Iowa Court System

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The courts network of Iowa is designed to serve the eight judicial districts that the state is divided into. Each district covers from five to nine counties. The state has a total of 99 counties and each of these has its own district court. Every tribunal comprises of judges and clerks of court. While the magistrates, judges and justices are in charge of actually hearing the cases, the clerk’s of court offer administrative support to the tribunal. Here is a look at the various levels in the judicial hierarchy of Iowa.

The Supreme Court

The apex entity works out of the state capital at Des Moines.This is an appellate court which reviews decisions from trial courts. However, it does not actually hear the oral arguments all over again; it simply reviews the court dockets for the matter under appeal. This is done to determine if any legal errors were committed during the trial. Apart from its appellate jurisdiction, the seven member Supreme Court also fulfills other judicial responsibilities such as:

  • It is the court of last resort in the state and as such its opinions and verdicts are a binding on all lower tribunals
  • It has the sole authority to admit attorney’s to practice in the state of Iowa
  • It is responsible for the promulgation of laws and procedures used in courts throughout Iowa
  • The Supreme Court has administrative and supervisory authority over the entire judicial network and court personnel including judicial officers

The intermediate Court of Appeals

Known simply as the Court of Appeals, this is the tribunal that handles most cases brought up for review from the lower courts, thus reducing the burden on the Supreme Court. It handles all matters that are transferred to it by the Supreme Court. As with the apex tribunal, the Court of Appeals does not preside over the trial. Instead, the 3 judge panel will only review the written records of a case to determine if any significant legal anomalies can be found.

The District Courts of Iowa

These are the trial courts of the state with original jurisdiction in civil litigations with no upper limit for the disputed amount. It also has original jurisdiction to tackle matters involving criminal infractions including felonies, probate, minors, juvenile delinquency, family law and domestic relations.

District Courts are allowed to hear any case that occurs within their geographic jurisdiction. So, the judges of these tribunals routinely hear all sorts of matters; from adoption to state administration issues and even hearings held for the issue of arrest warrants, etc. The judges are elected to 6 year terms by the governor from a list of nominees

The juvenile court system of Iowa

Although a division of the district court of Iowa, the juvenile judicial network shares jurisdiction on certain family disputes, juvenile delinquency cases and other matters that concern underage people. Typically, the juvenile courts will handle cases such as:

  • CINA: The Child In Need of Assistance cases involve kids who are abandoned, neglected, have faced abuse or have been harmed in any way which may lead to the termination of parental rights
  • Commitment: These proceedings deal with the placement of a child in a treatment facility, whether a hospital, substance abuse rehabilitation center or others
  • Delinquency:These cases refer to juvenile offenders. When an act, which would be considered criminal had it been commissioned by an adult, is committed by a child, these cases are handled by the juvenile courts.
  • Adoption: The Iowa juvenile justice network also handles thousands of adoption cases each year