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Access to the Courts and Filing During COVID Pandemic

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I need to file something with the court. How can I do that?

As mentioned above, Clerks offices are open and people are allowed access.

Some people who currently have open cases in the courts may have problems with electronic filing, especially if they generally use the clerk's offices or libraries to access the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS). People who can't access EDMS can still request the exemption by filing a written motion at the clerk's office. Access to a smartphone alone does not mean the person has sufficient internet access to be denied an efiling waiver. They may need to make arrangements to physically bring their motion to the clerk's office. Deadlines for responding or statutes of limitation have not been changed. At this time there are no phone waivers or ability to fax instead of physically presenting pleadings for those who are exempt from efiling.

I have a court form that requires a signature, but I don't have access to a scanner or any other way to get a copy of the signed document to my lawyer or the court. Help! 

In an order issued on March 28, 2020, the Iowa Supreme Court now allows people to sign by typing the characters "/s/" followed by their name. If you do not have a lawyer, you also need to put down your address, telephone number and email address (if they have them). If you have a lawyer, your lawyer can "sign" the document for you as long as you tell them you want to sign the document and you authorize them to do so on your behalf. NOTE: You will be bound by anything your lawyer signs for you in this way, so make sure you understand exactly what is in the document your lawyer is putting together - have them email it to you or at least read it over the phone before you give permission.

I have a court form that requires a notarization, but I don't have access to a notary.

In the order referenced above, the Iowa Supreme Court also addressed notarization. The first thing to remember is that many commonly filed court documents that have a space for notarization are not actually required by law to be notarized. For example, protective order petitions and contempt documents, financial affidavits for custody and divorce proceedings, applications to expunge cases, and many others are not required to be notarized by the Iowa Code. This is true even though the forms ask for a notary's signature. The Court is in the process of removing these elements of the forms.

For situations where a notary is required by the Iowa Code, there are new procedures being put in place for remote -- i.e. not in person -- notarization. See this guidance from the Iowa Secretary of State for more information. If you determine you do really need a notary, you should call banks or lawyer's offices to see whether they have the ability to do this remotely. Remote notarization will require access to certain video conferencing software.

 

Iowa Legal Aid Provides Legal Help to Low-Income Iowans

To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:call 800-532-1275.

  • Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or apply online at iowalegalaid.org
  • If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website iowabar.org. A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
  • As of March 18, 2020, our offices are closed for walk-ins until further notice, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

 

*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.

Last Review and Update: Apr 16, 2021