Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Mark Cady made a rare appearance before a statehouse committee Tuesday, pleading for more money for Iowa’s court system.
The Chief Justice presents the judicial branch needs each year in the annual Condition of the Judiciary address.
Justice Cady told house and senate budget writers he’s never brought his case to lawmakers directly.
“I do so now to share with you my belief that the judicial branch is at a crossroads,” Cady said.
Court officials say the court system was underfunded this year, requiring unfilled positions to stay open and some courthouse closings.
Then the courts took a midyear $3 million cut.
Cady asked lawmakers to restore funding to last year’s level or risk the problems seen during the last economic slowdown in 2009.
“Closing courthouses, reducing hours of courthouses, fewer court services for rural Iowa, layoffs,” Cady outlined. “Significantly reduced face-to-face time between our at-risk children and our juvenile court officers, the elimination of specialty courts, and delays in civil litigation because priority must be given to criminal cases.”
The courts are already keeping unfilled positions open and have scheduled a one-day furlough for court workers in May.
“I realize this will be a heavy lift,” said Court Administrator David Boyd. “You can choose to invest in the judicial branch now, or you can choose to invest in the Department of Corrections, the Department of Human Services and the other stakeholders later because there will be a cost.”
One Republican budget-writer promised his best effort.
“We will do our damnedest to get you to where you need to be,” said Rep. Gary Worthan (R-Storm Lake).