The Iowa Supreme Court has requested comments on proposed amendments to the discovery provisions in the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure and a proposed new rule allowing for streamlined and expedited civil actions for cases involving $75,000 or less in money damages. Both are an outgrowth of the work of the Iowa Supreme Court Task Force for Civil Justice Reform and its recommendations published in early 2012. The proposed amendments and new rule stem from a concern regarding the declining number of civil jury trials in Iowa courts, of which there were only 204 tried to verdict in 2012.
The discovery amendments include simultaneous initial disclosures and the disclosure of expert reports, both analogous to the current Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as a certificate of personal efforts to resolve discovery disputes prior to motions, and several proposals related to discovery objections. The proposed expedited civil action rule would provide for a streamlined pre-trial process as well as an expedited trial, to be scheduled within a year of filing and with the goal of completing the trial in two days.
Iowa Supreme Court Justice Edward Mansfield, who chaired the committee that developed the recommendations, called the expedited track a “win-win for all parties” in the Iowa Gazette this week, noting that it cuts time and costs and still “preserves the jury trial.” If Iowa adopts the expedited civil action rule, it will join a growing number of other state and federal courts to implement such a program.