Iowa: House Appropriations Committee approves plan to let supreme court set all judicial salaries, move and create judgeships; bill described as a “sea change”

The Iowa House Appropriations Committee has approved a plan that would restructure the way the Iowa judiciary operates and functions in what is being called a “sea change“. (h/t to the Iowa State Bar for the pointer)

Key provisions of HF 2409 include:

  1. Judicial salaries would not longer be set by the legislature but the supreme court (for active judges) or the chief justice (for senior judges) and paid from the general operating moneys appropriated to the judicial branch.
  2. If a vacancy occurs in the office of a district judge, district associate judge, associate juvenile judge, or associate probate judge and the chief justice finds disparity in the allocation of such judicial officers, the chief justice may apportion the vacancy if a majority of the supreme court approves the apportionment (currently the state’s judicial council must approve the move).
  3. Currently, the supreme court prescribes a formula to determine the number of district judges who will serve in a district, subject to certain restrictions. The bill eliminates four such restrictions relating to the filling of vacancies including in particular the restriction that the number of district judges shall not exceed 116.
  4. Currently, the number and apportionment of district associate judges is provided based on population. The bill requires the supreme court to prescribe a formula determining the number of district associate judges serving in each judicial election district based on a model that measures and applies an estimated case-related workload formula of judicial officers and that accounts for administrative duties, travel time, and other judicial duties.
  5. Currently, 206 magistrates are required to be apportioned among the counties. The bill eliminates the specific number of magistrates that must be apportioned.