Eleven court offices closed January 1st will re-open if a bill that cleared the Iowa House becomes law. The magistrate offices were closed as officials considered a reorganization plan for the courts, but that’s been abandoned, and lawmakers want those offices reopened. Once a week, judges from county seat courthouses traveled to Belle Plaine, Cedar Falls, Evansdale, Grinnell, Hudson, Iowa Falls, La Porte City, Missouri Valley, Oelwein, Perry and Shenandoah to open the satellite offices. Republican Representative George Eichhorn of Stratford says the magistrate offices handle minor civil and criminal cases. Eichhorn says closing those offices restricts access to justice.Democrat Representative Jackie Reeder of Oelwein says local officials told her many folks are missing court appearances because of the traveling distance to the county seat courthouses. She says they’re then charged with failure to appear and law officers have to go after them. She says that causes more cost in the long run.Reeder says all 11 communities have agreed to pick up the tab for the satellite courts if the legislature gives ’em permission to reopen. In most cases, it’s just the cost of mileage for the judge. The bill, which cleared the House this morning, now goes to the Senate.
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