Maria E. Brownell






100 Court Avenue, Suite 600
Des Moines, IA 50309


Gwen Crawford

Court Admissions

All Iowa Courts

U.S. District Courts – Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa


J.D. (Highest Honors), Drake University, 2009

B.S. (Cum Laude), Creighton University, (3-3 pre-law program), 2007

Bar Admissions

Iowa, 2009


Maria is a member of the firm’s Litigation and Public Finance Practice Groups, and works with public entities including cities, city utilities, counties, special districts and other local governments. She represents clients in both the litigation and appeals process. Her representation of municipal entities includes litigation in federal and state courts, as well as practice before administrative agencies in regard to such matters as public improvement contract litigation, open meetings, public records requests, and the exercise of home rule powers. Maria currently serves as chair of the firm's Construction Law Practice Group and the Diversity Committee.

Prior to joining Ahlers & Cooney, Maria was an Administrative Law Judge for the State of Iowa, Department of Inspections and Appeals. She conducted hearings and issued proposed decisions in contested case proceedings involving various state and local agencies, including the Department of Human Services, Department of Transportation, Iowa Workforce Development, and Department of Inspections and Appeals. She successfully completed certification at the National Judicial College for Administrative Law: Fair Hearings. Prior to this, she practiced law at a Des Moines law firm in the areas of municipal law, family law, business law, and litigation.

Upon graduation from law school, Maria served as a judicial law clerk to The Honorable Mark S. Cady, Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court for three years. During law school, she served as an extern to The Honorable Lee M. Jackwig, Chief Judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Iowa and as a Summer Associate with the Ahlers & Cooney law firm. At Drake Law School, she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Drake Journal of Agricultural Law. As the child of a native-born Puerto Rican, Maria speaks both English and Spanish.


Iowa State Bar Association

Young Lawyers Division, Mock Trial Committee

Diversity and Inclusiveness Committee

Polk County Bar Association

Polk County Women Attorneys


Best Lawyers in America©

  • Construction Law (2023)
  • Municipal Law (2023)

Super Lawyers Great Plains - State/Local/Municipal Law (Rising Star 2018-2019)

Order of the Coif

Academic Achievement Award for International Intellectual Property Law, Drake Law School


Maria's most recent speaking engagements include:

Iowa Concrete Paving Association, 2022 Municipal Streets Seminar, "Financing Street Improvements," with Elizabeth Burnett, November 2022

Iowa Municipal Attorneys Association, New City Attorney Institute, "Rules of Procedure, Effective Meetings, and Open Meetings and Records Guidance," with Logan Brundage, November 2022

Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute 2022, "Financing Options and Economic Development," with Jason Comisky, Kristin Cooper and Jenna Sabroske, October 2022

Iowa State Association of County Auditors, "You May Be in 'Jeopardy' - Hot Topics for Clerks to Stay out of 'Trouble'," with Logan Brundage, June 2022

Iowa Economic Development Authority, 2022 Iowa Downtown Conference, "Property Acquisition 101 for Iowa Cities — What to do When Negotiations Fall Apart," with Olivia Brooks, August 2022

Iowa League of Cities, Nuisance Abatement Conference, "How to Take Action on Abandoned Properties," with Kristine Stone, May 2022

Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, 27th Annual Water & Wastewater Operator’s Training Workshop, "Legal Considerations," November 2021

Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute 2021, "Financing Options and Economic Development," with Jason Comisky, Kristin Cooper and Jenna Sabroske, October 2021

Iowa Municipal Attorneys Association, Webinar, "Right of Way Management: Legal Considerations and Best Practices," with Kristine Stone, May 2021

Iowa City/County Management Association, Iowa Municipal Management Institute, "Property Acquisition 101: What to do When Negotiations Fall Apart," with Kristine Stone and Jenna Bishop, March 2021

Iowa Municipal Attorneys Association, Annual Seminar, "Public Improvement Best Practices," with Kristine Stone, November 2020

Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute 2020, "Financing Options and Economic Development," with Jenna Bishop, Jason Comisky, and Kristin Cooper, July 2020

Iowa Municipal Attorneys Association, Annual Conference, “Case Law Review,” with Kristine Stone, November 2019

Iowa Concrete Paving Association, 2019 Municipal Streets Seminar, "Financing Street Improvements," with Kristin Cooper, November 2019

Iowa Municipal Attorneys Association, Webinar, "Providing Water Service to a Contested Area," with Kristine Stone, August 2019

Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute 2019, Financing Options and Economic Development,” with Jenna Bishop, Jason Comisky, and Kristin Cooper, July 2019

Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Muni Law 101 Workshop, "Bid-letting," January 2019

Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Annual Water & Wastewater Operator's Workshop, "Legal Considerations," November 2018

American Public Works Association- Iowa Chapter, Spring Conference, "Iowa Civil Service," with Kristine Stone and Jim Wainwright, April 2018

Published Articles & Books

Note, Coffee Trademark Licensing for Farmers: Brewing a Farmer-Owned Brand, 14 Drake J. Agric. L. 291 (2009)

Professional, Community and Civic Leadership

Iowa State Bar Association, Board of Governors, District 5C Representative (2021 - present)

Polk County Bar Association, Volunteer Lawyer Project, Board of Directors, President (2016 - present), Secretary (2014-2016)

Polk County Magistrate and District Associate Judge Nominating Commission (2015-2020)

Polk County Women Attorneys, Secretary (2014-2015), Treasurer (2016), President-Elect (2017)

Food Bank of Iowa, Board of Directors (2016-2017)

Luther Care Services, Board of Directors (2014-2016)

Valley High School, Mock Trial Coach (2008-2013), Judge (2013-2015)

St. John’s Lutheran Church, Fine Arts Committee (2011 - present), Children’s Ministry (2011 - present)

Young Women’s Resource Center, Basket Auction Committee Co-Chair (2012)

Iowans for Fair and Impartial Courts

P.E.O., Des Moines Chapter KT