The Iowa Supreme Court’s chief justice says the state’s courts need to an immediate cash injusion, or risk a “continued downward path” to “failure,” Chief Justice Louis Lavorato delivered the annual “Condition of the Iowa Judiciary” message this morning. Lavorato says in previous years, despite budget hardships, the judicial branch was able to manage its responsibilities to the public, but he says this year, the courts are “spread painfully thin” and “the quality of justice is at risk.” Lavorato says five consecutive years of state budget cuts have finally taken a toll. As you may know, Lavorato decided to periodically close court offices — forcing staff to take unpaid leave — to save money. “This is the first time in Iowa’s history that courts have closed for lack of funds. We all should be alarmed anytime courthouse doors are closed to those seeking justice,” Lavorato says. Lavorato says additional layoffs would “cripple” the courts’ ability to provide basic services, especially in rural parts of the state. Lavorato says the courts have “slashed expenses to the bone” and now Iowans seeking justice are being shortchanged. “I’ve heard it said by some legislators that the courts have not sacrificed enough,” Lavorato says. “I say ‘Look at the facts.'” Lavorato asked legislators for what he called a “responsible” spending increase for the courts — and he wants some of that money immediately. Lavorato told lawmakers that to do less was a “recipe for failure.”