Reforming the Iowa Civil Justice System, January 30, 2012

(2012) Reforming the Iowa Civil Justice System, January 30, 2012. Judicial Branch

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Abstract

Executive Summary I. Survey The Task Force conducted a wide-ranging survey of more than 9,000 licensed Iowa attorneys and judges to obtain their input on a variety of civil justice system topics. The survey results helped inform the Task Force of problem areas in Iowa’s civil justice system. II. Two-Tier Justice System The Task Force recommends a pilot program based on a two-tier civil justice system. A two-tier system would streamline litigation processes—including rules of evidence and discovery disclosures—and reduce litigation costs of certain cases falling below a threshold dollar value. III. One Judge/One Case and Date Certain for Trial Some jurisdictions in Iowa have adopted one judge/one case and date certain for trial in certain cases. The assignment of one judge to each case for the life of the matter and the establishment of dates certain for civil trials could enhance Iowans’ access to the courts, improve judicial management, promote consistency and adherence to deadlines, and reduce discovery excesses. IV. Discovery Processes Reforms addressing inefficient discovery processes will reduce delays in and costs of litigation. Such measures include adopting an aspirational purpose for discovery rules to “secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action,” holding discovery proportional to the size and nature of the case, requiring initial disclosures, limiting the number of expert witnesses, and enforcing existing rules. V. Expert Witness Fees The Task Force acknowledges the probable need to revisit the statutory additional daily compensation limit for expert witness fees. Leaving the compensation level to the discretion of the trial court is one potential solution. VI. Jurors Additions to the standard juror questionnaire would provide a better understanding of the potential jurors’ backgrounds and suitability for jury service. The Task Force encourages adoption of more modern juror educational materials and video. Rehabilitation of prospective jurors who express an unwillingness or inability to be fair should include a presumption of dismissal. VII. Video and Teleconferencing Options When court resources are constrained both by limited numbers of personnel and budget cuts, it is logical to look to video and teleconferencing technology to streamline the court process and reduce costs. The judicial branch should embrace technological developments in ways that will not compromise the fairness, dignity, solemnity, and decorum of judicial proceedings. VIII. Court-Annexed Alternative Dispute Resolution(ADR) Litigants and practitioners in Iowa are generally satisfied with the current use of private, voluntary ADR for civil cases. There is concern, however, that maintaining the status quo may have steep future costs. Court-annexed ADR is an important aspect of any justice system reform effort, and the Task Force perceives benefits and detriments to reforming this aspect of the Iowa civil justice system. IX. Relaxed Requirement of Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law A rule authorizing parties to waive findings of fact and conclusions of law could expedite resolution of nonjury civil cases. X. Business (Specialty) Courts Specialty business courts have achieved widespread support across the country. In addition, specialty courts provide excellent vehicles for implementing or piloting other court innovations that may be useful in a broader court system context. A business specialty court should be and could be piloted in Iowa within the existing court system framework of the Iowa Judicial Branch. Appendix included as a separate document, is 176 pages.

Item Type: Departmental Report
Keywords: Iowa Civil Justice System, Iowa Courts, Reformation of Courts
Subjects: Law enforcement and courts > Courts > Civilcourts
Law enforcement and courts > Courts > Superior courts
Law enforcement and courts > Courts
Law enforcement and courts
Law enforcement and courts > Courts > Appellate courts
ID Code: 12732
Deposited By: Margaret Barr
Deposited On: 30 Mar 2012 15:01
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2012 14:06
URI: http://publications.iowa.gov/id/eprint/12732

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