Iowa’s courts must remain world class

Chief Justice Mark Cady is strongly committed to that goal

Iowa has a court system that is the envy of many other states and a source of pride to Hawkeye State residents. Keeping our state’s courts world class should be a priority for lawmakers when budget decisions are made this year.

Iowa’s Supreme Court is led by a Fort Dodger. In his role as chief justice, Mark Cady presented recommendations to the Legislature Wednesday as part of the annual Condition of the Judiciary address. He made clear that overly tight budgets were putting the quality of our state’s court system at risk.

“Our shortcomings and their consequences have not gone unnoticed in the most recent ranking of the 50 state court systems from the United States Chamber of Commerce,” Cady said. “In past years I have spoken of these ratings to illustrate our success. This last year, Iowa fell from its proud position as the fourth best court system in the nation to 13th place. This is not the direction our justice system should be headed.”

The chief justice pointed out that the judiciary system in the Hawkeye State was operating with a significant number of badly needed authorized positions being left vacant due to insufficient funding. Additionally, he said keeping technology in sync with the judiciary’s requirements was proving challenging. Again, he argued that this problem was directly related to funding inadequacies.

Cady stressed that the quality of the state’s judicial system was being seriously threatened by appropriations that were too meager.

“These shortcomings,” he said of judicial system problems requiring prompt attention, “are mostly the result of insufficient resources, and the shortcomings continue to be revealed in new ways every day. They are also beginning to tear at the very fabric of our operation and mission.”

The Messenger agrees with the chief justice that appropriate funding for the state’s judicial system is crucially important. We urge members of the Legislature to give his budgetary proposals careful consideration.

Frugality is always appropriate. Budgets that are too stringent, however, can create unintended negative consequences that prove difficult and expensive to correct in future years. We urge lawmakers to take a serious look at whether an upward adjustment in funds for our excellent judicial system may well be needed this year to keep it first-rate.