DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Chief Justice Susan Christensen on Wednesday called for a nearly 7% increase in the court system's budget for next year in hopes of increasing salaries and hiring judges, attorneys and other staff after a hiring freeze.
Christensen made the budget proposals for the fiscal year beginning in July during her annual Condition of the Judiciary Address to a joint session of the Iowa Legislature. She sought $202.5 million, a 6.7% increase and $4.3 million more than Gov. Kim Reynolds has recommended.
The court's proposed budget provides $2 million for open positions that were left unfilled last year, $2.9 million for a 5.9% pay raise for judicial officers, and $1.3 million to continue an effort to hire four additional judges and 10 other staffers.
Christensen discussed how the court system continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to hold hearings and trials.
She said federal funds have helped equip courtrooms with microphones and sound systems. The new technology is designed to allow livestreaming of court proceedings but has also helped jurors hear witnesses and lawyers in large, old courtrooms with poor acoustics.
Christensen said the Iowa juvenile justice system has not had a comprehensive review in nearly 30 years so the court has appointed a task force to study the system and recommend improvements. A report is due in November.