A state lawmaker who oversees the court system budget says he’ll be reviewing a potentially controversial order from Iowa Chief Justice Marsha Ternus. The order says in non-priority civil suits, such as foreclosures or divorces not involving children, those involved can speed up their cases by paying for their own court reporters.
The order aims to compensate for layoffs in the court system, but Representative Todd Taylor, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says it raises some questions about equal access to the courts. “I do share the concern that, you know this might be pricing justice out of the reach of people if they don’t have the money. It unlevels the playing field,” Taylor says.
Taylor says such action would be unacceptable in criminal cases. Taylor says in criminal cases usually there’s going to be some personal penalty on the line, maybe even going to prison, and you wouldn’t want to be able to let someone pay to jump in front of the line. Taylor says the chief justice is setting priorities under difficult budget circumstances.
Taylor says lawmakers will discuss alternative funding mechanisms for the courts including higher court fees, but says finding new funds for the court system will be tough.