The National Center for State Courts has an archive of 2011, 2010, and previous years State of the Judiciary addresses located here.
Chief Justice Mark Cady presented the State of the Judiciary on January 11 to a joint convention of the legislature pursuant to a resolution (HCR 102 of 2012) passed by both chambers. HCR 102 noted that the Chief Justice’s report is statutorily based. Iowa Code 602.1207 provides:
The chief justice shall communicate the condition of the judicial branch by message to each general assembly, and may recommend matters the chief justice deems appropriate.
Highlights of the Chief Justice’s speech (full text here) below the jump
A strong court system can play an important role, if not become the real catalyst, in achieving economic prosperity in Iowa. This proposition is not just my perception; it is supported by sound economic studies.
Records from our constitutional convention in 1857 reveal our first leaders spoke of the need for a well-maintained court system to properly guard both the lives of the waves of people who were entering this state at the time and the resources these people were investing into the state. Jonathan Hall of Burlington, who served in both this body and on the Iowa Supreme Court, reminded his colleagues to never, in his word, “forget” that the system of justice is what protects property in this state.
My assessment begins with the most fundamental quality of justice—fair and impartial judges. I am pleased to report that fair and impartial justice continues to be the hallmark of Iowa’s court system. One measure of this quality is the annual survey conducted for the United States Chamber of Commerce, which has consistently ranked Iowa’s judges as among the most fair and impartial in the nation. Last year was no exception, and this ranking allows Iowa to be viewed as having one of the top court systems in the nation.
For over a year now, an Iowa Supreme Court task force has been studying ways to make our court system as responsive as possible in the lives of Iowans and the operation of business and commerce… Their report will be unveiled next month and could become the blueprint for a new civil justice system in Iowa comprised of special business courts, special litigation tracks for low-cost and prompt resolution of litigated matters and alternative dispute resolution methods now desired by many.
Yet, while we have faced budget cuts year after year, resulting in a workforce smaller than we had 24 years ago, our workload has increased dramatically. During this 24-year period, the number of cases filed with our courts, excluding simple misdemeanors and traffic violations, has increased 50%. During this same time, the Code of Iowa has increased in size by 79%. A recent report of the Legislative Service Agency of this state revealed that we have cut our full-time workforce 16.5% since 2003, while the workforce in state government as a whole has grown 1.6%.
- Investing in the courts now will give all the people in our court system the tools they need to do the job they have devoted their lives to do and will allow us to structure our court system to provide services it was established to deliver.
- Investing in the courts now will deliver the foundation for a vibrant economy through a transparent and responsive civil justice system that continues to be a model for the nation.
- Investing in the courts now will enhance our court system to give our children and others in need the best opportunity for a productive life.
- Investing in the courts now will allow us to do our best work to give Iowa its best future.
- Investing in the courts will allow us to show the nation how the three branches of government can work for the benefit of the people.
- And, investing in the courts now, just a fraction more, will show future generations what believing in our courts now will do.