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Iowa court offices to close for a day due to budget cuts

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The closure of Iowa court offices for a day later this week will save the state $364,573, though it might lead to delays in some trials.

Iowa court offices will be closed Friday because of mid-year budget cuts that forced the Judicial Branch to reduce its overall expenses.

Besides the one-day closure, the $3 million mid-year budget cut approved by the Legislature this year forced a hiring freeze for judicial positions and travel restrictions, causing delays in some civil trials. Those reductions will continue for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Gary Mattson, an officer with the lobbying group Iowa Association for Justice, said budget cuts have led to some delays in civil trials because judges are understaffed and can’t travel for some trials.

“The system is overburdened,” said Mattson, a Des Moines trial attorney. “It creates delays that cause problems for the courts and litigants, too.”

The Legislature’s 2018 budget for the judiciary didn’t restore its funding to fully operational levels. The Iowa Supreme Court will approve a budget for the upcoming fiscal year in late June.

Judicial Branch spokesman Steve Davis said the state Supreme Court will face difficult decisions as it finalizes the agency’s tight budget.

After the Legislature approved the judiciary budget, State Court Administrator David Boyd sent a memo to agency employees that warned the cuts would likely diminish the level of services provided to citizens.

Supreme Court decisions, which are typically issued on Fridays, will instead be published on Thursday.

“It does change the schedule, but the court has been able to work around it,” Davis said.

Mattson said closures can cause a chain reaction of delays because paperwork and day-to-day activities are not completed on the normal timeline.

“They’re trying to do too much with too little,” Mattson said. “It’s just a problem for everybody involved.”