Chief Justice Mark Cady

The chief justice of Iowa’s Supreme Court says Iowa judges and magistrates have had just one pay raise in the past eight years and he’s asking legislators for more than $2.2 million to raise those salaries by five percent.

“The success of any organization comes from having the right people, the right vision for future success and the right investments,” Chief Justice Mark Cady said this morning. “…Our vision is not to just recognize judges and magistrates for their work, it is to provide them with regular salary increases in line with the practices followed by other successful businesses.”

The chief justice delivered the annual “Condition of the Judiciary” message to legislators this morning.

“I do so knowing this is a time of scarce financial resources,” he said in the first paragraph of his prepared remarks. “My hope is my message will be heard in a way that leaves you, and all Iowans, better informed about the critical services the Iowa court sysgem performs for Iowans and the importance of investing in those services.”

Nearly 400 people serving on the state’s court of appeals, the supreme court or as magistrates and judges throughout the state. Cady said because of stagnant salaries, there’s been a “significant decline” in applications to fill vacancies when a judge or magistrate retires or takes a job in the private sector. The chief justice is asking legislators for a nearly seven percent boost for the entire judicial branch budget.

“Iowa’s court system needs a renewed investment,” Cady said.

Cady isn’t suggesting how he may deal with the current year’s budget dilemma. Governor Branstad is recommending the court’s budget be cut by $7.25 million. Cady hinted the courts are starting to reduce the hours clerks of court offices are open to the public.

Cady cited a lot of numbers in his speech. He argued court programs to intervene early with juvenile offenders, troubled families and those accused of drug crimes are saving taxpayers millions of dollars, money that would otherwise be spent putting those people in prison.

“Instead of going to prison, our programs pave the way for these Iowans to go to work every day, earn paychecks, support their families and contribute to communities,” Cady said.

But the chief justice acknowledged court programs like these and court operations in general may be “hindered” in the coming months because of budget constraints.