DES MOINES, Iowa – Chief Justice Susan Christensen delivered her second State of the Judiciary address in the Iowa House chamber on Wednesday morning.
She highlighted how the Judicial Branch made adjustments through the pandemic that saw the suspension of jury trials and the modification of normal court procedures.
“Not only did everyone in the judicial branch get really good at handling the daily challenges that once nearly threw us under the bus, but we got stronger. We got better, and you can feel it. We are not on autopilot, but there is certainly a sense of calmness, a sense of peace,” Christensen said.
The Iowa Legislature will consider an overhaul of Iowa’s rules of criminal procedure this month that were adopted 44 years ago. They have been amended since, but Christensen indicated that they were past due for an overhaul.
“In the words of Justice Edward Mansfield, who chaired the task force reviewing our criminal rules, this piecemeal approach resulted in our rules becoming somewhat ‘wordy, out of date and hodge-podgy,'” she explained.
Christensen said her top priority in 2022 is a comprehensive review of Iowa’s juvenile court system noting the state’s system is more decentralized among numerous agencies which she said was unusual. She also pointed out that it has been 30 years since the system has been reviewed.
A task force that was launched in December will solicit feedback from law enforcement, attorneys, legislators, service providers, state agencies, as well as, from the youth and their families.
The task force will issue its final report in November.
Christensen said she also wants the state’s courts to ensure every Iowan has meaningful access by expanding educational opportunities for judicial officers and judicial branch staff. “(This)will help enable the judicial branch to achieve our mission of administering justice under the law equally to all people, whether you live in Polk County or Page County,” she said.
Front page photo credit: Des Moines Register/Pool