The Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court says the state budget problems are going to have an impact on the speed of service of the Iowa court system. Judge Marsha Ternus says the court system will do what it can to help save money — but she says the system is already lean.
"Our options for cost cutting are quite limited," Ternus says, "our resources are spread painfully thin due to the lasting and cumulative effects of the budget cuts in the first part of this decade. Many cost savings measures we adopted then are still in place today."
Ternus says labor costs constitute 96% of their budget, so it is impossible to cut costs without cutting personnel. Ternus says they will look to furloughs of workers instead of cuts. She says further staff reductions through layoffs would "cripple our ability to fulfill our constitutional responsibilities."
Ternus says they learned from previous budget cuts that furloughs scattered throughout the year would do the least amount of harm, although she says furloughs will still have an impact. Ternus says the furloughs will leave some areas of the system short-staffed.
"Furlough days will cause gaps in services such as forwarding child support payments to parents, updating criminal case history and fine payment data that is used by state and local agencies, and sending copies of orders notices of hearings to litigants and law enforcement agencies," Ternus says. She says civil cases will have to wait and some businesses that depend on court records will have to wait.
Ternus says one area where the legislature should not cut is legal services for the poor. Ternus says lawmakers are strongly encouraged to maintain the funding to legal services as she says they are especially critical in these economic times. She says they will also encourage lawyers to do pro-bono work for those who can’t afford legal services.
Ternus says mortgage foreclosures and are already up 14% due to the economy and experts predict child abuse and domestic violence cases will increase as well. Ternus made her comments today in an address to the state legislature.