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County court employees' jobs safe from judicial cuts

Friday, November 13, 2009

No one in the Plymouth County court system will lose his or her job despite the Iowa Judicial Branch's 9.3 percent reduction in employee workforce announced Thursday.

"No personnel will be laid off in Plymouth County," emphasized Clerk of Courts Charlene Peterson. "We're very thankful for that."

The Iowa Judicial Branch will lay off 105 employees, cut 100 vacant staff positions and reduce the hours of 58 employees across the state, according to press release from the Iowa Supreme Court.

Those cuts are in addition to the 10 days the courts will be closed between December and the end of the fiscal year in June 2010 and the two-hour early closure two days a week announced earlier this week by the supreme court.

Even though the courts will close at 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and all day 10 days, the work still goes on for staff, Peterson said.

"We will close the doors and post a note saying 'closed to the public,'" she said. "We will still be in the office doing the stuff that we can't do on the days that we're not here."

Being closed that many days is also going to delay some court cases, Peterson said, and people are encouraged to call ahead to ensure theirs is still on schedule.

The state judicial branch is going to send clerk's of courts information as to what cases are to considered priority over other kinds of cases, Peterson said.

"I would think cases involving children and people in jail would be a high priority. So everybody's rights don't get violated and children are protected," she said.

Closure of the courts is also an inconvenience for the public like when people want to pay fines.

Peterson said they can still do that on the county website, www.co.plymouth.ia.us, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"We encourage people to do that," she said. "It's a pretty easy process."

With the cuts in personnel, limiting hours, closing courts for 10 days and other cost saving measures, the Iowa Judicial Branch will reduce the fiscal year 2010 operating budget by $11.4 million or 7.1 percent, according to the press release.

Peterson said the court system in Plymouth County will have to adapt to the cuts and make it as easy as possible for both staff and the public.

"We'll still try to keep up and keep everybody informed," Peterson said. "We'll still have jury trials and it will just keep going."

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