The chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court warns the state’s court system is near the breaking point. Chief Justice Mark Cady has asked legislators to provide 10-million more dollars to the state’s court system next year to help hire more staff and end the practice of reduced hours at the state’s clerk of court offices.
“We have a court system that operates on a budget of $154 million. We bring into this state $146 million and we bring into the cities and county governments another $17 million,” Cady says. “We bring in more money than we actually spend.” Those are the fees and fines and court costs employees of the court system process.
Thirty-three of the clerk of court offices are operating on a part-time basis and the entire court system has seen a more than 16% reduction in its workforce over the past two decades, while the number of cases in the court system has grown by 50%.
“Woodbury County, for instance, has documented that instead of disposing of divorce cases within a period of four-to-six months,they’re now going to nine months and beyond,” Cady says. The Iowa Supreme Court is still in the process of working through the backlog of cases created when Iowans voted three justices off the court in 2010.
In early 2011 the four remaining justices on the court elected Cady to serve as chief justice and Governor Branstad appointed three new members of the court Cady says the seven justices have “pulled together” and the court is moving forward despite the “destruction” caused by the 2010 retention election.
Cady made his comments during an appearance on the “Iowa Press” program which was broadcast this weekend on Iowa Public Television.