Iowa chief justice warns of cuts

Chris Rizo Feb. 20, 2009, 1:18pm

Marsha Ternus

DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline)-Iowa courts could be forced to make layoffs and furlough workers amid the state's worsening budget crunch, Iowa Chief Justice Marsha Ternus said.

The chief justice said cost-cutting plans under lawmakers' consideration could mean the state judicial branch is forced to close for up to 10 days this year and layoffs could be necessary next year.

"Let there be no mistake, the proposed budget reductions, whether we meet them by having part-time courts or through massive layoffs, will cripple the court system. And every Iowan should be concerned about that," she said Thursday.

Ternus and Iowa Judicial Branch Administrator David Boyd said the judicial branch is looking to cut roughly $3.8 million this year. The warned that the 2010 projected shortfall could reach more than $15 million under a budget proposal by Gov. Chet Culver.

To help make ends meet this year, state courts were closed last Monday, on President's Day. Officials have warned that more furloughs are likely. Furloughing 1,600 court employees saves $335,000 per day, officials said.

Boyd said the courts could be closed up to 10 days before June 30. As for next year, he said the courts could be closed for up to 20 days.

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