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How Does The Iowa Court Of Appeals Work?

The Iowa Court of Appeals is an intermediate court in the state. This court reviews cases passed down from the Iowa Supreme Court. The function of the Court of Appeals is to render a final decision regarding cases that started in Iowa trial courts. Decisions rendered by the Iowa Court of Appeals may only be overturned if an aggrieved party files an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Cases reviewed by Iowa Courts of Appeals do not involve witnesses, juries, new evidence, or court reporters. The court may uphold the lower court’s decision, set aside the rial courts’ orders, or send a case back with instructions to hold a new trial. Rulings from the Iowa Court of Appeals are called Opinions. An Opinion is the collective decision of a majority of judges or justices. Opinions are provided within three to six months after a case is transferred to the Court of Appeals by the Supreme Court.

The Iowa Court of Appeals functions by reviewing a written record of the events in a trial court. Consequently, the court investigates any legal errors which may have occurred. The majority of cases appealed to the court involve criminal, family, or juvenile matters. Criminal appeals represent 30% of all appeals submitted to the Court of Appeals. Termination of parental rights and cases involving children who need assistance constitute 25%, while family law appeals constitute nearly 20%.

According to Section 602.5103 of the Iowa Judicial Branch, the jurisdiction of the Iowa Court of Appeals includes the following:

  • Appellate jurisdiction only in cases of chancery and corrects errors at law.
  • The review of the following matters:
  • Civil actions and special civil proceedings 
  • Criminal actions 
  • Post-conviction remedy proceedings 
  • A judgment of a district judge in a small claims action 
  • Cases where the Iowa Supreme Court has issued an order of transfer
  • Processes such as writs and orders which enforce the Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction are void if the matter was not transferred before the court by the Iowa Supreme Court.

The membership of the Iowa Court of Appeals is made of nine judges. For selecting a new judge, the Iowa State Governor sends a notice of judicial vacancy to the State Judicial Nominating Commission. The Commission comprises the following individuals:

  • A senior Justice of the Supreme Court selected by members of the Commission, who acts as Chair
  • Eight lawyers (two from each confessional district) elected by lawyers.
  • Nine commissioners appointed by the governor pon the senate’s confirmation

The Commission begins interviewing applicants within sixty days of receiving the notice, and interviews are open to the public. After the interview process, three nominees are provided to the governor, who then has thirty days to appoint a new judge.

Upon appointment into the judicial office, judges serve an initial one-year term. After the term expires on January 1 of the following year, judges undergo a judicial retention election. During this election, voters cast their ballots in favor of or against retaining an incumbent judge using a Yes-No voting system. Judges are retained if the number of votes cast for them exceeds those cast against them. Judges retained at elections may proceed to serve a term of six years. 

The chief judge is elected every two years by the Iowa Court of Appeals judges. The requirement for appointment to serve as a judge is to be an attorney licensed to practice in the state of Iowa. Nominees must also be able to complete an eight-year term before the mandatory retirement age of 72. The chief judge is the administrative head of the court. 

A Court of Appeals judge may be removed from office by a majority vote of both the Iowa House of Representatives and Senate. Impeachment vote at the senate must be at least two-thirds. The Supreme Court may also remove a judge based on a recommendation by the Iowa Judicial Qualifications Committee.

The Supreme Court may discipline a judge given the following conditions:

  • Persistent failure to perform the judge’s duties 
  • Intemperance
  • Willful misconduct in office
  • Violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct

The Supreme Court may also retire a judge if the judge has a permanent physical or mental disability. Information regarding the current Court of Appeals judges is made available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website. 

The Clerk of the Supreme Court manages all records of appeals. Each Court of Appeals judge has clerical support and a law clerk to assist with legal research. The Iowa Court of Appeals holds its regular sessions in Des Moines at the address listed below:

Iowa Judicial Branch Building
1111 East Court Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515) 348–4700

The following are the different Iowa Court of Appeals documents and methods of finding them:

Appellate cases

There are three ways to view appellate cases in the Iowa Court of Appeals.

  • Electronic document viewing at a courthouse public terminal in the county where the appeal was filed.  
  • Written request directed to the Clerk of Court using the following address:

Iowa Judicial Branch Building,
1111 East Court Avenue,
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515) 348–4700

  • Online using the self-search tool provided by the Iowa Judicial Branch.

Requestors seeking information online will be required to provide the following information:

  • Appellate Docket Number
  • Short Case Title
  • Last Name of Firm Name
  • First Name
  • Role

The service is available to all users. However, some may only be available to registered users. The monthly subscription fee for registered users is $25.

Court of Appeal Opinions

Opinions describe the written views of a judge concerning a particular order. Iowa Court of Appeals Opinions may be obtained from the Iowa Judicial Branch. 

Archived Opinions are also available from 2007 and contain data such as: 

  • Order Number
  • Complainant information
  • Respondent information
  • Date filed

Oral Argument Schedule

These are reserved dates for oral arguments to be heard before the Iowa Court of Appeals. Typically, schedule documents include:

  • Case Number
  • Case Parties
  • Attorneys

The Iowa Judicial Branch posts Oral Arguments.

  • Criminal Records
  • Arrests Records
  • Warrants
  • Driving Violations
  • Inmate Records
  • Felonies
  • Misdemeanors
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax & Property Liens
  • Civil Judgements
  • Federal Dockets
  • Probate Records
  • Marriage Records
  • Divorce Records
  • Death Records
  • Property Records
  • Asset Records
  • Business Ownership
  • Professional Licenses
  • And More!