Hon. Luther T. Glanton Jr.

Luther T. Glanton Jr. was Iowa’s first African American Judge. He was appointed to fill a mid-term vacancy on the Des Moines Municipal Court in 1958 and won election to that seat the following year. In 1973, Judge Glanton was appointed as an associate district judge and then as a district judge by Governor Robert Ray in 1976, a position he held until his retirement in 1985.

Glanton earned his bachelor’s degree at Tennessee State University in 1939 and his juris doctor degree from Drake University Law School in 1942. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Army and served as an intelligence officer during WW II. After the war, he served on the staff of U.S. Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson at the Nuremberg Trials and remained active in the U.S. Army Reserve before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

In 1947, Judge Glanton returned to Des Moines and joined the law firm of Henry T. McKnight, Virgil Dixon, and W. Lawrence Oliver. He was actively involved in the civil rights movement and held leadership positions in the Iowa NAACP. In 1950, he was instrumental in the enforcement of the Iowa Civil Rights Act and fought against segregation in Iowa’s eating establishments.

He became the first Black assistant Polk County attorney in 1951 where he remained until his appointment to the bench.

Judge Glanton was highly regarded locally and nationally. During the Kennedy presidency he was appointed as an ambassador to China through the Agency for International Development.

Judge Glanton’s legacy includes establishing legal, social, and civic organizations and programs to support Black men and women in Iowa.

Hon. Dennis J. Stovall

Dennis J. Stovall was appointed as a magistrate judge for Polk County in 1986, the first Black person appointed to that position. In 1996, Governor Terry Branstad appointed Stovall as associate district judge for the 5th District of Iowa. He was promoted to district judge six months later. He served on the bench for 29 years.

Judge Stovall earned his bachelor’s degree from Chicago State University and his juris doctor from Drake University Law School.

Early in his career, Stovall served as a Des Moines City Prosecutor. He noticed a pattern in how some minorities were treated by police and recognized the potential for profiling in cases involving people of color. He addressed the issue directly with city attorneys’ offices throughout Iowa and highlighted questionable tactics from the bench. His engagement led to the establishment of sensitivity training for local law enforcement and an awareness that the issue of racial profiling needed to be addressed at all levels of the judicial system.

Hon. Don Carlos Nickerson

Don Carlos Nickerson served as a District Court judge in Iowa’s Fifth Judicial District from 2003 to 2011.

Judge Nickerson attended Iowa State University, where he graduated in 1974 with degrees in journalism and sociology. He received his juris doctor degree from Drake University Law School.

Nickerson worked in private practice before becoming an assistant with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa in 1978. In 1980, he rejoined private practice, working for the Allen, Babich & Bennett firm, later becoming a partner in the firm of Babich & Nickerson. In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated Nickerson to be U.S. attorney for Iowa’s Southern District. He was confirmed, making him the first African American U.S. attorney to serve Iowa.

During his tenure as U.S. Attorney, Nickerson worked to institute the nationwide Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. He also chaired a subcommittee established to implement strategies to deter methamphetamine usage through education and awareness. In June 2001 Nickerson left the U.S. Attorney’s Office and moved into corporate practice as associate general counsel at Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield, handling compliance cases related to HIPPA. He worked at Wellmark until his appointment to the bench.

Hon. Odell McGhee II

Odell McGhee II was appointed as a district associate judge for Iowa’s Fifth Judicial District in February 2002. He retired after 20 years on the bench and assumed senior judge status.

Judge McGhee received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell College in 1974 and his juris doctor degree from Drake University Law School in 1977. He worked as the program planner for the Iowa Commission of the Aging, administrative hearing officer with the Iowa Department of Environmental Quality, and as a Polk County attorney just prior to his appointment to the bench.

McGhee was the first African American elected president of the Iowa Judges Association. He served as president of the National Bar Association and was president of the Iowa National Bar Association for more than 10 years. His vision led to the creation of “A Monumental Journal,” a public art project dedicated to the founders of the National Bar Association in Des Moines.

Judge McGhee has served on several special committees of the Iowa State Bar Association and on the Executive Board of the Polk County Bar Association. He is currently a commissioner on the Iowa Supreme Court’s Continuing Legal Education Commission and an officer of the National Association of Prosecutors (NAP). He has been a member of the adjunct faculty of Drake Law School and Des Moines Area Community College and was a member of the Law School’s Board of Counselors. He directs the Langston Hughes Company of Players, a local minority theatrical troupe that presents the history of African Americans through music, dance, and the written word.

Hon. Romonda D. Belcher

Romonda D. Belcher was appointed as a district associate judge in Iowa’s Fifth Judicial District in 2010, becoming the first, and remaining the only, African American female judge in the state of Iowa.

Judge Belcher earned her bachelor’s degree with honors from Howard University in 1990, and her juris doctor degree from Drake University Law School in 1995. She began her legal career as an assistant Polk County attorney, a role she served for 15 years prior to her appointment to the bench.

Judge Belcher has presided with distinction over criminal cases, civil appeals and currently, over juvenile dependency and delinquency matters. She also presides over Polk County’s therapeutic, peer-based Family Treatment Court, designed to assist parents with services toward maintaining sobriety, achieving self-sufficiency, and being reunified with their children.

Judge Belcher is an adjunct professor at Drake Law School. She served as project coordinator for the Iowa National Bar Association’s “A Monumental Journey” public art project dedicated to the founders of the National Bar Association. She regularly serves on committees to address racial disparities in the juvenile and criminal justice systems; conducts training on being trauma informed to help the judiciary and other disciplines reduce revictimization of those experiencing trauma; and serves as a mentor to law students and youth.

Belcher has received numerous honors and recognitions for her commitment to service. She was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2022 and was named a “Community Hero” by Prevent Child Abuse Iowa that same year. She was recognized as a 2020 Woman of Influence by the Des Moines Business Record. Her trailblazing accomplishments have been recognized on the floor of the 116th United States Congress.

Hon. David M. Porter

David M. Porter was appointed district court judge for Iowa’s Fifth Judicial District in 2015.

Judge Porter received his bachelor’s degrees in English/Communications and Criminology/Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland at College Park. He earned his law degree from Drake University Law School in 2004. Immediately after law school, Judge Porter worked at a law firm in Las Vegas that specialized in construction-defect litigation. After returning to Iowa in 2006, he served as the Violence Against Women (VAWA) prosecutor for Wapello County. In February 2007, Judge Porter joined the Polk County Attorney’s Office, where he prosecuted OWI related offenses, vehicular homicides, sexually-based offenses, and crimes against children.

Judge Porter is a member of the Board of Counselors at Drake Law School and serves on the Iowa Domestic Abuse Death Response Team. Judge Porter is also a member of the C. Edwin Moore Inn of Court, and the Polk County and Iowa State Bar Associations.

Hon. Henry Hamilton III

Henry Hamilton III is an administrative law judge with the United States Social Security Administration.

Judge Hamilton earned his bachelor’s degree in 1988 and juris doctor in 1992 from Drake University. He began his career as a city prosecutor for the City of Des Moines and continued as senior trial attorney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As an EEOC attorney Hamilton was the first attorney to successfully argue that the failure to provide prescription contraceptives under an employer’s otherwise comprehensive health plan was a form of sex discrimination. Hamilton served as a part time magistrate judge in the Pok County associate district court and then as an administrative law judge with the EEOC’s Milwaukee District Office.

Hamilton is an active member of the Iowa State Bar Association (ISBA), Iowa Chapter of the National Bar Association, and the American Bar Association (ABA). He served as president of the ISBA for 2022-2023, the first Africa American to serve in that role. He currently serves as chair of the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.

Throughout his career, Judge Hamilton has received more than a dozen honors, including three national awards: the EEOC’s Chairwoman’s Award recognizing his outstanding career with the EEOC, the NAACP Foot Soldier in the Sand Award, and the National Bar Association’s prestigious President’s Award for outstanding service to the NBA and legal profession.

Hon. Donald L. Williams

Donald L. Williams served as a magistrate judge in Iowa’s Fifth Judicial District from 2017 until his retirement in 2022.

Magistrate Judge Williams graduated with a bachelor’s (1973), master’s (1979), and juris doctor degree (1984) from Drake University. In addition, he received a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Iowa in 1999. Before becoming a judge he was employed in the Legal Department of Principal Financial Group and the FHLB of Des Moines.

Williams is an active member of the Iowa National Bar Association.

Hon. Marc Elcock

Marc Elcock is a magistrate judge in Iowa’s Fifth Judicial District.

Magistrate Judge Elcock earned his law degree from Drake University Law School and holds graduate degrees in public health, public administration, and forensic psychology. He received his undergraduate degree from Iowa State University.

Elcock is the attorney/owner of Elcock Law Firm in Osceola where his primary focus is helping children and families navigate the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. He is also an instructor of criminology at Southwest Community College. He previously served as chief of staff for the Iowa Senate leader in the Iowa Legislature.

Elcock currently serves on several community and professional boards including the Iowa Child Advocacy Board and Short Years partnership. He is a member of the Iowa State Bar Association.