Iowa Judicial Branch Newsletter
September 26, 2017
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Lady Justice
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     Hands and Feet

"Concepts of justice must have hands and feet, or they remain sterile abstractions." 

A letter from Chief Justice Cady 

 

Let me begin by thanking every one of you for all that you do to advance justice in Iowa. Each of you represent the Iowa Judicial Branch every day, and I could not be more proud of what you do and what we, as a branch, have accomplished. I see your unwavering determination to serve your follow Iowans every time I visit a courthouse and meet with you. I carry your message with me to the Iowa State Capitol every week as I meet with legislators.   

  

Like you, I am very concerned about our current budget situation. A 10% reduction in travel, the many unfilled vacancies, and the May 26 court closure day are barriers to our efforts to be the best justice system in the nation.  

  

We must remember that what affects one of us affects all of us. If we are forced to cut a position, it is like the ripples in a pond; it will spread and make us all less efficient. I believe the budget cuts in 2002, 2009, and again this year have forced us to find and implement every imaginable efficiency throughout the court system. As I visit courthouses around the state, I can see that you have plugged every hole and consolidated, collaborated, and coordinated in every way possible. I see that you have exhausted all of our ability to "tighten our belts."  

  

That is why I believe that the judicial branch is at a crossroads.  In the Condition of the Judiciary message, I focused on the positive outcomes and the return on investment that the judicial branch delivers for Iowans through the services we provide such as family treatment courts, drug courts, and juvenile diversion programs. I believed these priorities were the legislature's priorities as well because in the recent past they appropriated funding to re-open closed courthouses, to have enough juvenile court officers to meet face to face with at risk children, and to expand family treatment courts. 

  

This week I went to the Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee budget presentation. I believe this is the first time a chief justice has gone to a judicial branch budget presentation at the Capitol. I went to show legislators how important I believe the upcoming appropriation is to the services we provide Iowans. I told the legislators: "For the next fiscal year, FY 18, if the legislature appropriates to the judicial branch the same amount of funding as allocated in FY 17, the impact on Iowans will be devastating.  As many of you saw in 2009, that level of underfunding the courts could result in closing or a reduction of hours in our courthouses, layoffs, fewer court service days in rural Iowa, significantly reduced face-to-face time between at-risk children and juvenile court officers, elimination of specialty courts such as family treatment courts, drug courts, and mental health courts, and delays in civil litigation because the priority must be given to criminal cases." 

  

Additionally, I explained to them that: "It is up to you to decide whether we continue to provide those services.  Each year, the level of your investment determines the level of services we provide. I respectfully ask that you provide the judicial branch with the funding necessary to provide the critical and unduplicated services we provide to Iowans." 

  

Our budget is 96 percent personnel, so every time I meet with a legislator to fight for a larger appropriation, I am fighting for you because I know your efforts are essential to our success. As United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger said 45 years ago: "Ideas, ideals and great conceptions are vital to a system of justice, but it must have more than that—there must be delivery and execution, concepts of justice must have hands and feet or they remain sterile abstractions, the hands and feet we need are efficient means and methods to carry out justice in every case in the shortest possible time and at the lowest possible cost, this is the challenge to every lawyer and judge in America." 

  

I would like to share that same message with you. Thank you again for all that you do to provide justice to Iowans. We will continue to work with legislators and the governor for the funding necessary to support you and the services you provide, and we will keep you apprised of developments at the Capitol as they happen.      

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