R. Dan Boulware
An impeded duck hunt led Dan Boulware to litigate the largest, most complex case of his career.
The St. Joseph attorney for Polsinelli said he and his neighbor, Roger Ideker, are avid duck hunters.
“We started getting flooded out in the fall. We couldn’t hunt,” he said.
The two men realized the Missouri River had changed course, and flooding had become a more regular occurrence in Northwest Missouri — impeding both hunting and farming.
“We said to ourselves, the environmental lobby has clout, they have funding, but these landowners, these farmers don’t have any say,” Boulware said. “They don’t have anyone trying to advocate for their interests, and we need to do something.”
In 2014, Boulware took the lead on a lawsuit that eventually came to include more than 350 plaintiffs from Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and the Dakotas. Ideker’s farm is the named plaintiff in the case.
The plaintiffs alleged that a policy change in 2004 amounted to an inverse condemnation of low-lying farmland that previously had been protected from flooding by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Boulware said. Since the policy change, the river has flooded repeatedly.
He scored a win for his clients in March 2018 when a federal judge ruled that the Corps was responsible for the flooding along the river. Damages in the case could amount to $300 million, Boulware said. The trial is set to go into a second phase, which will include the government’s defenses and the plaintiffs’ arguments for damages.
A native of Columbus, Kansas, Boulware said he knew he wanted to be a lawyer in grade school. He counts the father of one of his friends who was a lawyer and his grandfather, a Kansas state senator, as his inspiration for joining the profession.
After earning his law degree from the University of Kansas in 1972, he joined Brown, Douglas & Brown in St. Joseph, a firm specializing in insurance-defense litigation. Boulware said he didn’t know anyone in St. Joseph, but he jumped at the chance to immediately go into the courtroom and try cases.
“I worked with the intention to be there two years, to get court experience right off and move elsewhere,” he said. “And then I never left.”
In 1978, leaders of the St. Joseph business community encouraged him and other young attorneys to join together to open a new firm. The attorneys formed Watkins, Boulware, Lucas & Miner.
The firm joined with Shughart Thomson & Kilroy in 2002, which merged with Polsinelli in 2009. Boulware said his own practice left St. Joseph in the early 1980s, although he remains based there. That’s when he started trying cases nationally, primarily in federal courts.
Boulware likens litigation to his days as a high school quarterback.
“I guess I like the competition, I like the challenge and there’s always uncertainty with juries,” he said. “The trial practice is very invigorating to me and it always has been.”
Beyond his trial work, Boulware is a civic booster in St. Joseph, supporting local education, the arts and youth enrichment. An annual convocation at Missouri Western State University with a focus on current events bears his name. The program has attracted top scholars, journalists and politicians as speakers.
“We engrained that in every attorney that I’ve hired here in this law firm — you give back to the community, you get involved,” he said. “It’s in our culture, and it’s what everyone should do if they care about their community. Whatever we do to help our community helps us.”
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