Shortchanging justice in IowaPosted: March 8, 2012
A functioning accessible judiciary is a necessity for our civil society to remain civil. A recent Des Moines Register editorial describes it this way:
We need courts to deliver justice, punish the guilty, exonerate the innocent, reward the harmed and resolve disputes. A civil society needs courts with the time and resources to get the law right.
Sadly, Iowa House Republicans want to continue to force the court system to reduce hours and manpower despite continuing increases in the number of filings.
Since the recession that began in 2008, the budgets for Iowa’s court system were reduced along with the rest of state government. Court employees were laid off or furloughed, and hours were cut in clerk of court offices across the state. Those cuts have yet to be restored. In fact, Iowa’s Judicial Branch is operating with fewer employees today than it had in 1987, even though court filings have increased by 54 percent in that same period.
Some legislators may call it a “status quo budget,” but it would amount to a reduction in funding. That’s because the House budget does not include enough money to cover increases approved in salary agreements negotiated in good faith between the state and employee groups. This would be the fourth consecutive year the Legislature has not appropriated enough money to cover salary increases for any state agency.
As pointed out earlier this week, the state is seeing rising tax receipts. To continue to degrade the state of justice in Iowa in despite the ability to better fund the courts is an outrage that will sadly most affect those who can least afford it.