President’s Message – October/November 2015
From time to time we need to stop and thank those friends and neighbors who are making a positive difference in our community. Although that list is long and distinguished in our community, in this President’s Message I want to focus your attention on two groups of people – those supporting the Polk County Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project and those making our new Courthouse complex a reality.
In the past year (2014-2015), attorneys in the Polk County community have donated at least 4380 hours to representing their neighbors who cannot afford to hire private attorneys. That is an increase of over 1300 hours from the prior year. If you apply a modest hourly rate of $150 per hour to those services, this amounts to $657,000 worth of donated legal services in a single year through the PCBA’s VLP program. More importantly, these services are helping our neighbors overcome legal obstacles related to basic human needs such as housing, employment, and family life.
During our next monthly luncheon on October 13, 2015, at the Iowa State Bar Association Conference Center, the Honorable David Wiggins of the Iowa Supreme Court will help us present outstanding volunteer awards to those individuals who have gone above and beyond in providing legal services through the PCBA VLP. We hope you can join us for that special event. Even if you cannot be there on the 13th, however, please join me in thanking every attorney who has selflessly raised his/her hand during the last year to take one of the 1026 new cases that were opened, or helped close one of the 1006 cases that were closed — you have all made our community a better and more just place to live.
I would also like to express my gratitude to those members of the bench and bar who are continuing to make our community’s dream for a new courthouse complex a reality. Almost two years ago, Polk County voters overwhelmingly approved the construction project which involves renovating our beautiful courthouse building and retrofitting two other downtown buildings into efficient, functional court buildings. Since that time, in addition to their day jobs, many judges and courthouse staff members have worked tirelessly to oversee the construction project, which is progressing on schedule. To all of you who continue to shepherd this project, please accept our sincere gratitude.
As Chief Judge Arthur Gamble recently explained during our September luncheon, the next challenge is to ensure that state funding is made available to furnish and equip the new complex as is clearly contemplated by State code. In that regard, I was pleased to learn that that at its most recent meeting the Iowa State Bar Association’s Board of Governors voted unanimously to support full funding of the Iowa Supreme Court’s budget for equipment needs, which is used to meet courthouse equipment/furniture needs across the state (including the Polk County project). So, I want to also extend a sincere thank you to all of the members of the Board of Governors from across the state (including our local representatives who brought the issue to the attention of the Board) for your support on this very important topic.
Our work is certainly not done in either of these areas — the number of new VLP cases continues to rise, and much work is yet to be done in ensuring that our community’s vision for the courthouse complex becomes a reality and the state legislature fulfills its statutory obligation to adequately furnish and equip the capitol city’s courthouse complex. If any of you are interested in helping in these areas going forward, please feel free to contact me or any of the members of the Polk County Bar Association Board of Directors. To all of you who have been actively involved in these projects in the past – THANK YOU!