A lawyer who’s a member of the Iowa Senate has unsuccessfully tried to force clerks of court offices to be open every weekday, regardless of budget constraints.
“Right now, the clerks offices are open during regular business hours,” Senator Julian Garrett, a Republican from Indianola, said Wednesday. “They’re open just like the other county offices are, but a few years ago they were not.”
In 2010, court offices were periodically closed as employees were forced to take furloughs to deal with budget cuts. That lasted for four years. Garrett suspects it may happen again, as legislators have drafted a meager budget for the court system.
“Can you imagine the county recorders office or the county treasurers office being closed to the public during certain hours? I think that would be highly unlikely,” Garrett said. “Of course, they’re elected officials.”
Garrett suggested unelected court officials will use what he considers a “loophole” in state law and curtail office hours for clerks of court to save money. Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, said that’s a reasonable reaction to budget reality.
“With a status quo budget, the judicial branch needs flexibility to figure out how to best use limited dollars,” Courtney said.
The Iowa House and Senate have given final approval to next year’s spending plan for the Judicial Branch of state government. There is no additional money to account for inflation and court officials say furloughs and reduced court hours are likely.