By Katie Dahlstrom Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — DES MOINES — The Clinton County Clerk’s office will be restored to full time in September thanks to a $5.7 million budget increase that will expand open hours for the state’s 100 clerk of court offices.
The Iowa Supreme Court announced Thursday that the $167.7 million judicial branch budget for the fiscal year that begins in 2013 will keep all clerk of court offices open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They previously were closed at 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. An additional 21 offices were closed during other hours.
“This will be a good thing. I’m happy that the state has decided to restore funding to the judicial branch,” Clinton County Clerk of Courts Kim Hess said. “This will make it easier for the public and that’s really who we’re here to serve.”
Clinton County didn’t lose any positions when the budget was cut in 2009, but it will receive a slight boost in personnel because of the budget increase with a part-time court attendant position increasing to a full-time position.
The $167.7 million budget, a 3.5 percent increase over the current fiscal year’s budget, includes additional resources to serve Iowa’s troubled youth and their families and more support for judges and magistrates.
“For the past two years the Supreme Court has traveled to communities throughout the state to hear oral arguments and meet with Iowans,” Chief Justice Mark Cady said. “One message we heard repeatedly is that people expect access to justice, timely resolutions of legal disputes, and help for the children in their communities who are either in a dangerous family condition or in trouble with the law or both. With the appropriation approved by the legislature and signed by the governor this year, we can take the next step in reaching our goal of being the best, most advanced and the most responsive court system in the nation.”
The new budget will allow the court to hire more than 40 positions throughout the state, including 13 juvenile court officers.
Nearly 30 offices in northwest Iowa will open with the new hours July 15. The remaining offices, including the clerk of appellate court office, will open with the new hours Sept. 3.
All court users should notice fewer postponements of court dates due to the unavailability of a court reporter. This year’s budget includes the addition of 13 court reporter positions.
The budget also includes four new information technology positions to help with the implementation of electronic filing in the state. The Electronic Document Management System is implemented in about half the state and is expected to be fully implemented statewide by 2015.
Clinton County will implement EDMS sometime in late 2014 or early 2015, which Hess said will make the clerk’s office more efficient.
“The future of the Iowa Judicial Branch is bright as we move into a new fiscal year,” State Court Administrator David Boyd said. “The legislature and governor have provided us with the resources we need to focus on delivering accessible, timely and high-quality justice.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report