The Iowa Judicial Branch announced Thursday it will eliminate some 200 jobs to cut its budget for the rest of this fiscal year. Steve Davis , the court communications officer, says they will lay off 105 employees and will cut 100 vacant staff positions along with reducing the hours of 58 employees to meet state budget cuts, on top of the 10-days the court system will shut down to save money.
The cuts will reduce the judicial branch operating budget by $11.4 million or 7.1%. That’s the amount of the state’s projected revenue shortfall. Governor Culver ordered a 10% cut for the executive branch of government. Davis says Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus decided a larger cut would cripple the court system.
Davis says the Supreme Court initially looked at matching the 10-percent cut, but decided that the 7.1% cut was a “more prudent option given the vital nature of the court system” and it would still meet the state revenue shortfall. Davis says any cut immediately impacts court services. He says that’s because 95% of the judicial branch’s operating budget goes toward personnel costs.
Davis says the job cuts in the court system are spread across the state. He says with one exception, the court reduce all areas with court administration, clerks and court reporters cut to below 12-percent of the formulas of what is needed to run the system. He says the one exception was juvenile court services which was cut by a lesser degree to reduce the impact on children and young people.
Chief Justice Ternus issued a statement with the budget cut announcement that said, “Even with a 7.1% cut the judicial branch will lay off more employees, cut more jobs, and require more unpaid leave than most state offices and departments, including the regents.” Ternus’ statement says the latest cuts mean there will be 15% fewer judicial branch employees than there were ten years ago.
House Democrat leader, Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines, issue a statement saying he supported the decision of the court system to cut 7.1% from its budget compared to the 10% cuts of the other branches. McCarthy’s statement said,”These cuts, along with the 10 furlough days announced on Monday, have a disproportionate impact on the judicial branch as, unlike other areas of government, over 95-percent of their budget is personnel. We are committed to working with the court this coming session to try to find the resources necessary for the judicial branch to fulfill its constitutional role of protecting rights and liberties, resolving disputes, and contributing to public safety.”