BS '62 Chemical Engineering
As a trained Iowa State engineer with a diverse educational background, Judge Charles Lettow is regarded as one of the United States’ most thoughtful and analytical jurists. Lettow was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed in 2003 as a judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims. In this role, Lettow hears cases in which citizens raise claims against the federal government, many of which are highly complex and technical in nature, involving such topics as patent infringement, contracts, taxes, takings of property and nuclear power.
Lettow has been practicing law since 1968. After earning a law degree from Stanford and serving in clerkships with a federal appellate judge and the chief justice of the United States, he worked in the Executive Office of the President for several years. Thereafter, he spent 30 years with the firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in Washington, D.C., where he argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and more than 40 cases in the U.S. Courts of Appeals. He is a U.S. Army veteran and has served as president of Busy Way Farms in his hometown of Iowa Falls, Iowa, since 1989.
In 1992, Lettow was honored by the National Association of Attorneys General for “sustained assistance to the States in their preparation for appearances before the Supreme Court of the United States.” He was also recognized for excellence in amicus briefs to the Supreme Court by the National State and Local Legal Center in the late 1990s. Iowa State University honored him as a visiting scholar in 2008 and in 2013 as an inaugural member of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering’s Alumni Hall of Fame.
As an active member of the American Bar Association and American Law Institute, Lettow has authored numerous publications and is an avid researcher. Among other things, he earned a master’s degree in history from Brown while on a sabbatical leave during the 2000-01 academic year. He has served as chairman of the board of trustees of The Potomac School from 1985 to 1988 and as a member of the board from 1983 to 1990. He was also chairman of the ABA’s Environmental Controls Committee of what is now the Section of Business Law from 1983 to 1987. He served on the executive committee of his law firm for six years and on the finance committee of the firm for seven years.
Lettow and his wife, Bonnie, class of 1963, live in McLean, Virginia. They are active members of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and life members of the Iowa State University Alumni Association. They are also members of the Order of the Knoll Campanile Society.
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