old building looked! I think the repurposing of the building is a fitting allegory for the rehabilitation and restoration that we hope will begin for the defendants who pass through its future hallways.

It’s hard to believe, but within a few months, renovation of the historic courthouse will begin. A staged renovation will mean court business continues on one half of the building while the other half is transformed. Then, everything will switch around before the final product is unveiled.

We are also watching as the first steps are taken in the process of erecting a new federal courthouse. The recent attention given to the courthouse’s location has started us imagining a building whose grandeur matches the important legal proceedings to take place inside. And we can all hope we end up with a final product that is as impressive as the building our colleagues in Linn County opened just a few years ago.

While we contemplate these new physical symbols of our judicial system, we must be mindful of the continuing challenges our system faces. Our state courts are once again starved for funding. This seems to be a never-ending challenge, and one that will continue to impact our day-to-day practices and, more importantly, the experiences of our clients.

Words and actions primarily at the national level threaten the rule of law – the bedrock on which our system stands. All of us are likely to have opportunities – big or small – to put into action our oaths sworn when we became Iowa lawyers. If we don’t answer this call, no amount of infrastructure will maintain the rights and privileges that we take for granted.

As I look ahead, I expect to possibly be participating in some ceremonial duties pertaining to our court buildings. However, I know my more important role will be to continue helping our bar association serve as a bulwark against the broader challenges faced. My promise to you is that I will be a zealous advocate for our system of justice and our profession in these challenging times.