BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Two local attorneys and a third from the Quad Cities are vying for the position of Lee County Attorney.
The Lee County Board of Supervisors held interviews this morning with Fort Madison attorney Ross Braden, Lee County Assistant Attorney Clinton Boddicker, and Amy Christen, a public defender in Scott County.
The position is being filled by the board after former County Attorney Mike Short retired on Jan. 31. The position is an appointment by the board due to Short’s retirement date, but will be on the next general election ballot in 2018.
Boddicker has been in the Lee County Attorney’s office for close to nine years and said his experience and current working knowledge of the office makes him a good candidate.
“Well, I think the main strength I have is the amount of experience. I’ll have been practicing for 21 years July 1. I’ve been in the county attorney’s office the past nine years in July and for about the last five years or so, I’ve been the first assistant,” Boddicker said. “I’ve been in charge of the Fort Madison office and I can hit the ground running. I can move right into the job with no office or practice to close up.”
Clinton also said he has good working relationships with area law enforcement.
“Most of my criminal cases have been in Fort Madison except for the last couple of weeks after Mike retired. “I have a good relationship with the Fort Madison police department and I have a good relationship with the sheriff’s office.”
Boddicker said he’s recently been able to meet with some of the newer officers in Keokuk and those relationships are solid as well.
He said he liked the direction law enforcement is going with body cameras and dashboard cameras. Boddicker says the video evidence helps in getting the facts of a case correct, but the public disclosure of that evidence will be a tricky topic.
“I think at some point we’re going to need some legislation on how that information is turned over to the public. We’ve had officer-involved shootings on Fort Madison cameras and our rule here is always to get an independent set of eyes on it so we send it the State Attorney General’s office.
“There will always be people that criticize you for doing too much or not enough,” he said. “These cameras help with that.”
Boddicker said the position gives him the opportunity to keep doing what he’s loved for the past nine years and he’s decided a couple years ago that career in prosecution is what he wants. He said the only changes he would envision would be maybe organizationally how caseloads are handled, but he said he would like to see the drug court and fine collection programs continued.
Boddicker lives with this family in Keokuk.
Ross, a Fort Madison native who lives in West Point with his family, is currently a law partner at Saunders and Braden Law Firm in Fort Madison a position he’s held since 2012. He graduated from Western Illinois University with a psychology major, and a minor in law enforcement and justice administration.
He earned his juris doctorate from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 2011 and passed the Iowa Bar Admission in 2012.
“As corny or cheesy as it may sound I’ve always wanted to be a prosecuting attorney,” Braden said. “Even when I applied to law school they require a letter as part of your application and I talked about how I wanted to be a prosecutor. I was born and raised in FM, I live in West Point, love my home, my community and want to be able to work for the people of Lee County.”
Ross said his diligence and work ethic make him a viable candidate for the post. He also said he’s well versed in criminal law and has the ability to exercise good judgment in the position. And even as a defense attorney he has solid relationships with the local law enforcement.
“I think even for a defense attorney, I have a very good working relationship in particular with the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and the deputies there. I’m very familiar with law enforcement officers moreso in Fort Madison than south Lee County.
Regarding body cameras, Ross also said it’s helpful in building cases and officer accountability as well.
“It gives an objective viewpoint of what actually happened for any specific incident. Regardless of what someone may say, the video will speak for itself.”
Ross said he didn’t want to take a position at this time on the issue of video evidence as a public record.
Ross said he didn’t really see anything warranting change in the county attorney’s office, but did indicate he would want to see the drug court continue and said closures such as the Mental Health Institute in Mount Pleasant have created resource gaps in dealing with community drug problems.
Ross said he if he’s fortunate enough to be selected for the post, he had no plans to go anywhere else.
“Like I said to the board, if I am their guy for the position. I’d be their guy for the next 30 years. This would be my career choice. I have no other aspirations to pursue a judgeship or anything.”
Currently a public defender in Davenport, Christen said she was interested in the position because she’s seen the other side of the courtroom and that would enable her to be an effective prosecutor.
“While almost all of my legal work experience is in criminal defense, I can and will use that experience to fulfill all prosecutorial duties,” Christen said. “I have been very successful in breaking down and analyzing a case for the weaknesses that lead to reasonable doubt and acquittal verdicts. I will take that same skill and experience to find and fix those weaknesses in a case to obtain a conviction.”
Christen said the use of body cameras and dashboard cameras are also a great thing for proof and evidence, but said any releasing of those records should be done with care and only after a case has been closed.
“There’s just too many way to jeopardize a case,” she said. “I would only be in favor of the release after the case has been officially closed.”
Christen graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in sociology and a juris doctorate and has had stints with the Johnson and Dubuque County attorneys offices. She was a member of the Air Force ROTC program at Iowa and worked at the Youth Law Center. She’s been part of several high visibility cases as a public defender while in the Scott County office and said that exposure has helped prepare her for a lead position.