Public Records Requests
The Iowa Judicial Branch is committed to the concept of an open and transparent court system for all Iowans and seeks to provide the public with meaningful access to records about cases as well as court operations and administration. While the Iowa Judicial Branch aspires to respond appropriately and consistently to requests for judicial branch records, it must also protect confidential and privileged records from disclosure. Iowa Judicial Branch records are available for public inspection and copying pursuant to this policy unless otherwise provided by the Iowa Court Rules or state statute.
I. Requests for judicial branch records.
Requests for judicial branch records must be directed to the appropriate records custodian. Requests may be made verbally or in writing during regular judicial branch office hours. However, custodians may request that complex requests be submitted in writing. Requests must include sufficient detail to reasonably identify the records sought.
The judicial branch has established different custodians depending on whether the request is being made by the media as well as by the type of documents sought by the requester.
- Requests by the media. Requests for records and data by the media, regardless of the type of record, must be made to the Judicial Branch Communications Director.
- District court case records. Requests for district court case records must be made to the clerk of court office in the county where the case is filed. A directory of district courts can be found here.
- Appellate case records. Requests for appellate case records must be made to the Clerk of the Iowa Supreme Court.
- Administrative records. Requests for judicial branch administrative records and judicial branch electronic data must be made to the State Court Administrator.
II. Responses to records requests.
Responses to records requests will be made promptly or as soon as practicable depending on the size and nature of the request.
Responses to records requests may include the following:
- If the requested records are available to the public, the records custodian will notify the requester of when and how the records will be made available and of any fees applicable to the request.
- If the request does not include enough information to locate the records, the records custodian may ask the requester to provide additional information.
- If the requested records do not exist, the records custodian will notify the requester.
- If public review of the records is not permitted, the custodian will notify the requester, identifying the reason for denying the records request.
- If compliance with the records request imposes an unreasonable burden on judicial branch resources or disruption of normal judicial branch operations, the records custodian may deny the request and will notify the requester. The requester and the records custodian may discuss alternatives for production of the records that consider the requester’s needs and available judicial branch resources.
- If the request seeks records about court proceedings, the requester may be referred to self-service tools such as Iowa Courts Online Search or the Iowa court eFile system, both accessible online and via the public terminals placed in every courthouse, to obtain the records sought.
The records custodian may provide the requester with estimated fees prior to the requested records being produced or copied. Payment of fees incurred in responding to the records request may be required prior to receipt or review of the requested records.
Copies. Fees for paper copies of records are based on a per page charge.
Postage. Postage fees for mailed records are based on actual mailing costs.
Staff time. The judicial branch may assess fees for staff time involved in responding to records requests. Staff time includes time spent:
- Retrieving potentially responsive records.
- Reviewing documents for responsiveness and for confidential or other information exempt from disclosure and redacting as necessary.
- Supervising the requester’s examination and duplication of records.
- Programming necessary to respond to requests for electronic data.
IV. Additional policies.
Research. Records custodians and other judicial branch employees will not conduct research for requesters but may refer the requester to resources available to the public.
Security of nonelectronic records. No one may search or remove any judicial branch nonelectronic record from the custody or control of its custodian without the custodian’s permission. Examination and copying of nonelectronic records will be supervised by the custodian of the records or the custodian’s designee. Any requester with temporary possession of nonelectronic records for review must protect those records from any damage or disorganization and must retain exclusive control of the records until their return to the custodian. The requester may be held financially responsible for any damage or disorganization to the records and may also be prohibited from future review of judicial branch records.