Iowa Court Records Lookup

The following is for information purposes only

Iowa Court Records

What types of courts are in Iowa?

The court system in Iowa is made up of district courts, which are heavily divided and handle the majority of the cases in the state, as well as appellate courts, a supreme court, and many local magistrates. Magistrates may only hold bench trials, and all trial cases are heard in district court by a judge that hears cases of that specific type.

How are Iowa court cases managed?

Cases in Iowa court are managed by the lowest court with jurisdiction which in most cases is the district court. There are some cases involving very minor infractions such as a village or municipal violation that can be dealt with by the local judicial magistrate, however, any case needing more complex adjudication or a jury trial, it must be heard by a district court.

Which courts are in Iowa?

Iowa District Courts

Iowa District Courts have a noted division between various branches and functions of the court. They are divided into the district courts, which hear criminal and civil matters, as well as subdivided into courts presided over by judicial magistrates, associate juvenile judges, associate probate judges, as well as associate district judges, and district judges.


Judicial magistrates are often limited to serving and holding jurisdiction over their home county. They hear a variety of common misdemeanors, small civil claims, local infractions, and ordinance violations. They can issue warrants as well as hold preliminary proceedings. Most magistrates are attorneys, but it is not required by law.

Juvenile Court

Associate juvenile judges hear cases and have jurisdiction over juvenile court matters. These courts can issue orders in regards to juvenile cases, make findings, and official determinations in matters dealing with adoption, parental rights, and delinquency cases.

Probate Court

Associate probate judges are assigned limited jurisdiction over cases dealing with probate law. They can order account audits, as well as other tasks as assigned or ordered by their chief judge. An associate probate judge is selected for a 6-year term by a specially created commission.

District Court

The district court which is presided over by an associate district judge has similar powers as a magistrate, though they can hear cases both civil and criminal where the amount in question is up to $10,000. They can also hear certain cases dealing with juvenile law. The associate district judges are appointed by district judges after preliminary selection by a commission. They are appointed for a 6-year term.

The district courts which are presided over by district judges are able to hear and hand down decisions on any case. Cases from adoption to felony criminal cases are heard, cases dealing with land disputes, and cases for common misdemeanors. The district judge has jurisdiction over all of them and more.

District judges are responsible for handling the bulk of state administration issues as well. They are appointed by the governor of the state of Iowa, from a preconstructed list of potential candidates decided on by a state commission created for the task. Each district judge is appointed for a 6-year term.

Iowa Court of Appeals

When appeals are granted from decisions handed down by trial courts, they are heard by the Iowa Court of Appeals. The Iowa Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court for the state. Its express purpose is to review the appeals of trial court determinations that are referred to it by the supreme court. Any determination made by the Iowa Court of Appeals is final and binding unless it is granted additional review by the supreme court.

Judges in the Iowa Court of Appeals are appointed for only one year, and they are personally appointed by the governor. The candidates are compiled by a judicial commission, and if they are appointed, they serve for one year before facing a retention vote. The 9 appellate judges vote amongst themselves to elect a chief judge who serves for two years.

Iowa Supreme Court

The Iowa Supreme Court is the highest court in the state of Iowa, and it is made up of 6 Associate Justices and one Chief Justice. The court functions solely as an appellate court, hearing and reviewing decisions handed down by lower courts.

Cases heard by the Iowa Supreme Court do not involve any witnesses, new evidence, or juries, and only review the record of the trial to evaluate whether or not legal errors or constitutional violations occurred.

What are the federal district courts in Iowa?

The state of Iowa is divided into two separate federal judicial districts, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The state used to be covered by a single district but was subdivided in 1882

How to find electronic court records in Iowa?

The Iowa courts maintain an online database of court records that may be accessed by authorized users. Each county or judicial district may also maintain its own online databases. For example, if you were to commit an offense in Polk County, you would be able to navigate to the website for Polk County and use their records search to locate your case information.

This may not be the case with all counties, however, and if the records being sought cannot be found at the county level, the state level can be searched as well to ensure thoroughness.