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How Do Iowa Specialty Courts Work?

Iowa operates specialty courts, which are alternatives to the typical course of justice available in other state courts. Iowa specialty courts are also referred to as problem-solving courts. These courts focus on the underlying issues that may cause a person to have frequent encounters with the law. Specialty courts work with trained professionals to help participants out of repeated criminal behavior based on substance abuse, mental illness, or other underlying issues. There are different specialty courts in Iowa, including:

  • Business Court 
  • Mental Health Court
  • Drug Court

Iowa Business Specialty Court

The Iowa Business Specialty Court was created in December 2012, based on a recommendation from the Iowa Civil Justice Reform task force. The Iowa Business Court aims to expedite business and complex commercial litigations while lowering the cost for the parties and the court system.  

Cases heard by the Iowa Business Court must involve claims for compensatory damages totaling $200,000 or more. 

The Iowa Supreme Court appoints business court judges based on their educational background, experience in adjudicating complex commercial cases, and their desire to participate in the Business Court. 

Business Court cases can be requested from the state court administrator;

Todd Nuccio

Iowa Judicial Branch Building

1111 East Court Ave. 

Des Moines, IA 50319

(515) 348–4880

Iowa Mental Health Courts

The Iowa Mental Health Court is a branch of the Iowa court system created for persons who have criminal charges and are suffering from mental health or substance abuse problems. There are four Mental Health Courts in Iowa which run different procedures for different case situations.

Pottawatomie County Mental Health Court

The Pottawatomie County Mental Health Court was created as an alternative to jail for mentally impaired individuals who commit crimes. The Mental Health Court aims to rehabilitate the defendant and protect the community from further criminal activity. The Pottawatomie court system is an intensive individualized service that helps offenders treat their illness by giving them prescription medication, food, and shelter.

Members of the Pottawatomie Mental Health Court

  • The County Attorney
  • Adult Probation Manager 
  • Southwest Iowa Region Case Managers
  • Public Defender
  • Pottawattamie County Jail
  • Integrated Health Home
  • Council Bluffs Police Department
  • A Therapist
  • A District Court Judge.

Scott County Mental Health Court

The Scott Mental Health Court was created in conjunction with the 7th Judicial District of Iowa. The court was established in response to the increasing number of defendants with severe mental health conditions who are caught up in the criminal justice system. The Scott Mental Health Court gives treatment, housing, medication, counseling, and therapy to offenders with mental health issues.

Iowa Drug Courts

The Drug Court is the Iowa Judicial Branch’s effort at reducing recidivism in persons whose substance abuse problems have led them to crime. There are six Drug Court programs in the state of Iowa. 

Marshall County Drug Court

The Marshall County Drug Court program holds offenders accountable for making needed changes in their lives through intensive supervision, treatment, and community involvement. Offenders in the Drug Court program can access a wide variety of treatment services on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. Participants are subject to frequent contact with the probation officer (often one to two times weekly), announced and unannounced home checks, and random drug and alcohol testing. Offenders are required to complete the recommended treatment and develop long-term plans to maintain sobriety.

Marshall County Drug Court Committee

The court currently has thirty-two community volunteers, comprising eight panels of four members each. Two of the panels meet individually with assigned offenders every Wednesday night, rotating so that each panel meets only once each month. Offenders appear before a panel of between eight and twelve persons, on any given week. 

The Marshall County Courthouse is located at:

Marshall County Courthouse

1 East Main Street, 

Marshalltown, IA 50158

Mason City Drug Court

The Mason City Drug Court program was launched to provide rehabilitative services to high-risk drug offenders through supervision and community services. 

The Mason City Drug Court Program utilizes a community partnership and teamwork approach to supervise and provide rehabilitative services to high-risk drug offenders. Offenders here are closely supervised by the Probation/Parole Officer III Drug Court Officer. Duties of the Probation/Parole Officer III Drug Court Officer include case management of the offenders and coordinating the operation of the community panel process.  

The District Court Judge provides judicial oversight, including violation hearings, sentencing, making potential referrals, and presiding over Drug Court graduations. 

The Mason City County courthouse is located at:

Cerro Gordo County Courthouse

220 North Washington Ave, 

Mason City, IA 50401

Woodbury Community Drug Court 

The Community Drug Court in Woodbury County was implemented by the Third District Department of Correctional Services, in conjunction with the Third Judicial District Juvenile Court Services. The program is designed to provide services to adults and juveniles who have been referred by the County Attorney’s Office, Juvenile Court Services, defense attorneys, adult Probation/Parole Officers, or the Court.

Woodbury Drug Court Team Members

  • 1 District Court Judge 
  • 1 Drug Court Coordinator (Juvenile Probation Supervisor) 
  • 3 Drug Court Officers - Juvenile Court Services 
  • Part-time Technician—Juvenile Court Services 
  • Drug Court Officers—Dept. Correctional Services 
  • 70 Community Panel volunteer members 

The Woodbury County Juvenile Drug Court is located at:

Juvenile Court services 

Trosper-Hoyt Building

822 Douglass Street

Sioux Street, IA 51101–1024


The Woodbury County Adult Drug Court is located at:

Department of Correctional Services

515 Water Street

Sioux City, IA 51103


The Fourth Judicial District Drug Court 

This is a program designed by the Fourth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services to divert non-violent substance abusing offenders from the criminal justice system into treatment and rehabilitative programming. The Fourth Judicial District Drug Court is available to all nine counties in the district.

Fourth Judicial District Drug Court Team Members 

  • Drug Court Judge
  • Assistant County Attorney
  • Council Bluffs Police Officer
  • Family Service staff member
  • TASC Liaison Officer
  • Probation/Parole Officer II
  • Probation/Parole Officer III
  • Drug Court Secretary
  • UNO Evaluator
  • Drug Court Coordinator 

Polk County Drug Court

The Polk County Drug Court was designed by the Fifth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services for convicted or admitted felons with cases pending before the Criminal Court. This is an intensive Supervision Court Program composed of representatives from the Fifth Judicial System, Polk County Attorney’s Office, Community Corrections, and the Treatment Community. This court aims to tackle substance abuse problems leading to criminal behavior by focusing on the offender’s overall wellness. This works to reduce or eliminate criminal behavior by putting an end to substance abuse, thus decreasing the need for jail/prison space.

Polk County Drug Court Members

  • One Drug Court coordinator 
  • Probation/Parole Officer II
  • Probation/Parole Officer III
  • One quarter-time Assistant County Attorney
  • One half-time defense attorney
  • One full-time treatment liaison 
  • Sixteen District Court judges serving a 2-year term on a rotating basis 
  • Offenders are supervised by Probation/Parole Officer II and a Probation/Parole Officer III 

The Polk County Adult Courthouse is located at:

Polk County Courthouse

500 Mulberry St

Des Moines, IA 50309

The Polk County Juvenile Courthouse is located at 

Polk County Juvenile Court

222 5th Ave

Des Moines, IA 50309

Scott County Drug Court

This program is designed to rehabilitate individuals who abuse commonly used drug substances such as alcohol, marijuana, heroin, and crack cocaine. The Scott County Drug Court is funded through legislative appropriations to the Department of Corrections. 

Scott County Drug Court members

  • The chief judge of the 7th Judicial District
  • Two full-time Drug Court officers
  • One private attorney serving as a defense attorney
  • A part-time prosecutor from the County Attorney’s office
  • A treatment liaison employed by the Centre for Alcohol and Drug Services 

Scott County courthouse is located at

Scott County Courthouse

400 West 4th St 

Davenport, IA 52801

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