Iowa Judicial Branch FY22 Budget
During most of the last fiscal year, the judicial branch was dedicated to “keeping the courts open to the fullest possible extent while protecting public safety.” With the appropriation for this coming fiscal year, judicial branch employees in all 99 counties will have the resources they need to confidently focus on our moto:
“The Iowa Judicial Branch dedicates itself to providing independent and accessible forums for the fair and prompt resolution of disputes, administering justice under law equally to all persons.”
The FY 2022 budget appropriation approved by the Iowa Legislature and signed by the governor will enable the Iowa Judicial Branch to enter the post-COVID-19 era in a position of strength, poised to serve Iowans better, especially in rural counties. The budget appropriation of $189,640,252, is 4.7 percent more than the FY 21 appropriation and will be transformational, allowing the courts to invest in rural communities and in the people who serve our state in all 99 counties.
Iowa courts are accessible to all, including your friends and neighbors, to provide fair and impartial solutions to everyday problems. The district court in your county courthouse is where parties bring their disputes, prosecutors file criminal charges, trials take place, and judges enter judgments.
By funding 17 new clerk positions, this appropriation will allow the judicial branch to strengthen its ties with rural communities and to offer a full complement of services on a full-time basis to all Iowa counties. Currently, staffing in clerk of court offices in 32 counties is below the recommended level of 2.5 staff. A minimum of 2.5 clerk positions is recommended in each courthouse to ensure safety, fiscal responsibility, full-time coverage, and full-service. The 17 new clerk positions will allow clerks to cover overall workload demands in a timely manner based on a workload formula developed by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).
Iowa’s district courts handle more than 700,000 cases a year and Iowans depend on judges and judicial branch employees to resolve their disputes and provide justice. These judges and employees are members of your community and the education, experience, and abilities of these individuals are the best assets of the judicial branch.
By funding four new district associate judge positions, this appropriation is an important first step towards addressing the longstanding judge shortage in Iowa. According to the workload formulas developed by the NCSC, Iowans need 10 additional district judge positions and 20 additional district associate judge positions to manage the current judicial branch workload. Two district associate judges will be appointed in October 2021, one for the central and one for the eastern sections of the state, and two more in January 2022, one for the southwestern and one for the eastern portions of the state. The addition of four district associate judges this fiscal year is the first step in a plan to address the deficit by adding four new district associate judge positions a year for five years.
A district associate judge has the authority to hear serious, aggravated, and simple misdemeanor cases, certain civil suits, juvenile cases, county and municipal infractions, small claims, issue search warrants, conduct preliminary hearings and hear certain involuntary hospitalization matters. The appropriation includes funding for 10 related support positions for the new judge positions including court reporters, judicial specialists, and law clerks.
The legislature also approved a 3 percent salary increase for judicial officers, the first judicial officer salary increase since FY 20 and only the fourth increase in the last twelve years. With the increased appropriation, all other court employees will receive a 1.1 percent salary increase and be eligible for a one percent step increase. The judicial branch can also begin to fill positions left vacant or frozen during the last fiscal year.