The clerk of court offices in all 99 Iowa counties are now open Monday through Friday from 8 A.M. until 4:30 P.M. Court communications officer, Steve Davis, says it has been awhile since all offices have been open during the week.
“Going back to the fall of 2009, clerk of court offices throughout the state were closed Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons from 2:30 to 4:30 P.M., and additional other offices were closed additional hours during the work day based on staff levels,” Davis says. The judicial branch received a 3.5-percent increase in its budget to allow them to hire 40 more people to fill the additional hours.
Davis says the clerk of court offices handle the administrative duties of the court and all court records. “As a matter of fact, nearly all court cases in Iowa begin with a filing with the clerk of court,” Davis says.
“But they also do additional work, they’ll accept and process fines, fees and court costs that are owed to the state. They also process child support checks and civil judgments that are owed to litigants. They also handle scheduled violations — those are things such as speeding violations that people will come in and pay at the courthouse.”
Davis says the budget cutbacks led to a lot of uncertainty for people who needed to use the services of the clerks. “Some were on irregular schedules, so you had to check when the courthouse was open. And it was inconvenient for people to try to pay their fines and fees or to file a case,” Davis says.
Some 29 clerk’s offices in northwest Iowa went back to the full schedule on July 15th and the rest added back the hours on Tuesday.
“I’ve not heard from the public, but I know the clerks themselves are very happy to be open. They did not enjoy being closed to the public in the afternoon. I know they are very happy to be back able to serve the public,” according to Davis.
The doors were closed on Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons, but Davis says things in the courthouse didn’t shut down. “They were actually still in the office working, they were just closed to the public. And the reason they had to close was to catch up on the backlog,” Davis says. “But with the additional hours that they are open now, I think people will see a real difference.”
The additional dollars added to the court system budget also allowed the hiring of an additional 13 juvenile court officers, 13 court reporter and the addition of four new information technology positions to help with the implementation of electronic filing.