GOP Senator: Force Court Offices Open Despite Bare-Bones Budget

Apr 20, 2016

A GOP state senator wants clerks of court around the state to keep their offices open during all normal business hours, in spite of a limited judicial branch budget for next year.  

Court officials warn they may have to reduce office hours or furlough workers under a judicial branch status quo spending plan.

In 2009, court employees took unpaid leave and offices were closed for several days to accommodate a nearly four million dollar cut in the judicial branch budget. Hours were reduced in some counties again in 2013.

Sen. Julian Garrett (R-Indianola) doesn’t want that to happen again.

“Right now the clerk’s offices are open during regular business hours just like all the other county offices are, but a few years ago they were not,” Garrett said. “They were closed during a period of time during the week and that lasted for several years.” 

Rep. Julian Garrett (R-Indianola)
Credit John Pemble

Garrett offered legislation to force the offices to stay open, but it was defeated on a party-line vote.  

“With a status quo budget, the courts need flexibility to best use their limited dollars,” said Sen. Tom Courtney (D-Burlington.)

Courtney called Garrett’s proposal an unfunded mandate.

But Garrett says court offices should perform like other county offices.

“Can you imagine a count assessor or county treasurer office being closed?” Garrett asked.  “That would be highly unlikely.  

“Of course they’re elected officials so they’re responsible to the voters and to the public,” Garrett said. 

Garrett said with new electronic filing, courts should be able to stay open.

“So you don’t go and find the office closed and have to come back another time,” Garrett said.