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Supreme Court allows new court procedures to slow the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19

March 17, 2020

Following Governor Reynolds's State of Public Health Emergency Declaration earlier today, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an order permitting new ways to access courts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  The court's March 14 order postponed all jury trials. Today's order expands on that order by allowing any party, including the prosecutor, defense counsel, defendant, victims, and/or witnesses, to appear remotely by videoconference or telephone for many court procedures. It also postpones all non-jury criminal trials until April 20 or later and all non-jury civil trials until May 4 or later.

"Maintaining public trust and confidence is of utmost importance to the judicial branch, and Iowa's judges stand ready to fulfill their duties,” Chief Justice Susan Larson Christensen said.  “However, in this time of crisis, the form in which this public service is provided must be modified in a manner that allows services to continue. We must keep our courts open to the fullest extent for abused and neglected children, victims seeking protection, troubled youths, law enforcement, and families in crisis. Today's order balances those needs with our concern for the health and wellbeing of our communities."

District courts will continue to conduct in-person trials and hearings already in progress. For criminal and emergency cases that cannot be conducted by videoconference or telephone, they will be conducted in-person.  These emergency matters may include proceedings such as:

  • substance abuse treatment proceedings
  • hospitalization proceedings
  • child removal proceedings
  • elder abuse proceedings
  • dependent adult proceedings
  • protective orders
  • motions to quash garnishments
  • landlord tenant proceedings in which the tenant poses a clear and present danger

Today’s supervisory order also extended the speedy indictment deadline from 45 to 60 days, allows landlord tenant proceedings to be conducted telephonically, and allows initial appearances remotely by videoconference or telephone.

The full order is posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch COVID-19 Information and Updates webpage at: . The Iowa Judicial Branch continues to monitor the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for responding to coronavirus/COVID-19.

For More Information:

Steve Davis
Communications Director
Iowa Judicial Branch

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