Nearly a year after Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady pleaded for more funding for state courts, Eastern Iowa attorneys say the system still is operating with too few resources that cause costly delays and, in some cases, hamper the justice process.
The budget woes have had a broad impact, limiting clerk hours, cutting court reporters, overbooking courtrooms and spreading judges too thin.
In Johnson County, officials say, limited resources have caused lengthy trial delays. In Linn County, officials say, the rising cost of litigation has resulted in more plea agreements.
“Litigation has become increasing expensive, complicated, protracted and unpredictable,” Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden wrote in an email to The Gazette. “With fewer judicial resources to handle increasing case filings, there is more pressure to settle than to take them all the way to trial.”
The number of criminal jury trials in both Linn and Johnson counties is declining, according to statistics available through the middle of December. Prosecutors in Johnson County litigated just eight criminal jury trials in 2012, compared with 15 in 2011 and 18 in 2010.
Linn County had 10 criminal jury trials this year compared with 11 in 2011 and 24 in 2010. Vander Sanden said that with limited resources, settlements are tempting in that they also eliminate the risk of appeal.
What do you think? Does Iowa’s court system deserve more state funding to keep up with the caseload?