Iowa Chief Justice highlights courts' COVID steps during annual address


(Des Moines, IA) -- Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen says she's proud of the way the state's judges, lawyers, and courtroom staff have adjusted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Justice Christensen made the comments during her Condition of the Judiciary address to state lawmakers today (Wednesday) in Des Moines. She says she's proud that the Judicial Branch was able to keep people safe and keep the legal process going during such trying times. She says she's also happy that technology enabled Iowans continued access to justice, and thanked the legislature for funding that technology in the past.

Last year, during the height of the pandemic, jury trials were suspended in Iowa. Jury trials are expected to resume February 1st. Courtrooms have been doing some pilot trials over the past several months to come up guidelines and test out jury selection. Courtrooms will also have a number of mitigations when jury trials resume, including required masks, plexiglass, and limits on how many people can be in a courtroom. Christensen says pilot program last year proved to be extremely useful, to enable counties to help other counties with the legal work load through the use of technology.

She also says in addition to the pandemic, a number of Iowans were severely impacted by last summer's derecho. She says she's proud of the efforts on the part of courthouse staff to continue to provide access to the legal system, despite personal losses during the storm last summer.