Nick Drees was a founding member of the Iowa Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in 1992. Nick presented at IACDL local and statewide meetings until his untimely death in 2011.
We wanted to include the following about Nick’s remarkable life and legacy so those of you who never knew Nick will get a glimpse of this extraordinary man and for those of us lucky enough to have known him to remember him.
Nick grew up on a farm near Manning and attended Manning Community Schools, graduating in 1981 as the class Valedictorian. In 1985, Nick graduated with honors from Harvard College.
He was a member of the United Community Housing Coalition for a year, serving in Detroit, Michigan. There, he did landlord-tenant counseling for the poor. He next attended the University of Chicago, graduating from law school in 1989.
From 1989 to 1991, Nick served as a law clerk to Honorable Donald E. O'Brien, U.S. District Court for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa, Sioux City. Nick then went to work as an assistant public defender at the Polk County Public Defender's Office in Des Moines. He worked there from 1991 to 1994.
From 1994 to 2011, Nick worked for the Federal Public Defender's Office for Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa. He served as an assistant federal defender from 1994 to 1999. In 1999, he became the Federal Defender, serving as head of the agency's four offices in Iowa and representing clients in federal court. He continued in this position until the time of his death.
Throughout his career, Nick was active with the ACLU and its Iowa Affiliate, serving as a member of the Board of Directors and holding several offices. He also was a active member of the American Constitution Society, and Iowans Against the Death Penalty. He served on the Harvard Schools Scholarships Committee for Central Iowa as a member since 1992 and as chair since 1999.
Nick dedicated his career to criminal defense work. He believed deeply that the American system of justice was best served by providing vigorous legal advocacy for the less fortunate. He also believed that each person deserved to be treated fairly and with dignity and respect. His life's work reflected his commitment and compassion to equal justice for all. He was a respected and beloved member of the state and federal legal community.
Each year we have selected one speaker’s topic as Nick’s Presentation to honor his service to the criminal defense bar.