Iowa’s Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court for the state. The Court of Appeals reviews trial court decisions from the lower District Courts and Juvenile Courts. A panel of three judges sit on the bench in District Courts and review the entire case along with briefs prepared by each side’s attorney, and oral arguments if allowed. They then come to a determination of whether any errors were made during the first trial and justice was served. Only two of the three judges need to agree. If they do overturn a previous verdict, they call this an “opinion,” and it is published publicly. Some of these opinions change state law and become precedents for new cases.
Anyone who is not happy with the Court of Appeals decision may request that the Supreme Court review it. However, the Supreme Court rarely reviews cases. On average the Court of Appeals reviews about 1,200-1,300 cases per year. Thirty-six percent of the cases reviewed in the Court of Appeals are criminal issues, 21% are for juvenile matters, 16% are for civil suits, 11% are for family issues, and 13% are for post-conviction relief.
The Iowa Court of Appeals has had nine members since 1999. The Governor of the state appoints members to the Court of Appeals. Judges must first be practicing attorneys before being appointed. Their initial term is only one year. After that, they can run for re-election for a six-year term. Court of Appeals judges must retire at the age of 72. Chief Judges for each district are elected every two years by all the members. Iowa’s Judicial Branch website has bios and pictures of each of the nine judges. The site also has a detailed FAQ page about appeals and how the process works.