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How Judges are Assigned to New Cases

The Iowa court system is divided into eight judicial districts. Each district is unique and each has its own way to assign a new case to judge. There are also different types of cases, varying in the severity of the crime or the complexity of the issues. Finally, there are different types of judges, each handling different types of cases.

Judicial Districts:

Link to your district: District One, District Two, District Three, District Four, District Five, District Six, District Seven, District Eight.

Case Types

Civil Cases: A matter or case pertaining to the private rights of an individual (as opposed to a criminal case). Civil cases typically fall into three major categories:

  • Family law (e.g., divorce and child support and custody)
  • Tort law (e.g., personal injury, property damage, or product liability)
  • Contract law (e.g., written and oral agreements)

Criminal Cases: A case initiated and prosecuted by the state to enforce criminal laws. Criminal law is divided into two major classifications: misdemeanors and felonies.

  • Misdemeanors are divided into three categories: simple, serious, and aggravated.
  • Felonies are more serious crimes, and are classified from the most to the least serious as follows: class A, B, C, and D. For both misdemeanor and felony offenses, the penalty for conviction generally increases in severity with the level of offense.

Juvenile Cases: Cases involving the lives of children. The most common of these cases are:

  • Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) cases most typically involve abused, abandoned, or neglected children, and sometimes lead to termination of parental rights.
  • Delinquency cases involve acts that would be considered criminal acts if committed by an adult.

Judges

District Judge: A judge with the authority to hear any type of case within the district court, typically including a variety of cases such as dissolutions of marriage, felony criminal cases, and cases involving state administrative agencies.

District Associate Judge: A judge with jurisdiction over simple misdemeanors, including scheduled violations, county and municipal infractions, and small claims, plus authority to hear serious and aggravated misdemeanor cases, class "D" felonies, civil suits in which the amount in controversy is $10,000 or less, and juvenile cases when sitting as a juvenile judge.

How Cases Are Assigned

District 1 (Allamakee, Black Hawk, Buchanan, Chickasaw, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Grundy, Howard, and Winneshiek counties).

  • Some types of civil cases are assigned on a rotating basis.  Other civil cases are randomly assigned based on the judges’ rotational assignments. 
  • Class A felonies and some Class B felonies are assigned to district judges on a rotating basis.
  • Other criminal cases are randomly assigned based on the judges’ rotational assignments. 
  • Juvenile cases are assigned to the judge(s) handling juvenile cases in each county.

District 2A (Butler, Bremer, Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Mitchell, Winnebago, and Worth counties)

  • Civil cases are assigned on a district court judge rotational basis.

District 2B (Boone, Calhoun, Carroll, Greene, Hamilton, Hardin, Humboldt, Marshall, Pocahontas, Sac, Story, Webster, and Wright counties)

  • Civil cases are randomly assigned based on the judges’ rotational assignments.

District 2 (all counties)

  • Class A felonies are assigned to district judges on a rotating basis.
  • Other criminal cases are randomly assigned based on the district court judges rotational assignments.  District associate judges are assigned criminal cases in the county that they cover.     
  • Juvenile cases are assigned to the judge handling juvenile cases in each county.  No county has more than one judge handling juvenile cases.

District 3 (Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Crawford, Dickinson, Emmet, Ida, Lyon, Kossuth, Monona, O’Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Sioux, and Woodbury counties)

  • Civil cases are assigned to district judges on a rotating basis in each sub-district.  
  • Class A felonies are assigned to district judges on a rotating basis in each sub-district.
  • Other criminal cases are covered by the trial session judge. District associate judges cover criminal cases in the county that they are appointed in or asked to cover.  
  • Juvenile cases are assigned to the judge handling juvenile cases in each county.  

District 4 (Audubon, Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby counties)

  • Civil cases are assigned in a round robin to district court judges.
  • Criminal cases are heard by the judge assigned to the criminal docket in a county for that month.

District 5A and 5B (Adair, Adams, Clarke, Dallas, Decatur, Guthrie, Jasper, Lucas, Madison, Marion, Ringgold, Taylor, Union, Warren, and Wayne counties)

  • Civil cases are randomly assigned based on the judges’ rotational assignments. 
  • Criminal cases are randomly assigned based on the judges’ rotational assignments. 

District 5C (Polk County)

  • Every year district court judges rotate between the criminal, civil and family law dockets.  Civil and family law cases are randomly assigned between the judges on those dockets. Criminal cases are assigned by charge type. 

District 6 (Benton, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, and Tama counties)

  • All civil jury cases and some non-jury cases are assigned when the trial scheduling conference takes place.  All others are assigned shortly before trial.
  • Class A felonies are assigned to district judges on a rotating basis.
  • Other criminal cases are randomly assigned based on the judges monthly rotational assignments. 

District 7 (Cedar, Clinton, Jackson, Muscatine, and Scott counties)

  • Civil cases are randomly assigned based on the judges monthly rotational assignments.
  • Class A felonies are assigned to district judges on a rotating basis.
  • Other criminal cases are randomly assigned based on the district court judges monthly rotational assignments. 
  • District associate judges are assigned juvenile and criminal cases in the county they cover.  

District 8 (Appanoose, Davis, Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lee, Louisa, Mahaska, Monroe, Poweshiek, Van Buren, Wapello, and Washington counties)

  • Criminal and civil cases are assigned based on the district judges 10-week rotation assignments. 
  • District associate judges are assigned criminal cases in the county that they cover. 
  • Juvenile cases are assigned to the judge handling juvenile cases in each county.

 

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