Justice On Hold As Iowa Courts Again Closed for COVID

November 24, 2020

Iowa Must Break “Cold Grip” of Pandemic

There’s already plenty to worry about as COVID infections and hospitalizations surge across Iowa. New restrictions on public gatherings and business activity. More schools moving classes online, sending kids home to stressed-out parents. Growing numbers of family, friends, and neighbors falling ill to this terrible disease. But we have one more worry to add to this long list …

Justice.

On Nov. 10, the Iowa Supreme Court announced that all jury trials will be postponed until Feb. 1 as Iowa has become a national COVID-19 hotspot for new infections. “We monitor the daily positivity rates of COVID-19 in Iowa and have decided that bringing together the number of people required for a jury trial creates too high of a risk for someone to be exposed, even with the multitude of safeguards we have in place,” Chief Justice Susan Christensen said in announcing the closure.

This is the right decision, and Justice Christensen has shown leadership in protecting all those who pass through our courts. There is a price to pay, however, and it starts with justice delayed for hundreds of criminal defendants in custody and awaiting their day in court. More than a justice issue, this is also a humanitarian crisis as the Iowa Department of Corrections reports steep increases in the number of infected prisoners and correctional staff.

Delays are also expected for any civil case that might be heading for trial, including disputes involving business, divorce and child custody, personal injury, and class action lawsuits. Since criminal trials will be scheduled first once courts reopen, civil cases will be pushed back even further on court dockets.

Breaking the cold grip of this pandemic on our courts and our state will require full implementation of the recommendations made by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The actions recently announced by Governor Kim Reynolds are a start, but the Task Force is clear that the Governor and state leaders must do more to slow the rate of infection.

Thus we strongly urge the Reynolds administration – along with government, business, civic, and educational leaders – to fully implement these recommendations.

The Justice Not Politics Team