Magistrate positions allocated based on workload

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

State law requires the Iowa Judicial Branch to apportion 206 judicial magistrate positions among Iowa's 99 counties every four years. The allocation is based solely on the time needed to process cases in each county. The Storm Lake Times Aug. 24 article BV Loses Magistrate to State Court Cuts and the Aug.  29 editorial, Justice delayed and denied, implied reasons other than workload for the allocation.

Magistrates are one-third-time and preside over simple misdemeanors, issue search warrants, conduct preliminary hearings, and hear certain involuntary hospitalization matters. It is a very important job. State law also allows the judges in a district to convert three magistrate positions into one district associate judge (DAJ) position. Currently, 60 magistrate positions have been converted to DAJ positions statewide. DAJs have the jurisdiction of magistrates plus authority to hear serious and aggravated misdemeanor cases, certain civil suits, and juvenile cases.

In 2017, Buena Vista and Clay counties were each allocated two magistrates based on a workload assessment available on the judicial branch website at https://www.iowacourts.gov/static/media/cms/NCSC_IA_Judicial_Workload_As.... The district court judges from the 10 northwest Iowa counties in Judicial Subdistrict 3A, which includes Buena Vista and Clay counties, voted unanimously to convert the two magistrate positions from Buena Vista County and one magistrate position in Clay County into one DAJ position with the judge residing in Buena Vista County.

The magistrate workload in Clay County is nearly 14% more than the magistrate workload in Buena Vista County. The editorial stated that, “Hours for clerk of court offices across the state have been reduced for years.” In fact, after several years of reduced hours, additional funding from the Iowa legislature and approved by the governor allowed all Iowa clerk of court offices to open full time in September 2013. Currently all clerk of court offices are open full time.

TODD NUCCIO

State Court Administrator

Iowa Judicial Branch