Des Moines, IA – Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark S. Cady gave the 2014 State of the Judiciary address to Governor Terry Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, executive branch officers, and state legislators, as well as, other Supreme Court Justices, Court of Appeals Judges and Chief District Court Judges. He thanked the Iowa Legislature and Governor Branstad for their support in providing additional funds to the Judicial Branch that allowed 13 new juvenile court judges to be added, as well as, opened county clerk of courts offices that had previously been closed.
He received a standing ovation when discussing the progress that had been made by juvenile court. “We know what works to help at-risk children. We also know the goal of protecting Iowa’s children is within reach. And, we all know what it means for Iowa’s future to achieve this goal. We are committed, in every individual case, to break the cycle of juvenile delinquency that leads to broken homes and adult incarceration,” Cady said.
He spoke at length about the effectiveness of partnerships being forged between the courts and communities that created new courts such as Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts, and Family Treatment Courts. Currently there are six Family Treatment Courts in Iowa that are funded through federal grants which will end this summer.
“Our Family Treatment Courts offer much promise as part of this new solution. They work intensively with a community treatment team of human services workers, substance abuse counselors, mental health providers, and many others to help parents overcome their addictions and assume responsibility for their lives,” Cady said.
He said the Family Treatment Court pilot project has served through March of last year 463 families in Iowa composed of 549 parents and almost 900 children. He said as a result of that program 80% of the children have been able to remain in the custody of their parents who would have otherwise likely had their children taken out of the home. He said 95% of the children served did not have a recurrence of abuse and neglect. Cady noted that the six pilot courts have saved Iowa taxpayers $3.5 million.
Cady wants to see the program expanded even as the pilot program faces losing its federal funds.
“One problem we face, today, is that our Family Treatment Courts are sprinkled across the state and can only help a fraction of Iowa’s troubled parents and at-risk children. Additionally, the federal funding for these pilot courts expires this summer. Even as federal funding is about to run out, more and more people are asking us to expand Family Treatment Courts into their communities,” Cady said. “We all know that family services of such critical importance should not be limited to only a handful of communities. All Iowans will benefit from a systematic statewide implementation of Family Treatment Courts. This is what we should do. By working together for a better Iowa, we can and must do our best to end the tragic cycle of broken families and broken lives.”
State Senator Julian Garrett (R-Indianola), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Ranking Member of the Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee, told Caffeinated Thoughts, that the anecdotal stories Cady gave in his address were compelling he wanted to see hard data. “A lot of the points he brought up sounded good. I hope that it is working that well out on the street. It is one thing to have anecdotal circumstances that you report on – obviously you’re going to have some successes. I guess my question would be in the overall in the aggregate are we going to see crime going down? Are we going to see fewer broken families and so on? I imagine the jury is still out on those kinds of issues,” Garrett said.
House Majority Whip Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights) sits on the House Judiciary Committee liked what he heard about alternative judicial programs. “As a practicing lawyer I always like hearing from the Chief Justice and hearing his thoughts on the judiciary, and there are some really good ideas in there – the drug courts, the family treatment courts. These are things that I think conservatives should be excited about because they are good for families and good for taxpayers,” Hagenow told Caffeinated Thoughts.
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) in a released statement said, “I appreciate Chief Cady’s remarks today and the work the Iowa Supreme Court is doing to create partnerships between the courts and our communities. Their efforts to travel the state, set up innovative and efficient processes, and listen to the requests of Iowans has strengthened our court system.”
State Representative Chip Baltimore (R-Boone) chairs the House Judicial Committee and sits on the Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee said he couldn’t comment on the overall budget since hasn’t been through it yet. Baltimore said he is in favor of raises for judges. “I support the proposed raise for judges and magistrates, as I did last year as well. When the economic slowdown hit a few years ago, the Judicial branch did the responsible thing and froze judicial salaries, and they stayed frozen for 5 years. Under the concept of you get what you pay for, we need to provide increased compensation if we want to have excellent legal minds fill serve as judges,” Baltimore said.
“The family treatment courts seem logical in theory and apparently so far in practice. Whether they can be properly funded when the federal grant runs out must be determined by the budget process. I look forward to seeing the budgetary details and projections to see if this is an idea that we should continue and expand,” Baltimore added.