Iowa Judicial Branch Newsletter
February 25, 2018
Lady Justice
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     Why all the Rule Changes?

Why all the Court Rule Changes? 

The Year 2015 in Review—Plus Early 2016 


By Timothy S. Eckley, Assistant Counsel to the Chief Justice 


You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.  Albert Einstein 


The Iowa Supreme Court's process of amending the Iowa Court Rules is necessarily an ongoing effort due in large part to the many requests for updates from bar members and the public.  Even so, the Iowa Supreme Court is sensitive to the burden a barrage of rule changes may impose on attorneys and court users.  For this reason, the court is solicitous in its effort to develop and maintain current, accurate, and useful court rules.   


The Iowa Court Rules and forms govern practice and procedure, judicial administration, professional regulation, and judicial qualifications and conduct.  The 41 chapters of rules, not including the pending chapter 16 rules for electronic filing, comprise more than 1000 pages and 269 separate court forms. The Legislative Services Agency publishes the official version of the Iowa Court Rules and maintains current rules on the Iowa Legislature website at: 


Even simple changes to a court rule or form can involve long and laborious processes. It is the court's practice to submit proposed rule changes for public comment. The court carefully considers all comments received, and often the particular committee or entity that proposed the rule change reviews and responds to the comments.  The court does not adopt all proposed rule changes.   


The court circulates orders for each proposed rule change and adoption of each rule change widely through the Iowa Judicial Branch subscription service and by direct email to bar family and interested groups.   The court orders that implement the rules provide a summary of the amendments, but thoroughly reviewing the change is necessary for completely understanding it.  


Improving the justice system and responding to legislative enactments are two main sources of new rules.  For example, creation of the expedited civil action is an innovation responsive to the demands of court users, and finalizing the electronic filing rules in new chapter 16 is necessary to navigating Iowa's first in the nation comprehensive electronic filing system.  Other new rules or rule amendments emanate from suggestions from judges, attorneys, and clerks of court.  Some rule or form changes may not be substantive but are necessary to clarify language to avoid misinterpretation or to include more plain English to assist the increasing numbers of self-represented litigants using the court system and to further alleviate access to justice concerns. 


In 2015, the court adopted updates to several rules and forms with input from Iowa judges, attorneys, advisory committees, educators, bar associations, and the public.  Attorneys are encouraged to stay abreast of new rules and amendments to maintain the requisite level of competent service for their clients.  Below is a list and brief description of changes to the Iowa Court Rules during 2015, including a few from early 2016.  The court orders and rule changes are available in full on the Iowa Judicial Branch website under the tabs "Court Rules and Forms—Recent Amendments & New Iowa Court Forms."              


Basic skills course requirement—rule 41.12 (January 21, 2015).  The rule change eliminates the Basic Skills Course attendance requirement for all persons admitted to practice law in Iowa after 2014. 

Discovery rules and forms—rules 1.500, .507, .906, and forms 2 and 3 of rule 23.5 (April 1, 2015).  The amendments include an exemption of domestic relations proceedings from the new discovery conference and trial scheduling requirements, an adjustment to the signature block on the trial scheduling and discovery plan forms, and clarification of the deadline for pretrial submissions on trial scheduling and discovery plan forms.  

Court interpreters and translators—rules 47.7(1) and 47.8(6) and Canon 1 to chapter 48 Code of Conduct (May 18, 2015).  The amendment extends the deadline for annual report filing for interpreters to begin in 2017, and clarifies the comment to Canon 1—Accuracy and Completeness in the interpreter's and translator's code of conduct. 

Registration of foreign house counsel—rule 31.16 (May 18, 2015).  The amendments define "foreign lawyer" and provide a process for foreign lawyers to register as house counsel in Iowa. 

Reinstatement of license after revocation—rule 35.14 (May 18, 2015).  The amendments outline a procedure for an attorney whose license has been revoked or an attorney who has been disbarred to apply for reinstatement after a period of five years and upon meeting certain requirements. 

Trial scheduling and discovery plans—rule 23.5, forms 2 and 3 (September 25, 2015).  The amendments assist attorneys and clerks of court in using the forms to set pretrial deadlines for discovery matters and reflect the practice of judicial districts that do not provide precise trial dates until after parties have held their discovery conference.  Parties unable to provide specific dates for deadlines may fill in blank text fields for pretrial and discovery time frames.  

Professional conduct—chapter 32 (October 15, 2015).  The amendments update chapter 32 to remain consistent with the Model Rules of Conduct and to maintain uniformity with the rules of other jurisdictions providing attorneys familiarity with the ethical rules of other jurisdictions where they may practice.    

Shorthand reporter certification by reciprocity—chapter 46 (October 15, 2015).  The amendments, including primarily new rule 46.17, expand on the veterans' reciprocity rule to provide a general rule of reciprocity of licensure for other persons who hold valid reporting licenses in good standing in other states. 

Uniform Bar Examination—chapter 31 (October 15, 2015). The court adopted the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE) as the examination for admission to the Iowa bar beginning in February 2016.  The amendments to chapter 31 governing admission to the bar incorporate the UBE into Iowa's bar admissions process.   

Professional regulation—omnibus amendments to division III (November 20, 2015).  The amendments are to numerous chapters in Division III—Professional Regulation.  

Effective date for required death or disability plan—rule 39.18 (January 15, 2016).  The amendment sets January 1, 2017, as the effective date for new rule 39.18—Requirement for Death and Disability Plan. 

Electronic filing in the appellate courts (January 21, 2016).  Beginning February 1, 2016, all appeals will be filed through EDMS with the Iowa Supreme Court's Clerk's office. 

Professional regulation—chapters 34, 35, & 36 (January 26, 2016).  A recompilation strikes the original chapters and reorganizes the Iowa Supreme Court Grievance Commission and Attorney Disciplinary Board administrative provisions and rules of procedure.  


What to watch for in 2016.  Other noteworthy items the court anticipates addressing during 2016 include a restyling (nonsubstantive) of the rules of evidence, finalization of the electronic filing rules (chapter 16), implementation of a fee for admission pro hac vice, and further adjustments to the expedited civil action rule and forms. 

Additional information.  Additional information regarding changes to the Iowa Court Rules is available on the Court Rules & Forms section of the Iowa Judicial Branch website, located at:    



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