Chief Justice Cady makes good case for more funding

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: January 24 2013 | 8:20 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 10:30 am in

By Mason City Globe Gazette

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Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady has a bold vision for the state’s court system — to make it “the best, most advanced and most responsive” in the nation.

It’s time, he told the Legislature in his annual address, “to deliver on the grand vision of our forefathers — that the government they created will be the government operated by each generation to always make the lives of Iowans the healthiest, happiest and most prosperous possible.”

“It’s a vision only today’s leaders can deliver.”

Which means he would like the Legislature to provide additional funding to achieve that vision. He makes a good case using six areas of emphasis:

1. Protecting Iowa’s children.

2. Providing full-time access to justice through resuming clerk of court hours that had been slashed by budget cuts.

3. Operating efficiently.

4. Providing faster, less-costly resolution of legal disputes.

5. Operating openly and transparently.

6. Providing fair and impartial justice.

Those are valid goals, one and all.

We, like Cady, are always concerned about juvenile justice.

He called the court system the emergency room for children and their families, as well as the recovery room and rehabilitation center for youthful offenders.

While we must look beyond the cost factor, he said they represent billions of tax dollars if they must be incarcerated or treated for more serious conditions as adults.

As to the other goals, we’re strong proponents of operating openly and transparently, appreciate Cady’s call for expanding the electronic document managing system and hope that something can be done to lead to more speedy resolution of legal disputes.

Already in our court reporting we’re finding cases extending into 2014. That seems like too long to wait. Yet it’s necessary under the current system.

To help achieve his goals, Cady has asked the Legislature for a 3.5 percent budget increase to $167.7 million in the coming fiscal year and another 3.1 increase to $172.8 million in fiscal 2015.

This year, unlike recent years, the state has some money to work with its substantial surplus. But there will be plenty of demand for that money, most noticeably in changing the education system.

Still, the courts have an impact on many people in a variety of ways, and justice should be provided faster, more efficiently and in the best ways possible.

With the system now in place, those working in the system can only do so much. We trust the Legislature will work to find them additional funding so they can do more and give Iowans a system of justice that, as Cady said, will “make the lives of Iowans the healthiest, happiest and most prosperous possible.”

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