University of Denver

Iowa Supreme Court Task Force for Civil Justice Reform

In December 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court established the Supreme Court Task Force for Civil Justice Reform to develop a blueprint for the reform of the state’s civil justice system. The Task Force was asked to develop proposals to make the system faster, less complex, more affordable, and better equipped to handle complex cases, such as complex business cases and medical malpractice matters. It has administered a survey of the Iowa bench and bar, focusing on specific problems and potential solutions. The Task Force has convened a larger committee of 70 and formed five subcommittees dedicated to exploring the following issues: 1) discovery; 2) court-annexed alternative dispute resolution; 3) litigation management; 4) specialty courts and rules; and 5) pretrial procedures.

The Task Force issued its final report, "Reforming the Iowa Civil Justice System", in March of 2012.  Among the recommendations was the establishment of a business court pilot project, one judge/one case and date certain for trial, adoption of the Federal Rules' initial disclosure regime, and a two-tiered differentiated case management pilot project. 

Iowa is in the process of implementing the committee’s recommendations. As a first step, in December 2012, the Iowa Supreme Court established a three-year pilot project for an Iowa Business Specialty Court for complex cases. In February 2016, after three yearly evaluations, the Iowa supreme court issued a supervisory order to declare its intention to continue the Iowa business court as a component of the Iowa court system. 

More recently, the Iowa Supreme Court has adopted an expedited civil action rule for actions involving $75,000 or less in money damages. The new expedited civil action rule includes limits on discovery and summary judgment motions, an expedited trial, and limitations on the length of trial. Finally, the Iowa Supreme Court also adopted a package of discovery amendments that include initial disclosures, limitations on the frequency and extent of discovery, a discovery plan, and an expert report requirement. Both the expedited civil action rule and the discovery amendments took effect January 1, 2015.

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