April 17, 2014

Chief justice seeks 3.5 percent boost for courts’ budgets (AUDIO)

Chief Justice Mark Cady

Chief Justice Mark Cady

The chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court says to “meet the expectations of Iowans” the courts need to provide “full-time access to justice.”

Chief Justice Mark Cady says after years of cut-backs, it’s time to boost taxpayer funding of the courts to help ensure Clerk of Court offices are open during regular business hours.

“All clerks offices in Iowa are closed every Tuesday and every Thursday afternoon,” he says.

“Closures deny access to Iowans, including those seeking committment of loved ones for mental illness and substance abuse and people seeking protection from domestic violence. We’ve all heard stories of domestic violence victims having to wait for an order of protection because the clerk’s office was not open to them.”

Cady delivered the annual “State of the Judiciary” speech to Iowa legislators and Governor Branstad this morning. Cady’s asked lawmakers to boost the budget for the state’s court system by 3.5 percent. Cady said the court has delayed pay raises for too long.

“We must pay competitive salaries to our judges and magistrates that reward superior performance, sustain committed service and compete in the marketplace,” Cady said.

Representative Gary Worthan is the Republican from Storm Lake who is co-chair of the committee that drafts the judicial branch budget. According to Worthan, pay raises for court officials are “more than reasonable.”

“We’re looking at a situation where all of our judges and magistrates have foregone any kind of a raise for the last five years so that we could keep as many salaried people employed as we could,” Worthan told reporters after the speech.

The chief justice also wants to hire more juvenile court officers

“Every child who enters into our system deserves to have at least a face-to-face meeting with an assigned trained juvenile court officer. We know that with early personal intervention more troubled children will be saved from a life of crime and lifted out of a world of heartache,” Cady said this morning, getting applause from legislators.

Representative Worthan said Cady’s made “a very good case” for getting a bigger budget.

“The court has been very responsive as far as trying to increase efficiencies and they’ve pushed that I think probably about as far as they can,” Worthan said, “and I think it’s our responsibility to come up with some of the funds that they need.”

Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, told reporters ”every penny” spent to steer troubled kids in the right direction saves taxpayers “dollars and dollars” down the road.

“If this state is going to succeed, we need to take care of our kids and stop throwing them in prisons,” Courtney said.

Courtney is co-chair of the panel that will draft the judicial system’s budget.

Audio of CadySpeech (mp3 runs 34 minutes)