The University of Iowa

Our View: Iowa needs to invest in its court system

October 5th, 2012

By the Press-Citizen Editorial Board

Earlier this year, Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady used his annual State of the Judiciary address to give Iowa lawmakers a somewhat unexpected reason why the state needs to support a healthy court system: because it’s good for business.

On Thursday, Cady visited with the Press-Citizen Editorial Board and made a similar pitch invoking the language of economic development.

And that’s not surprising. Like every other business or governmental venture, Iowa’s court system needs to keep pace with the rapid changes in information technology.

Iowa’s court system needs judges, clerks, probation officers and other public servants who are on the cutting edge and who grasp the issues that are relevant with the population at large — especially when dealing with juvenile offenders.

And Cady wants the state’s court system to start learning from the innovative successes for its experiments with drug courts and mental health courts. Such courts are more labor intensive, but they also encourage a more individualized approach to ensuring that today’s offenders don’t become tomorrow’s re-offenders.

The future plans Cady outlined aren’t just a dream or a wish, he said; they’re “a vision” because they’re “something we can accomplish.”

But that’s only if the next General Assembly gets on board and provides the court system with at least another $10 million in funding.

Cady said the additional money would be anything but a “drain on the state.” Indeed, if a more innovative juvenile court system helps keep young offenders from becoming adult offenders, then the state would save millions in the bargain.

Given how — until this year — Iowa’s court system kept being asked to do more with less, we doubt $10 million will be enough.

Cady should be more ambitious in asking for the money needed to ensure the state’s court system lives up to his vision.

'The Latino Midwest'

With the Latino population experiencing such a rapid growth in number and in influence, the University of Iowa Obermann Center and International Programs are teaming up next week to co-host a humanities symposium on “The Latino Midwest.”

A preview of the fascinating and timely conversation will kick off at 5 p.m. today with a broadcast of the WorldCanvass radio and television program from 5 to 7 p.m., in Room 2780, University Capitol Centre.