President’s Message – February/March 2019

PCBA President David Nelmark

Lately, there has been lots of talk and news coverage about Iowa judges. We’ve had recent retirements from the District Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Iowa Supreme Court. With those retirements come new applicants who put their credentials and personal lives out there for scrutiny by merit selection committees. Those who are appointed through this process take on a tremendous workload and are tasked with making difficult decisions that impact Iowans’ lives, rights, and freedoms.

To all those Iowans who wear and have worn the black robe, I say “Thank You!”

As a group you are collectively held in high regard by the members of the Iowa Bar, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. In our adversarial system, almost every decision you make will leave (at least) one party unhappy. Nonetheless, you are respected and appreciated–even when attorneys caught in the throes of advocacy forget to mention it.

I went to law school out of state, and I have coached mock trial students who went on to law schools across the country. Accordingly, I know litigators in many different jurisdictions. I hear the stories about the judges they deal with, and I realize how lucky I am to practice law in Polk County, Iowa.

In Iowa, we are never asked prior to a hearing to chip into a judge’s re-election campaign. We don’t have to worry that a judge’s credentials are lacking and wonder if a judge got the job solely because of a political connection. We know that each state judge and justice was vetted by fellow lawyers and lay persons who took their job seriously. That takes some of the sting out of being on the wrong side of a ruling. It also helps educate clients and persuade them that they got not only their “day in court” but also a fair shake.

Although our judges deserve to have us buy them lunch, their ethical rules prohibit that. So do the next best thing and join them for lunch. The judges I’ve spoken with appreciate the technical advancements of conference calls and electronic filing, but they actually miss seeing our faces.

One upcoming opportunity to break bread together is at the Polk County Bar Luncheon on Tuesday, February 12. That happens to be our official Bench & Bar luncheon, but we have great attendance from the judiciary at all of our monthly meals.

In closing, let me say one more thing to our judges. The public service you perform obviously makes a great difference in the lives of Iowa’s citizens. What may be less obvious to you is the difference you make in the Polk County Bar Association. Your involvement gives new attorneys a chance to get to know you, and (trust me) it’s a lot less intimidating to cross paths for the first time when you’re not behind the bench. Your participation makes our seminars better and our socials more enjoyable. The PCBA would simply not be the same without you.