The number of lawsuits and criminal complaints filed in Iowa courts continues to grow. Iowa’s District Courts handled over one million cases last year. In the past decade, there’s been a 22 percent increase in criminal cases in Iowa courts. During that same timer period from 1992 to 2002 there’s been a 19 percent increase in civil cases, like divorces. Just last year nearly 88,000 criminal cases were filed in Iowa and drunken driving cases were 23 percent of that total. Twenty percent involved drugs. There were 75,000 lawsuits filed in civil court. Twenty-thousand of those were divorce cases. While the caseload in Iowa courts continues to rise, the number of jury trials is on the decline. There were 938 jury trials in Iowa courts last year. That’s slightly less than the year before, and a lot less than a decade ago. In 1992, there were almost 1500 jury trials in Iowa. Court officials don’t have hard stats on the trend, but they say there may be several reasons the number of jury trials is on the decline. For instance, there’s been a slight decline in violent crime in Iowa; those charged with crimes have a greater motivation to accept a plea bargain because of the state law which requires folks to serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentence; and there’s greater use of mediation to resolve disputes before a case goes to trial.
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