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Iowa

Author

Michael A. Giudicessi and Susan P. Elgin
Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
801 Grand Avenue, 33rd Floor
Des Moines, Iowa 50309-8011
Telephone: 515-248-9000
Facsimile: 515-248-9010
Email: michael.giudicessi@faegrebd.com
Web: www.faegrebd.com

Last Updated February 2018

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I. Introduction: Access rights in the jurisdiction

A. The roots of access rights

Article I, Section 7 of the Iowa Constitution affords an independent right for the public and press to attend court proceedings. Iowa Freedom of Info. Council v. Wifvat, 328 N.W.2d 920, 923 (Iowa 1983) (noting also that this right is not absolute). This access right “may give way under rare circumstances to other rights and interests such as a defendant’s right to a fair trial or the government’s interest in nondisclosure of sensitive information.” State v. Hightower, 376 N.W.2d 648, 650 (Iowa Ct. App. 1985).

The common law “has long favored open judicial proceedings.” Wifvat, 328 N.W.2d at 922. “Openness in court proceedings may improve the quality of testimony, induce unknown witnesses to come forward with relevant testimony, cause all trial participants to perform their duties more conscientiously, and generally give the public an opportunity to observe the judicial system.” Gannett Co. v. DePasquele, 443 U.S. 368, 383 (1979). The same advantages of public trial have been recognized by the Iowa Supreme Court. Wifvat, 328 N.W.2d at 923 (citing Gannett, 443 U.S. at 383; State v. Lawrence, 167 N.W.2d 912, 914 (Iowa 1969); State v. Rasmus, 90 N.W.2d 429, 430 (Iowa 1958)).

The independent state constitutional right of access in Iowa is not absolute: “It has generally been viewed as a right subject to the inherent power of the court to limit attendance as the conditions and circumstances reasonably require for preservation of order and decorum in the courtroom, and to reasonably protect the rights of the parties and witnesses.See id. at 924 (quoting Lawrence, 167 N.W.2d at 914) (emphasis in original).

In Iowa, all judicial proceedings are public, “unless otherwise specially provided by statute or agreed to by the parties.” Iowa Code § 602.1601 (2018). In addition, Iowa court records are considered public records governed by the Iowa Open Records Act, which provides that “[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.” Iowa Code § 22.2 (2018). In Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Osmundson, 248 N.W.2d 493, 501 (Iowa 1976), the court acknowledged that the public records statute applied to jury lists held by the clerk of court. See also Iowa Code § 22.1 (2017). Iowa Code § 602.1614 permits the court to establish levels of access to records as needed to preserve confidentiality requirements imposed by other requirements of law.

Openness may not be impeded by judicial conduct that creates a hostile atmosphere for court staff, parties, witnesses, and the public. In re Inquiry Concerning Holien, 612 N.W.2d 789, 792 (Iowa 2000). In In re Inquiry Concerning Holien, the Iowa Supreme Court considered testimony that Judge Holien created such a hostile environment as to affect the “openness” of her court proceedings when deciding to remove her from the bench for judicial misconduct. Id. Judge Holien would often question members of the public who entered her courtroom while a hearing was in progress and on at least one occasion hung up a sign saying, “Do Not Enter Courtroom When Court is in Session.” Id. “Many witnesses testified there was an unwritten rule you did not enter her courtroom while a hearing was taking place.” Id. The Iowa Supreme Court considered this hostile environment to be a violation of Iowa rules requiring open courts. Id.

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B. Overcoming a presumption of openness

The Iowa Supreme Court adopted the three-prong test from Justice Blackmun’s dissent in Gannett Co. to govern whether a criminal pre-trial proceeding may be closed. Iowa Freedom of Info. Council v. Wifvat, 328 N.W.2d 920, 925–26 (Iowa 1983) (citing Gannett Co. v. DePasquele, 443 U.S. 368, 441-42 (1979) (Blackmun, J., dissenting)). That three-prong test requires a showing of “substantial probability that (1) irreparable damage to the defendant’s fair-trial right will result from an open hearing; (2) alternatives to closure will not adequately protect the right to a fair trial, and (3) closure will be effective in preventing prejudicial publicity that could deny the defendant’s right to a fair trial.” Id. (citing Gannett, 443 U.S. at 441–42 (Blackmun, J., dissenting)). In adopting this test, the court sought to accommodate a defendant’s right to a fair trial with the protection afforded the freedoms of speech and of the press and while recognizing other practical considerations. Wifvat, 328 N.W.2d at 925–26. Thus, in addition to requiring that the three-part test be satisfied by a movant seeking closure, the court in Wifvat noted two further, optional, prongs that district courts could apply in making closure decisions. Id. at 926. The non-compulsory additional elements announced in Wifvat include: (1) “allowing closure objectors to state their reasons before the court reaches a decision,” and (2) “articulating the reasons for a closure decision on the record.” Id. (citations omitted).

After Press Enterprise II, the Iowa Supreme Court acknowledged that procedural due process rights of notice and opportunity to be heard now are requisites to closure of state court proceedings rather than optional factors. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 426 N.W.2d 142, 147–48 (Iowa 1988) (stating that “proceedings cannot be closed unless specific findings are made on the record ‘demonstrating that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.’” (quoting Press-Enter. Co. v. Superior Court (Press-Enterprise II), 478 U.S. 1, 13–14 (1986))).

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C. Procedural prerequisites to closure

In Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Iowa District Court, 426 N.W.2d 142, 147-48 (Iowa 1988), the court adopted the procedural requirements of Press Enterprise II to require specific factual findings on the grounds for closure and satisfaction of the Wifvat standard. See “Overcoming a Presumption of Openness” section above.

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II. Procedure for asserting right of access to proceedings and records

A. Media standing to challenge closure

In Iowa, representatives of the media may utilize intervention as a procedure to challenge closure of court records and proceedings. See generally Iowa Freedom of Info. Council v. Wifvat, 328 N.W.2d 920 (Iowa 1983); Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 426 N.W.2d 142 (Iowa 1988); see also In re Search Warrant for Secretarial Area Outside Office of Gunn, 855 F.2d 569, 572 (8th Cir. 1988). Depending upon the court or presiding judge, a representative of the press may be allowed to appear informally to make an access motion. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has also held that “[w]henever an objection to closure is made, the [c]ourt must allow the objecting parties a reasonable opportunity to state their objections.” In re Iowa Freedom of Info. Council, 724 F.2d 658, 661 (8th Cir. 1983) (citing United States v. Brooklier, 685 F.2d 1162, 1168 (9th Cir. 1982)). The Eighth Circuit further held that a reasonable opportunity “need not take the form of an evidentiary hearing or encompass extended legal argument.” Id. (citing Gannett Co. v. DePasquale, 443 U.S. 368, 445–46 (1979) (Blackmun, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). In Iowa Freedom of Information Council, the court declined to announce standards with respect to giving prior notice of motions for closure to the press and the public. Id. at 663. However, when a representative of the media was present when the motion that the hearing be closed was made in open court, the Eighth Circuit deemed that to be sufficient notice to enable the media to object. Id.

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B. Procedure for requesting access in criminal cases

Intervention is an appropriate procedure to allow the press the opportunity to present arguments in favor of access to court records and proceeding. E.g., Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 426 N.W.2d 142 (Iowa 1988); Iowa Freedom of Info. Council v. Wifvat, 328 N.W.2d 920 (Iowa 1980); In re Search Warrant for Secretarial Area Outside Office of Gunn, 855 F.2d 569, 572 (8th Cir. 1988). In addition, depending upon the court or presiding judge, a representative of the press may be allowed to appear informally to make an access motion.

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C. Procedure for requesting access in civil matters

Although the Iowa Supreme Court has not specifically addressed rights of access in civil matters, it is likely that the procedures utilized to request access would be the same as those employed in criminal matters. See the “Procedure for Requesting Access in Criminal Cases” section above.

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D. Obtaining review of initial court decisions

In Iowa, a decision of a lower court denying access can be challenged by petitioning for a writ of certiorari. See, e.g., State v. Knox, 464 N.W.2d 445, 447 (Iowa 1990); Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 426 N.W.2d 142 (Iowa 1988); Iowa Freedom of Info. Council v. Wifvat, 328 N.W.2d 920 (Iowa 1980). Issuance of a writ of certiorari rests in the discretion of the court and while a single justice may grant the writ on an emergency basis, typically the application is set for consideration by a multi-justice panel. If the writ is issued, in considering the appeal on its merits and when determining whether to sustain the writ, the review of law issues is de novo: “issue[s] involv[ing] the potential violation of basic constitutional safeguards,” such as a denial of access, the review is de novo and the court will make its “own evaluation of the record from the totality of the circumstances.” Knox, 464 N.W.2d at 447 (citing Des Moines Register & Tribune, 426 N.W.2d at 143).

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III. Access to criminal proceedings

A. In general

Iowa has acknowledged a First Amendment qualified right of access of the press and the general public to criminal trials. See, e.g., State v. Knox, 464 N.W.2d 445, 447 (Iowa 1990) (citing Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 580 (1980) (plurality opinion); Press-Enter. Co. v. Superior Court (Press-Enterprise II), 478 U.S. 1, 14 (1986)). The qualified right of access extends to pretrial proceedings and may extend to post-trial proceedings as well. See Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 426 N.W.2d 142, 147 (Iowa 1988) (pretrial proceedings); see also Knox, 464 N.W.2d at 447 (the “experience and logic” test will be applied to determine whether certain post-trial proceedings are subject to the right of access). However, the right of access in Iowa is a qualified right, and ‘“[i]t has generally been viewed as a right subject to the inherent power of the court to limit attendance as the conditions and circumstances reasonably require for the preservation of . . . order and decorum in the courtroom, and to reasonably protect the rights of parties and witnesses.”’ Iowa Freedom of Info. Council v. Wifvat, 328 N.W.2d 920, 924 (Iowa 1980) (quoting State v. Lawrence, 167 N.W.2d 912, 914 (Iowa 1969)).

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B. Pretrial proceedings

Iowa has recognized that the right of public access applies to pretrial suppression hearings. Iowa Freedom of Info. Council v. Wifvat, 328 N.W.2d 920, 924 (Iowa 1983) (citations omitted). Further, the Iowa Supreme Court has held that “a qualified right of public access attaches to preliminary hearings as they are conducted in Iowa.” Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 426 N.W.2d 142, 147 (Iowa 1988). In acknowledging the qualified right in Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., the court found that both elements of the Supreme Court’s Press-Enterprise II analysis were satisfied. Id. at 145–47 (citing Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, (Press-Enterprise II) 478 U.S. 1, 13 (1986)) (“First, the court must consider whether the place and process have historically been open to the press and general public. Second, the court must consider whether public access plays a significant positive role in the functioning of the particular process in question.”). Thus, because a qualified right of public access attaches to preliminary hearings in Iowa, proceedings cannot be closed unless specific findings are made on the record in accordance with the Press-Enterprise II test. See id. at 147–48 (citing Press-Enterprise II, 478 U.S. at 13–14) (The test requires findings that demonstrate ‘“closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.’”). This may include requiring judges to hold initial appearances in a courtroom and not in their office, which would effectively prevent the county attorney, the public defender, domestic abuse case workers, and the public from being present. See In re Inquiry Concerning Holien, 612 N.W.2d 789, 792 (Iowa 2000) (considering evidence that Judge Holien conducted initial appearances in her office, which “effectively prevented the county attorney, the public defender, domestic abuse case workers, and the public from being present”).

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C. Criminal trials

The right of access to criminal trials in Iowa is a qualified right, and attendance can be limited to reasonably protect the rights of the parties and witnesses. Iowa Freedom of Info. Council v. Wifvat, 328 N.W.2d 920, 924 (Iowa 1980).

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D. Post-trial proceedings

The Iowa Supreme Court has not decided whether the First Amendment right to access attaches to a post-trial hearing. State v. Knox, 464 N.W.2d 445, 447 n.1 (Iowa 1990) (noting that because the parties assumed that the First Amendment right of access attached to the post-trial proceeding, the Supreme Court did not make a determination in Knox). However, the court stated that it would apply the “experience and logic” test to determine if a right to access attaches to a certain proceeding. See id. (citing Press-Enter. Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1, 8 (1986); Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court, 457 U.S. 596, 605–06 (1982); Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 426 N.W.2d 142 (1988)).

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E. Appellate proceedings

Iowa law requires “[a]ll judicial proceedings [to] be public, unless otherwise specially provided by statute or agreed to by the parties.” Iowa Code § 602.1601 (2018). Moreover, “[a]ll regularly scheduled Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals oral arguments will be available for streaming over the Internet and expanded news media coverage.” Iowa Ct. Rule 25.5(1) (2016). Further, objections to expanded media coverage and prohibitions as to the types of cases not subject to expanded media coverage do not apply to supreme court and court of appeals oral arguments. Id. (cases typically not subject to expanded media coverage include juvenile, dissolution, adoption, child custody, or trade secret cases).

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IV. Access to criminal court records

A. In general

Generally, court records filed in the office of the clerk of court are public records open to inspection under Iowa Code Chapter 22. In Iowa, “[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.” Iowa Code § 22.2 (2018). Certain records, such as minutes of testimony that accompany a county attorney’s information, are confidential by court rule.

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B. Arrest records

Records of current and prior arrests, which fall into the time, date, location and circumstances of a crime or incident covered by the open records statute, generally are available to public access. See Iowa Code § 22.7(9) (2018). Iowa Code § 804.29 states that all information filed with the court to secure an arrest warrant shall remain sealed until after an arrest is made and a return of arrest warrant is filed. (2018). Booking photographs or “mugshots” are not specifically addressed but practice is to treat them as public records. In addition, under Iowa Code § 904.602, certain basic information, such as name, age, status, and offense, about individuals who have been or currently are part of the department of corrections is public information that may be disseminated.

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C. Dockets

In Iowa, dockets are public records maintained by the clerk of court. See Iowa Code Chapter 22 (2018). Dockets may be found at the clerk of court’s office or online on Iowa’s electronic docket. See Iowa Courts Online Search, http://www.iowacourts.state.ia.us. Copies of complete court documents are currently not available online and are only available in the clerk of court’s office. However, the docket may be confidential where the record of a criminal proceeding has been expunged. See State v. Doe, 903 N.W.2d 347 (Iowa 2017).

Further, the Eighth Circuit has stated that case dockets are public records. In re Search Warrant for Secretarial Area Outside Office of Thomas Gunn, 855 F.2d 569, 575 (8th Cir. 1988) (citing United States v. Criden, 675 F.2d 550, 559 (3d Cir. 1982)). One rationale behind public dockets including motions to close a proceeding or seal documents is that the docket may serve as notice to the public and the press. Id. If motions are docketed in advance of a hearing, the docket itself can “afford[] the public and the press an opportunity to present objections to the motion.” Id. Further, the court held, “[t]he fact that a closure or sealing order has been entered must itself be noted on the court’s docket, absent extraordinary circumstances.” Id.

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Generally, records filed in the office of the clerk of court are public records, open to inspection by Iowa Code Chapter 22. However, a statutory exception exists for information filed with the court for the purpose of securing a search warrant. Pursuant to Iowa Code § 808.13, search warrant information is to be contained in a sealed confidential record until the peace officer has executed the warrant and has made a return. (2018). In limited circumstances, upon request from an officer, search warrant information may be ordered to be held confidential even after the warrant is returned. See Iowa Code § 22.7 (setting forth certain public records that are to be kept confidential). Courts have the authority to grant a request to seal search warrant information after it is returned under Iowa Const. Art. I, Sec. 7.

In the Fifth Judicial District of Iowa, which includes the City of Des Moines and surrounding counties, by administrative order of the Chief Judge of the District issued in 2009, specific procedures govern whether search warrant information will remain under seal. That procedure specifies that a party or other person may file an application to open sealed search warrant information. Upon application, the court will schedule a hearing to determine whether the search warrant information or parts of it shall remain sealed and any additional terms, including whether it can be produced in redacted form. See Iowa District Court, Fifth Judicial District Administrative Order 2009-6 (Feb. 4, 2009).

In the Eighth Circuit, a qualified First Amendment right of public access extends to documents filed in support of search warrants. In re Search Warrant for Secretarial Area Outside Office of Gunn, 855 F.2d 569, 577 (8th Cir. 1988). However, the court may seal documents if the court is presented with statements indicating a specialized need and based upon the stated need, the court makes specific and particular findings that there is a compelling state interest and there are no less restrictive alternatives. See id.

The Iowa Code includes provisions dealing with the disclosure of wiretap information. Investigative or law enforcement officers who obtain knowledge of the contents of a wire, oral, or electronic communication may only disclose the contents to another investigative or law enforcement officer or while giving testimony under oath in a criminal proceeding. See Iowa Code § 808B.4 (2018). Otherwise, the content cannot be disclosed. Id.

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E. Discovery materials

In Iowa, peace officers’ investigative reports are considered confidential. Iowa Code § 22.7(5) (2018). In addition, information about criminal activity which peace officers receive from third parties is also confidential. State Ex Rel. Shanahan v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 356 N.W. 2d 523, 528 (Iowa 1984) (citing Iowa Code § 622.11). This includes video recordings. Neer v. State, No. 10-0966, 2011 WL 662725, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 23, 2011). The appellate courts have not faced the issue whether the public may attend criminal depositions or have access to the limited discovery exchanged by the county attorney and defense counsel.

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F. Pretrial motions and records

Generally, court records filed in the office of the clerk of court are public records open to inspection under Iowa Code Chapter 22. In Iowa, “[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.” Iowa Code § 22.2 (2018).

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G. Trial records

Generally, court records filed in the office of the clerk of court are public records open to inspection under Iowa Code Chapter 22. In Iowa, “[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.” Iowa Code § 22.2 (2018).

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H. Post-trial records

Generally, court records filed in the office of the clerk of court are public records open to inspection under Iowa Code Chapter 22. In Iowa, “[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.” Iowa Code § 22.2 (2018).

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I. Appellate records

Generally, court records filed in the office of the clerk of court are public records open to inspection under Iowa Code Chapter 22. In Iowa, “[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.” Iowa Code § 22.2 (2018).

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J. Other criminal court records issues

Currently, Iowa does not have a general expungement statute; however, expungement of records may be granted for several reasons. In 2015, the Iowa Legislature passed Iowa Code § 901C.2, which provides in relevant part that

the court shall enter an order expunging the record of such criminal case if the court finds that the defendant has established . . . (1) The criminal case contains one or more criminal charges in which acquittal was entered for all criminal charges, or in which all criminal charges were otherwise dismissed.

Iowa Code § 901C.2(1)(a)(1) (2017); State v. Doe, 903 N.W.2d 347, 350 (Iowa 2017). The statute sets out four additional conditions which must be met before expungement can be granted. Iowa Code § 901C.2. In State v. Doe, the Iowa Supreme Court held that “case,” as it is used here, refers to a numbered legal proceeding. 903 N.W.2d at 351. The expungement process is triggered by an application filed by the defendant, the prosecutor, or the court. The following conditions must be met: a judgment of acquittal must be entered or the charges must be dismissed; all court costs and other fees must be paid; 180 days has expired since the acquittal or dismissal; the acquittal cannot be premised upon a finding of insanity; and the defendant cannot have been found incompetent. Iowa Code § 901C.2.

Records of a disciplinary proceeding of an inmate must also be expunged under Disciplinary Policy and Procedures if an inmate allegedly violated a rule but the alleged rule violation was not adjudicated in accordance with the Disciplinary Policy and Procedures manual. Hrbek v. State, 478 N.W.2d 617 (Iowa 1991). When the disciplinary board fails to grant a hearing, an inmate, under the prison’s own rules, is entitled to “expungement of any record regarding his alleged typing offenses, not rehearing.” Id. at 620. This expungement rule “does not apply to insubstantial and nonprejudicial errors.” Poyner v. Iowa District Court, Nos. 0-460, 99-0787, 2000 WL 1724528, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2000) (citing Goodwin v. State, 585 N.W.2d 749, 751 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998)).

Some child abuse reports may also be expunged. The Iowa Supreme Court has held that a juvenile court has discretion under Iowa Code 235A.18(2) to grant parents a hearing concerning expungement of information from the central registry. In re A.J., 821 N.W.2d 280, 284–85 (Iowa Ct. App. 2012). Under Iowa Code 235A.18, data sealed in accordance with the section shall be expunged after eight years, unless the data involves child abuse as defined in Iowa Code § 232.68(2)(a)(3) or (2)(a)(5), in which case it shall not be expunged for 30 years. Iowa Code 235A.18 discusses data “relating to a particular case of alleged abuse which has been determined to be founded child abuse and placed in the central registry . . . .” Data can only be sealed ten years after the initial report was created, and only if the individual had no subsequent convictions of child abuse. Id. Iowa Code § 232.68(2)(a)(3) discusses a person who is responsible for the care of the child or resides is the same home as the child. Iowa Code § 232.68(2)(a)(5) discusses “[t]he acts or omissions of a person responsible for the care of the child which allow, permit, or encourage the child to engage in [prohibited] acts . . . .”

Similarly, unfounded dependent adult abuse reports that were “rejected for evaluation, assessment, or disposition for failure to meet the definition of dependent adult abuse shall be expunged” after three years. Iowa Code § 235B.9(2). “Dependent adult abuse information which [was] determined by a preponderance of the evidence to be unfounded shall be expunged” after five years. Id.

Lastly, Iowa Code § 123.46(6) allows a public intoxication record to be expunged if, after two years following conviction, the individual received no further convictions. The Iowa Court of Appeals has held that expungement will not be granted if the individual received a public intoxication, third offense conviction where that conviction was expunged. State v. Shepherd, No. 15-1341, 2016 WL 4051865, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. July 27, 2016).

Until a record has been expunged, it can be used for impeachment purposes. State v. Birth, 604 N.W.2d 664, 665 (Iowa 2000). Expungement is not possible for a deferred judgment until probation has been completed. Iowa Code § 907.9 (2018). After probation is completed, if a judgment was deferred,

the court’s criminal record with reference to the deferred judgment, any counts dismissed by the court, which were contained in the indictment, information, or complaint that resulted in the deferred judgment, and any other related charges that were not contained in the indictment, information, or complaint but were dismissed, shall be expunged.

Id. To have a record expunged, the person must pay all financial obligations from the case that included the deferred judgment. Id. Where financial liability arose from the proceeding (e.g., fines, costs, or restitution), the related charge shall not be expunged until the amount payable is discharged. Id.

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V. Access to civil proceedings

A. In general

Although the Iowa Supreme Court has not specifically addressed rights of access in civil matters, it is likely that an analysis of rights of access in civil matters would follow what has been employed by the court to analyze criminal proceedings. Further, the court’s website makes this broad statement about access: “As a general rule most trials and hearings are open to the public.” https://www.iowacourts.gov/for-the-public/judicial-branch-building-and-courthouse-tours.

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B. Pre-trial proceedings

Although the Iowa Supreme Court has not specifically addressed rights of access in civil matters, it is likely that an analysis of rights of access in civil matters would follow what has been employed by the court to analyze criminal proceedings.

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C. Trials

Although the Iowa Supreme Court has not specifically addressed rights of access in civil matters, it is likely that an analysis of rights of access in civil matters would follow what has been employed by the court to analyze criminal proceedings.

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D. Post-trial proceedings

Although the Iowa Supreme Court has not specifically addressed rights of access in civil matters, it is likely that an analysis of rights of access in civil matters would follow what has been employed by the court to analyze criminal proceedings. The Iowa Supreme Court has not decided whether the First Amendment right to access attaches to a post-trial criminal hearing. State v. Knox, 464 N.W.2d 445, 447 n.1 (Iowa 1990) (noting that because the parties assumed that the First Amendment right of access attached to the post-trial proceeding the Supreme Court did not make a determination in Knox). However, the court stated that it would apply the “experience and logic” test to determine if a right to access attaches to a certain proceeding. See id. (citing Press-Enter. Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1, 8 (1986); Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court, 457 U.S. 596, 605–06 (1982); Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 426 N.W.2d 142 (1988)).

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E. Appellate proceedings

Although the Iowa Supreme Court has not specifically addressed rights of access in civil matters, it is likely that an analysis of rights of access in civil matters would follow what has been employed by the court to analyze criminal proceedings.

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VI. Access to civil records

A. In general

Generally, court records filed in the office of the clerk of court are public records open to inspection under Iowa Code Chapter 22. In Iowa, “[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.” Iowa Code § 22.2 (2018). Certain records, such as minutes of testimony that accompany a county attorney’s information, are confidential by court rule. In denying a motion to seal documents in a civil case, an Iowa court stated that “[t]he court file, like all court files, is open to the public.” McCleary v. Kauffman, No. EQCE082353, 2017 WL 6330635 (Iowa Dist. Ct. Dec. 7, 2017).

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B. Dockets

In Iowa, dockets are public records maintained by the clerk of court. See Iowa Code Chapter 22 (2018). Dockets may be found at the clerk of court’s office or online on Iowa’s electronic docket. See Iowa Courts Online Search, http://www.iowacourts.state.ia.us. Copies of complete court documents are currently not available online and only available in the clerk of court’s office.

Further, the Eighth Circuit has stated that case dockets are public records. In re Search Warrant for Secretarial Area Outside Office of Thomas Gunn, 855 F.2d 569, 575 (8th Cir. 1988) (citing United States v. Criden, 675 F.2d 550, 559 (3d Cir. 1982)). One rationale behind public dockets including motions to close a proceeding or seal documents is that the docket may serve as notice to the public and the press. Id. If motions are docketed in advance of a hearing, the docket itself can “afford[] the public and the press an opportunity to present objections to the motion.” Id. Further, the court held, “[t]he fact that a closure or sealing order has been entered must itself be noted on the court’s docket, absent extraordinary circumstances.” Id.

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C. Discovery materials

According to the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure, discovery materials are not filed in the court unless the court orders otherwise. Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.502. Discovery materials include depositions, notice of depositions, interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admission, or response, documents or things produced, or objections to discovery materials. Id. Since discovery materials are generally not filed in the court, they are not public records and the presumptive First Amendment right of access is not applicable. However, any discovery materials filed with the court are likely to be subject to access.

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D. Pre-trial motions and records

E. Trial records

Generally, court records filed in the office of the clerk of court are public records open to inspection under Iowa Code Chapter 22. In Iowa, “[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.” Iowa Code § 22.2 (2018). Certain records, such as minutes of testimony that accompany a county attorney’s information, are confidential by court rule.

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F. Settlement records

Settlement agreements are typically not filed in Iowa state court because a party can voluntarily dismiss a case without court order until ten days prior to the date of trial under the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure. Therefore, most settlement agreements will not be filed with the court or subject to a right of access. However, settlement agreements involving governmental entities are generally subject to public access. See Iowa Code § 22.13 (2018). In Des Moines Sch. Dist. v. Des Moines Register, the Iowa Supreme Court held that a settlement reached between the school board and a former principal must be made public under Iowa public records law. 487 N.W.2d 666 (Iowa 1992).

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G. Post-trial records

Generally, court records filed in the office of the clerk of court are public records open to inspection under Iowa Code Chapter 22. In Iowa, “[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.” Iowa Code § 22.2 (2018). Certain records, such as minutes of testimony that accompany a county attorney’s information, are confidential by court rule.

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H. Appellate records

Generally, court records filed in the office of the clerk of court are public records open to inspection under Iowa Code Chapter 22. In Iowa, “[e]very person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record.” Iowa Code § 22.2 (2018). Certain records, such as minutes of testimony that accompany a county attorney’s information, are confidential by court rule.

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I. Other civil court records issues

VII. Jury and grand jury access

A. Access to voir dire

Iowa law requires all judicial proceedings to be public “unless otherwise specially provided by statute or agreed to by the parties.” Iowa Code § 602.1601 (2018). However, expanded media coverage of jurors is prohibited in Iowa, except to the extent it is unavoidable in the coverage of the proceedings. Iowa Ct. Rule 25.2(6) (2017). The policy behind the prohibition is to prevent unnecessary or prolonged coverage of individual jurors. Id. In addition, expanded media coverage of jury selection is prohibited by the Iowa Court Rules. Id. 25.2(5). However, expanded media coverage of the return of the jury’s verdict is permitted. Id. 25.2(6).

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B. Juror identities, questionnaires and other records

Jury lists are considered public records in Iowa. See Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Osmundson, 248 N.W.2d 493 (Iowa 1976) (an order restraining disclosure of the jury list in a criminal trial was an “unwarranted prior restraint on freedom of the press under the first amendment” and under article I, section 7 of the Iowa Constitution).

In Iowa, “[t]he court may, on its own motion, or upon the motion of a party to the case or upon the request of a juror, order the sealing or partial sealing of a completed juror questionnaire, if the court finds that it is necessary to protect the safety or privacy of a juror or a family member of a juror.” Iowa Code § 607A.47 (2017).

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C. Grand jury proceedings and records

In Iowa, grand jury proceedings are to be kept secret. See Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.3. In addition, the fact that an indictment has been found cannot be disclosed by any member of the grand jury, and its clerks, bailiffs and court attendants “except when necessary for the issuance and execution of a warrant or summons.” Id. In Iowa, the duty of nondisclosure of the fact that an indictment has been found continues only until the indicted person has been arrested. Id.

Grand jury proceedings are to be kept secret in Iowa. See id. However, the Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure governing grand jury secrecy does not expressly mention witnesses and the United States Supreme Court held in Butterworth v. Smith, 494 U.S. 624, 110 S. Ct. 1376, 108 L. Ed. 2d 572 (1990), that a court did not possess the authority to impose a gag order on grand jury witnesses, at least after the expiration of the grand jury’s term. See B. John Burns, 4A Iowa Practice § 5:3 Criminal Procedure (2009 ed.). Minutes of testimony, used to describe the evidence upon which a county attorney instigates criminal charges by information rather than by indictment, are accorded similar treatment by the rules of criminal procedure.

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D. Interviewing jurors

There is no formal prohibition in Iowa, however, some local rules may prohibit juror interviews. In addition, contempt citations may be threatened if the press contacts a juror after impaneling but prior to discharge.

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VIII. Proceedings involving minors

A. Delinquency

In Iowa, at any time during juvenile proceedings, the court, on the motion of any of the parties or upon the court’s own motion, may exclude the public from hearings if the court determines that the possibility of harm to the child outweighs the public’s interest in having an open hearing. Iowa Code § 232.39 (2018). If the court has excluded the public from a hearing, the transcript of the proceedings shall not be deemed a public record and inspection and disclosure of the contents of the transcript will not be permitted except pursuant to court order. Iowa Code § 232.147(2)(c) (2018). Typically, Juvenile court records are confidential, and the contents will not be disclosed except as provided by statute. Iowa Code § 232.147(1) (2018).

Official juvenile court records in cases alleging delinquency are public records but the records are subject to several restrictions including confidentiality orders and sealing. Iowa Code § 232.147(2)(b) (2018). Upon application of the accused or upon the court’s own motion, the court shall order official juvenile court records in a case to be kept confidential and no longer public records if the court finds that the case has been dismissed and the person is no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and making the records confidential is in the best interests of the person and the public. Iowa Code § 232.149A (2018). In addition, juvenile records may be sealed if the court finds “[t]he person is eighteen years of age or older and two years have elapsed since the last official action in the person’s case . . . [t]he person has not been subsequently convicted of a felony or an aggravated or serious misdemeanor or adjudicated a delinquent child for an act which if committed by an adult would be a felony, an aggravated misdemeanor, or a serious misdemeanor and no proceeding is pending seeking such conviction or adjudication. . . [and] [t]he person was not placed on youthful offender status, transferred back to district court after the youthful offender’s eighteenth birthday, and sentenced for the offense which precipitated the youthful offender placement.” Iowa Code § 232.150 (2018). The court also retains jurisdiction over certain matters even after the child attains the age of majority and may order the records to be sealed after the case has terminated. In re B.A., 737 N.W.2d 665, 668 (Iowa Ct. App. 2007); see Iowa Code § 232.150 (2018).

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B. Dependency

In Iowa, at any time during proceedings involving juveniles, the court may “exclude the public from hearings if the court determines that the possibility of damage or harm to the child outweighs the public’s interest in having an open hearing.” Iowa Code § 232.39 (2018).

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C. Other proceedings involving minors

In Iowa, public attendance at certain proceedings is limited by statute. Hearings for dissolution of marriage are held in open court; however, the court may close a dissolution hearing in its discretion. Iowa Code § 598.8 (2018). Hearings held for the purpose of determining child custody may be limited in attendance by the court. Iowa Code § 598.8 (2018). Similarly, attendance at adoption hearings are limited. Iowa Code § 600.12 (2018). Only certain parties, including those persons notified, their witnesses, legal counsel, and persons requested by the court to be present are allowed to be present during adoption hearings. Iowa Code § 600.12 (2018).

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D. Prohibitions on photographing or identifying juveniles

Iowa does not explicitly restrict photographing or identifying juveniles. However, Iowa protects the privacy of child victims of sexual abuse, incest, or sexual exploitation by prohibiting the release of the identity of the child or any information reasonably likely to disclose the identity of the child to the public by any public employee. Iowa Code § 915.36 (2018). In addition, the name of the child and any identifying biographical information are not to appear on any public record. Id. Instead, a non-descriptive designation, such as the child’s initials will usually appear on all public records. See id. “A person who willfully violates [the child victim protection statute] or who willfully neglects or refuses to obey a court order made pursuant to [the child victim protection statute] commits contempt.” Id. The statute does not, however, explicitly address identification of child victims by the media. The expanded media coverage rules governing cameras and microphones in the courtroom restrict the showing of juvenile victims and witnesses.

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E. Minor testimony in non-juvenile courts

In order to protect a minor “from trauma caused by testifying in the physical presence of the defendant where it would impair the minor’s ability to communicate,” a court may order that the testimony of the minor be taken in a room other than the courtroom and be televised by closed-circuit equipment for viewing in the courtroom only “upon a specific finding by the court that such measures are necessary to protect the minor from trauma.” Iowa Code § 915.38 (2018). General testimony stating that requiring a child victim to testify in front of defendant would be “very distressful” and would cause the child to regress is not sufficient to allow the testimony of an alleged victim of child endangerment to be made via closed circuit television. State v. Richards, 752 N.W.2d 453 (table), 2008 WL 2042615 (Iowa Ct. App. 2008). This manner of questioning a minor does not violate the defendant’s right to confrontation of his accuser where the court has first found this procedure is necessary “to further the important State interest of protecting the child witness.” State v. Cuevas, 776 N.W.2d 302 (Table), 2009 WL 3337606 (Iowa Ct. App. 2009); State v. McDonnell, 771 N.W.2d 653 (Table), 2009 WL 1492839 (Iowa Ct. App. 2009). The court has held this because “Iowa Code section 915.38 sets forth a procedure that ensures the reliability of the evidence by subjecting it to rigorous adversarial testing that preserves the essence of effective confrontation.” State v. Hicks, 863 N.W.2d 36 (Table), 2015 WL 1046130 (Iowa Ct. App. 2015).

In addition to the protections afforded minors by the Iowa Code, courts will apply the Waller v. Georgia criteria for the total closing of a trial to determine whether alternative measures utilized to protect minor witnesses amount to a closure of the court. State v. Schultzen, 522 N.W.2d 833, 835-36 (Iowa 1994) (citing Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39, 48 (1984) (Waller requires: “1. The party seeking to close the hearing must advance an overriding interest that is likely to be prejudiced; 2. the closure must be no broader than necessary to protect that interest; 3. the trial court must consider reasonable alternatives to closing the proceedings; and 4. the trial court must make findings adequate to support the closure.”). In State v. Schultzen, the Iowa Supreme Court held that screening off a minor witness from certain spectators was a reasonable alternative to closing the proceeding because it was less restrictive than the remedy allowed by statute. State v. Schultzen, 522 N.W.2d 833, 835–36 (Iowa 1994).

The court may also order that the testimony of a minor be taken by recorded deposition for use at trial, pursuant to Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.13(2)(b). Iowa Code § 915.38 (2018). “Only the judge, parties, counsel, persons necessary to record the deposition . . . may be present in the room with the child during the child’s deposition.” Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.13(2)(b). The court may also, on motion and hearing, and upon a finding that the minor is unavailable, order the videotaping of the minor’s testimony for viewing in the courtroom by the court. Iowa Code § 915.38 (2018).

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IX. Special proceedings

A. Tribal Courts in the jurisdiction

The procedural rules of the Tribal Court of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (the Meskawki Nation), which is the most prominent tribal jurisdiction in Iowa, do not appear to mention rights of access to proceedings or papers of the tribal courts. However, the opinions of the tribal court can be found at the Meskwaki Tribal Court clerk’s office. See Meskwaki National Tribal Court, http://www.meskwakicourt.org/court-records.html.

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B. Probate

Prior to 2003 when it was repealed, Iowa Code § 633.15 stated that probate courts are “always open.” The effect of the repeal of Iowa Code § 633.15 is unclear, but it is likely that a right of access to probate courts exists under Iowa Code § 602.1601.

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C. Competency and commitment proceedings

In civil commitment proceedings for substance abuse or mental illness, “persons not necessary for the conduct of the hearing shall be excluded, except that the court may admit a person having a legitimate interest in the hearing.” Iowa Code §§ 125.82, 229.12 (2018).

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D. Attorney and judicial discipline

In Iowa, complaints against attorneys are initially investigated by the attorney discipline board and a grievance commission. See Iowa Ct. Rules 34 and 35. Hearings in front of a grievance commission are confidential and private admonitions may be issued by the commission. Iowa Ct. Rule 34.4. However, if the commission finds attorney misconduct sufficient to justify reprimand, suspension, or revocation of an attorney’s license, the commission will file its recommendation with the Iowa Supreme Court. Iowa Ct. R. 34.4(2). Any report of reprimand or recommendations for attorney license suspension or revocation become public documents when filed with the clerk of the supreme court. Id.

Similarly, complaints filed against judges or employees of the judicial branch are investigated by a commission on judicial qualifications that can submit an application to the supreme court to retire, discipline, or remove a judicial officer or an employee of the judicial branch. See Iowa Code §§ 602.2101–2106 (2018). “All records, papers, proceedings, meetings, and hearings of the commission are confidential, but if the commission applies to the supreme court to retire, discipline, or remove a judicial officer, or to discipline or remove an employee of the judicial branch, the application and all of the records and papers in that proceeding are public documents.” Iowa Code § 602.2103 (2018).

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E. Immigration proceedings

F. Other proceedings

X. Restrictions on participants in litigation

A. Media standing to challenge third-party gag orders

B. Gag orders on the press

It is unlikely that a prior restraint on the press would be upheld in Iowa. In Des Moines Register & Tribune Co. v. Osmundson, the Iowa Supreme Court held an order restraining the press from publishing the names of jurors in a criminal trial to be unconstitutional. 248 N.W.2d 493 (Iowa 1976). Also, in Kleman v. Charles City Police Department, the grant of an injunction restraining the publication of information about the lawsuit was overturned by the Iowa Supreme Court. 373 N.W.2d 90, 96 (Iowa 1985). The court held that the grant of injunctive relief was a prior restraint that raised sensitive First Amendment issues. Id. In reversing the trial court, the Iowa Supreme Court recognized the Supreme Court’s holding in Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, stating “such a prior restraint is ‘one of the most extraordinary remedies known to our jurisprudence.’” Id. (citing Neb. Press Ass’n v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539, 562 (1976)). In McCleary v. Kauffman, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 207273 (Iowa Dist. Ct. Dec. 7, 2017), as aff’d No. 17-1982 (Iowa Dec. 19, 2017), an Iowa District Court refused to enjoin a newspaper from publishing an article about the plaintiff because “such an order would violate the First Amendment.”

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C. Gag orders on participants

The Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers impose restraints on attorneys with respect to trial publicity. Rule 32:3.6 states: “[a] lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.” The Rules also provide guidance on areas that are appropriate for attorney comment. See Iowa R. of Prof’l Conduct 32:3.6(b), (c).

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D. Interviewing judges

Iowa judges and staff may explain court procedures in general terms and provide copies of written rulings and orders, but ethical rules require that judges and court staff not comment on pending cases or litigation likely to come before the courts. See Reporter’s Guide to Iowa Court Systems, https://www.iowacourts.gov/media/cms/reporters_guide_to_IJB_2014_646362F2671A4.pdf. Also, Iowa Supreme Court Justices, Iowa Court of Appeals Judges, and their staff do not explain or elaborate upon appellate opinions or speculate about the impact of an opinion on the law. Id. “This is to preserve the authority of the court’s written opinion as law and to avoid interpretations or statements that might conflict with or confuse the precise legal meaning of the court’s opinion.” Id. at 12.

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XI. Other issues

A. Interests often cited in opposing a presumption of access

The Iowa Code includes trade secrets as a type of public record that can be kept confidential. Iowa Code § 22.7(3) (2018). In determining the meaning of the term “trade secrets,” which are exempt from disclosure, Iowa courts will use the definition contained in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. See US West Commc’ns, Inc. v. Office of Consumer Advocate, 498 N.W.2d 711, 714 (Iowa 1993); see also Iowa Code § 550.2 (2018). “Business information may also fall within the definition of a trade secret, including such matters as maintenance of data on customer lists and needs, source of supplies, confidential costs, price data and figures.” Id. (citing 2 Roger M. Millgrim, Millgrim on Trade Secrets, § 9.03(3)(f) (1991)).  In trade secret litigation, the court has the responsibility to “balance[e] the interests of the parties when determining the circumstances of disclosure.” Sioux Pharm, Inc. v. Eagle Labs., Inc., 865 N.W.2d 528, 536 (Iowa 2015). The district court has the power and discretion to determine disclosure and fashion protective orders as it deems necessary. Id. (citing Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 36 (1984)).

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B. Cameras and other technology in the courtroom

Iowa Court Rule 25.2 governs expanded media coverage in Iowa Courts. Expanded media coverage is defined as “broadcasting, recording, photographing, and live electronic reporting of judicial proceedings by the news media for gathering and disseminating news in any medium.” Iowa Ct. Rule 25.1.

“All regularly scheduled Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals oral arguments will be available for streaming over the Internet and expanded media coverage.” Iowa Ct. Rule 25.5(1). Rules regarding objections to expanded media coverage do not apply to supreme court and court of appeals oral arguments. Id. “A written request for expanded media coverage of oral arguments of the supreme court or court of appeals must be filed with the clerk of the supreme court no later than the Friday immediately preceding the week in which the argument is to be held.” Id. at 25.5(2).

News media coordinators are appointed by the supreme court from a list of nominees provided by a representative of the news media whom the supreme court delegates. Id. 25.3(1). All requests for expanded media coverage in the courtroom, except initial appearances in criminal cases, are to be made through the designated media coordinator. Id. 25.3(2). The media coordinator, “shall inform the attorneys for all parties and the judicial officer at least seven days in advance of the time the proceeding is scheduled to begin.” Id. The time for notice may be extended or reduced by court order, and the news media coordinator “must give notice of the request as soon as practicable after the proceeding is scheduled.” Id.

Notice must be filed electronically or by paper copy with the clerk’s office. Id. In addition, a copy of the notice should be sent to all counsel of record, parties appearing without counsel, the court administrator, and the judicial officer expected to preside at the proceeding. Id. A notice form for the news media coordinator is found in Iowa Court Rule 25.2(4).  “[T]he judicial officer, upon application of the news media coordinator, may permit the use of equipment or techniques at variance with the rules, provided the application for variance is included in the advance notice of coverage.” Id. 25.2(9).

A party to a proceeding may object to expanded media coverage. The objecting party must “file a written objection, stating the grounds for objection, at least three days before commencement of the proceeding.” Iowa Ct. Rule 25.3(3). In addition, all objections by witnesses shall be filed prior to commencement of the proceeding. Id. The judge may also, in his or her discretion, expand or reduce the time for filing objections. Id. Objections to expanded media coverage “shall be heard and determined by the judicial officer prior to the commencement of the proceedings.” Id. In addition, while the judge can rule on written objection alone, the judge may allow an objecting party to present additional evidence by affidavit or other means. Id. The judge, in his or her absolute discretion, may also permit the presentation of evidence by the news media coordinator in the same manner. Id.

Judges shall permit expanded media coverage of proceedings unless the judge concludes, on the record, “that under the circumstances of the particular proceeding, such coverage would materially interfere with the rights of the parties to a fair trial.” Iowa Ct. Rule 25.2(2). Expanded media coverage is prohibited of any court proceeding which, under Iowa law, is required to be held in private. Id. 25.2(5). Further, no coverage of any juvenile, dissolution, adoption, child custody, or trade secret cases is permitted unless consent is obtained from all parties, on the record. Id.

“The judicial officer may, as to any or all news media participants, limit or terminate expanded news media coverage at any time during the proceedings in the event the judicial officer finds that rules established under [Chapter 25 of the Iowa Court Rules] or additional rules imposed by the judicial officer, have been violated or that substantial rights of individual participants or rights to a fair trial will be prejudiced by such manner of expanded news media coverage if it is allowed to continue.” Id. 25.2(10).

In Iowa, expanded media coverage of a witness may be refused by the judge upon the objection and a showing of good cause by the witness. Id. 25.2(3). However, in cases dealing with sexual abuse, expanded media coverage of the testimony of a victim-witness is prohibited unless the victim-witness gives consent. Id. “Objection by a victim or witness in any other forcible felony prosecution, and by police informants, undercover agents, and relocated witnesses, shall enjoy a rebuttable presumption of validity.” Id.

Generally, expanded media coverage of jurors is prohibited, except to the extent it is unavoidable in the coverage of the proceedings. Id. 25.2(6). The policy behind the prohibition is to prevent unnecessary or prolonged coverage of individual jurors. Id. Expanded media coverage of jury selection is prohibited by the Iowa Court Rules. Id. But, expanded media coverage of the return of the jury’s verdict is permitted. Id.

Further, the “audio pickup or broadcast of conferences in a court proceeding between attorneys and their clients, between co-attorneys, between attorneys and the judicial officer held at the bench or in chambers, or between judicial officers in an appellate proceeding” is prohibited. Iowa Ct. Rule 25.2(7).

Iowa limits the amount of equipment and the number of broadcast media personnel in the courtroom. Iowa Ct. Rule 25.4(3). Where the limitations on equipment and personnel make it necessary, “the news media shall be required to pool equipment and personnel.” Id. Pooling arrangements are the sole responsibility of the news media coordinator, and the judicial officer will not mediate disputes arising from these arrangements. Id.

“The quantity and types of equipment permitted in the courtroom shall be subject to the discretion of the judicial officer” within the guidelines set out in Iowa Court Rule 25. Id. 25.2(8). In general, equipment used by media in the courtroom must be unobtrusive and not produce distracting sound or light. Id. 25.4. “[N]o flashbulbs or other artificial light device of any kind shall be employed in the courtroom.” Id. 25.4(2). Media personnel must demonstrate to the judge in advance of the proceeding that equipment meets the criteria set forth in the rules. Id. 25.4(1). A failure to obtain advance judicial approval for media equipment may preclude its use in the proceeding. Id.

In addition, “[a]ll news media equipment and personnel must be in place at least fifteen minutes prior to the scheduled time of commencement of the proceeding.” Id. “Not more than five total members of the news media using still cameras, television cameras, audio recorders, and electronic devices, or any combination of the four, to photograph, video, or record audio are permitted in the courtroom during a judicial proceeding.” Iowa Ct. Rule 25.4(3). In anticipation of significant media coverage of the oral argument in Varnum v. Brien, the case legalizing sex marriage in Iowa, the Iowa Supreme Court imposed seating and access limitations. In doing so, the court demonstrated it will endorse such controls, but the court also took steps to arrange for satellite locations to view the arguments and provided live streaming of the oral arguments on high capacity, high quality web bandwidth.

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C. Tips for covering courts in the jurisdiction

Iowa District Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil, criminal, juvenile, and probate matters. Iowa is divided into eight judicial districts, determined by the legislature, which vary in population and size. See generally Iowa Courts, Iowa Judicial Branch, https://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts. The Iowa Judicial Branch website also contains contact information for the courts within the state of Iowa. Court Directory, Iowa Judicial Branch, https://www.iowacourts.gov/court-directory.

In each county, a clerk of district court office manages all trial court records filed in the county. Cases may be heard by a District Judge, District Associate Judge, Associate Juvenile Judge, Associate Probate Judge or a Judicial Magistrate. District Judges have general jurisdiction over all types of cases heard by the District Courts, while other types of judges have jurisdiction that is limited to certain types of cases.

The two appellate courts in Iowa are the Iowa Court of Appeals and the Iowa Supreme Court. All appeals are made to the Iowa Supreme Court. The supreme court may transfer cases to the court of appeals for consideration. In addition to deciding cases, the Iowa Supreme Court is responsible for attorney licensing and discipline, promulgating rules of procedure and practice, and overseeing the operation of the state court system.

The Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa Court of Appeals are located in the Iowa Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50319.  The telephone number for the Clerk of the Supreme Court is (515) 281-5911. The Supreme Court Communications Officer can be reached at 515-725-8058.

The clerk of court is the custodian of the official court record which typically will include the name of the court reporter. A party ordering a transcript must make arrangements with the court reporter for payment of the transcript costs. Iowa R. App. P. 6.803(5). The court reporter’s fee for an ordinary transcript in Iowa cannot exceed $3.50 per page. Iowa Ct. Rule 22.28.

The Iowa Court Rules specifically address how media personnel should act in the courtroom. Rule 25 states, “[n]ews media personnel are prohibited from moving about the courtroom while proceedings are in session and from engaging in any movement which attracts undue attention.” Iowa Ct. Rule 25.4(5). In addition, “[a]ll news media personnel shall be properly attired and shall maintain proper courtroom decorum at all times while covering a judicial proceeding.” Id. 25.4(6).

In addition, the Reporter’s Guide to Iowa’s Court System also encourages members of the media to wear proper attire and to turn off cellphones and pagers. Reporter’s Guide to Iowa’s Court System, Iowa Judicial Branch https://www.iowacourts.gov/static/media/cms/reporters_guide_to_IJB_2014_646362F2671A4.pdf. The Iowa State Bar Association website at http://www.iowabar.org is an additional useful resource. Additional information on the Iowa open meetings and public records laws and the administration of requests for expanded media coverage of trial and appellate courts can be obtained from the Iowa Freedom of Information Council at http://ifoic.org.

For more information on Iowa law and Iowa courts, consult the Iowa Code and the Iowa Court Rules, which can be accessed at the State Law Library, located on the second floor of the Capitol Building, 1007 E. Grand Ave. Des Moines, IA 50319, or online, at: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/law. The Iowa Judicial Branch website is https://www.iowacourts.gov.

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