- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa’s judicial system has increased hours and improved efficiency but additional funding is needed to boost judges’ salaries, Chief Justice Mark Cady of the Iowa Supreme Court said Wednesday.

Cady gave his annual “state of the judiciary” speech before a joint session of the Legislature. Cady, who has served on the court since 1998, is seeking a budget increase for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“We must resolve every problem and reach every goal before our court system can be its best,” he said.

According to the governor’s proposed budget, the judiciary is looking for an allocation of about $179 million, an increase of nearly $11 million over the projected spending for the current year.

About $2 million would help fund pay raises for judges. Additional dollars would pay for more support staffers throughout the court system. Some of the money would go to maintain current service levels.

Cady said the courts must attract the “best and brightest attorneys” to become judges, with proper compensation. Justices received their first raises in five years this month, bringing their annual pay to $170,544. Cady’s salary jumped to $178,538.

Cady also wants to increase the number of Family Treatment Courts in the state. There are currently six such courts working with families headed by parents dealing with substance abuse. They are funded with state and federal dollars, but the federal funding soon expires, Cady said.

Judicial spokesman Steve Davis said Cady wants the state to continue to fund those six courts and look for ways to expand the system.

Legislative leaders were largely positive about Cady’s speech, though it was not clear if the pay raises would make it through the divided state legislature, where Republicans control the state House of Representatives and Democrats hold a majority in the state Senate.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, was noncommittal on the subject of judicial raises.

“We’ll have to work through that,” Paulsen said. “We’ll give it every consideration.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, expressed more support, saying Senate Democrats would try to work with the judicial branch to help provide raises.

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