Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice outlines priorities and issues

Lissandra Villa

Six major areas of focus were outlined by Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, among them efficiency, youth and transparency, in his state of the Judiciary Address.

Cady, who has been the chief justice since 2011, gave his address on Jan. 15 morning in the House Chambers at the Des Moines Capitol.

“Together, we can build the best court system in the nation,” Cady said, listing some of the accomplishments Iowa Courts had last year and goals for which the judiciary branch continues to reach.

Within two years, Iowa will be the first state to have a completely paper-less court system, thanks to Electronic Document Management System, Cady said.

According to the Iowa judicial branch website, 43 Iowa counties were operating fully on EDMS by the end of 2013, including Story County.

Iowa youth were also included in the speech. Cady said 13 juvenile court officers have been added across the state.

“Meaningful court intervention guides these children toward productive lives as adults and saves taxpayers the cost of paying for future incarceration or treatment of more serious conditions that too often occur without such intervention,” Cady said.

Transparency was another of the six areas of focus that were listed. In an effort to keep the court system as open as possible, Cady said, expanded media coverage rules were proposed. He went on to say that these changes would better accommodate changing mediums of communication.

Besides efficiency, youth and transparency, the other priorities Cady listed were “providing full-time access to justice,” “providing faster and less costly resolution of legal disputes” and “providing fair and impartial justice for all.”

One issue Cady pointed out was that the number of people Family Treatment Courts can help is limited because the federally funded pilot sites are currently “sprinkled” throughout Iowa. The funding for these will end in Summer 2014.

The Des Moines Register reported the Iowa Supreme Court will consider a proposal before it that would provide Iowa law school graduates the opportunity to practice law in Iowa without taking the bar exam this coming summer.

Gov. Terry Branstad said at his press conference on Monday morning that he thinks law students ought to take the bar to protect the quality and the integrity of the profession.

“As someone that took the bar, I think they ought to take the bar,” Branstad said.

This proposal would still require students pass an ethics exam and background checks and an Iowa specific course, according to The Des Moines Register.

“For those students who would know that they want to live in Iowa, practice in Iowa, build their lives, maybe have a husband, family, kids, all that in Iowa, that might actually be a really, really nice option,” said Kaitlin Heinen, a senior majoring in chemistry, planning on attending law school.

Heinen said she is still choosing between schools, and does not yet have a definitive opinion on the proposal.

This is only one of the many proposals Cady and the rest of the Iowa Supreme Court will have to consider in 2014 while continuing to strive toward the initiatives Cady emphasized.