We began class by taking a look at some Iowa Supreme Court press releases. We focused on how exactly do we further localize these stories? (eg. Apply it to Cedar Falls/Waterloo).
- Call and find out more information, specifically the information that was left out of the concise press release
- Was anyone from Cedar Falls/Waterloo present during the ruling?
- Will it affect Cedar Falls/Waterloo? If so, how so exactly?
- Check Facebook and other social media platforms to reach out to those who may have valuable first-hand information
- Check with local attorney’s
- Private detectives
- Insurance Agencies
Next, we further dove into Iowacourts.gov and went to the Expanded News Media Coverage page, which is where we will go when Anelia is live casting on Thursday. One thing that stood out to me was how detailed the rules are.
After this, we watched the footage of when the Maynard Bank Robbers faced the judged, recorded my Anelia. The robbers were 19 and 24 years old, which surprised me, especially the 19-year old as he is younger than me.
They both received a ton of sentences, from attempted murder all the way to terrorism. At this point, they are looking at life in prison.
Mid-way through the footage, the longly-awaited judges appeared, which excited me.
Every Iowa county has at least one magistrate, some have up to five. There are 99 total counties in Iowa, which means there are a lot of magistrates. This also that if someone is the only magistrate in a country, they are on call 24 hours a day.
A magistrate is a civil officer or lay judge who administers the law, especially one who conducts a court that deals with minor offenses and holds preliminary hearings for more serious ones.
A magistrate is like a part-time judge. A magistrate is the lowest level of judge. They are allowed to hand out search warrants and hear court appearances for even the most severe of crimes (eg. terrorism, robbery, etc), but that’s all. Magistrates can only send people to jail for up to 30 days. Karen, the magistrate who visited our class, also mentioned how she does a lot of weddings.
A district-associate judge is in the middle between a magistrate and a district-court judge. In our case, he mostly deals with misdemeanors, OWI’s, marijuana possession cases, adoptions, etc. District-associate judges can only send people to jail for up to five years.
Finally, a district-court judge is like “a queen in chess, they can do anything”. They take the murder cases, divorces, felonies, and everything else. They are able to hand out life sentences.
- A class D felony is 5 years (eg. forgery, third-offense OWI)
- A class C felony is 10
- A class B felony is 25 (eg. armed robbery, intent to sell massive massive amounts of drugs)
- A class A is a life sentence (eg. Murder)’
I found it very interesting that judges cannot show support towards a political party. This includes no bumper stickers, no lawn signs, and attending no caucuses.
Karen and her husband also touched on the touchy subject of “fake news”. They mentioned how “In an era where there is so much news and so much to be told, those who are writing in and for newspapers, they are doing a great job. That’s where you want to get your news. Not while you’re scrolling through Facebook.”
I also learned that, believe it or not, judges want accurate stories published. This means they will talk to reporters and journalists off-the-record and give them some more background information.
The judge always makes sure they say anything that sways one way or another. This means no facial expressions and other physical signs. They must remain professional and unbiased.
They always stressed that it’s actually a big deal when voting for judges. You cannot be biased, you cannot be angry, you MUST be professional. You are dealing with people’s lives.
Everyone is entitled to a fair trial, regardless of past offenses. This is why jurors only know the case they are on. For example, if someone is on trial for their fifth OWI and the jurors know that, they will most likely want him off the road. With that said, although it is his fifth OWI, the jurors do not need to know that and become biased.
Karen told us about the story of when she got hit by a truck. It sounded insane.
I also learned that if you don’t have money, fines can be very bad. For example, if you make $150,000 a year, it’s not a huge issue to pay $5,000 in court and attorney fees for an OWI. However, if you make $20,000 a year… $5,000 is a major issue. This might not allow you to get your work permit or SR-22 insurance that you need. Ultimately, poor people get short changed by the court system.
As a judge, “you must learn how to make a decision and move on.” This was my favorite quote from Karen.