President’s Message: February/March 2012

Urgent call to arms!

THIS is the time for Iowa lawyers to step up to protect OUR judicial system and the services it provides to all Iowans. As laid out by ISBA President Bob Waterman, here are the cold, hard facts, followed by the solution proposed by Chief Justice Mark Cady:

A Decade of Cuts: 2002-2012

  • Since 2002, Judicial Branch workforce cut 16%
  • Cuts across the board: clerks of court, court reporters, JCOs, court attendants, law clerks, administrators, and others
  • Holding open judicial vacancies
  • The Judicial Branch workforce is smaller than in 1987; over same time the case load increased 54% (not including simple misdemeanors and scheduled violations)
  • Remainder of state workforce (not including legislature) grew 1.6% from 2002-2012
  • In addition, judges, magistrates, and most noncontract employees have had pay freezes for 3 years, while others in state government have received raises

Cuts Create Problems for Iowans

  • Part time clerk of court offices in 33 counties; remaining offices closed to public 4 hours every week
  • Closures burden Iowans seeking commitment of loved ones for mental illness and substance abuse and protection from domestic violence
  • Closures slow down processing of child support checks, liens, garnishments, processing warrants, and other important matters
  • Clerks have less time to aid public and pro se litigants; less time to collect fines and fees
  • Cuts in judicial support staff result in longer and more frequent case and trial delays; slower production of rulings and orders
  • JCOs have less time to work with delinquent youths; little to no time for face-to-face meetings with young people

Solution: Rebuild Judicial Branch Workforce-$13 million FY 2013; More in FY 2014

  • Fund built-in salary costs for contract covered employees = $3 million
  • Funds to restore 53 FTEs for clerks of court = $2.2 million
  • Funds to restore 42 FTEs for juvenile court staff, court reporters, others = $2.5 million
  • Expedite implementation of electronic filing system (EDMS) = $4.5 million
  • Funds to sustain Jury & Witness Fee Account = $800,000
  • Additional funds required for FY 2014 for completion of 2-year rebuilding plan

What you can do

Call, write, or email your legislators!  The message can be as short as “Please support Chief Justice Cady’s request for funding of the Judicial Branch.”  Let them know you are watching what they do on this issue.  Legislators respond to constituents’ concerns.  If lawyers, of all people, don’t support funding for the Judicial Branch, legislators will conclude the funding isn’t really needed.  Tax dollars won’t be saved, the spending will just go elsewhere.

Click on the email links below to contact Polk County’s senators and representatives or call the House and Senate switchboard numbers listed below and leave a message.

Senate 33: Jack Hatch, 281-3371
House 65: Ruth Ann Gaines, 281-3221
House 66: Ako Abdul-Samad, 281-3221

Senate 34: Dick Dearden, 281-3371
House 67: Kevin McCarthy, 281-3221
House 68: Rick Olson, 281-3221

Senate 35: Jack Whitver, 281-3371
House 69: Eric Helland, 281-3221
House 70: Kevin Koester, 281-3221

If you prefer to write a letter, mail it addressed simply to: “Dear Rep.” (fill in the name) or “Dear Sen.” (fill in the name), Iowa Senate or Iowa House of Representatives, State Capitol Building, Des Moines, IA 50319.

More information: