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FAQ

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How many federal judicial districts are there?

There are 94 federal judicial districts.  Iowa has two federal judicial districts: the Northern District of Iowa and the Southern District of Iowa.  See 28 U.S.C. § 95.  The 94 federal judicial districts are organized into 12 regional circuits, each of which has a court of appeals.  The Northern District of Iowa is included in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The number of federal judgeships authorized for each federal district is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 133.  The Northern District of Iowa has two judgeships.  The number of judgeships authorized for each circuit is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 44.  The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has 11 judgeships.  

 

 

Court-Federal Courts Courthouse FAQ
What are the requirements for becoming a federal judge?

The Constitution sets forth no specific requirements for federal judges. However, members of Congress, who typically recommend potential nominees, and the Department of Justice, which reviews nominees' qualifications, have developed their own informal criteria.

 

Court-Judges Courthouse FAQ
Who appoints federal judges?

Supreme Court justices, court of appeals judges, and district court judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate, as stated in the Constitution. The names of potential nominees are often recommended by senators or sometimes members of the House who are of the President's political party. The Senate Judiciary Committee typically conducts confirmation hearings for each nominee. Article III of the Constitution states that these judicial officers are appointed for a life term. The federal Judiciary, the Judicial Conference of the United States, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts play no role in the nomination and confirmation process.

 

Court-Judges Courthouse FAQ
How do I get a copy of my plea agreement?

If you are unable to come to either the Cedar Rapids courthouse or the Sioux City courthouse, you must submit a written request to the Clerk's Office.  Upon receipt of your written request, the Clerk's Office will send you a letter that informs you how much a copy of your plea agreement will cost.  After the Clerk's Office receives payment in the exact amount, a copy of your plea agreement will be mailed to you.

A copy of your plea agreement may be requested in person from the Clerk's Office.  You must provide a photo I.D.  Immediate payment is required.  You may pay with cash, check or money order.  The Clerk's Office is unable to make change if you decide to pay with cash; you must have the exact amount for a copy of your plea agreement.

 

 

Court-Cases/Documents/Copies Courthouse FAQ
How do I get a balance on my restitution?

Your criminal restitution balance can be obtained from the Monetary Penalty Unit (MPU) in the Cedar Rapids United States Attorney's Office at (319) 363-6333.

 

 

Court-Financial Courthouse FAQ
What is the significance of the numbers and letters in my case number?

 

Court-Cases/Documents/Copies Courthouse FAQ
Can I access cases in other federal judicial districts from the courthouses in the Northern District of Iowa?

No, you need to visit a public terminal that corresponds with the federal judicial district where the case was filed or obtain a PACER account from PACER.gov

 

 

 

Court-Cases/Documents/Copies Courthouse FAQ
What is the Criminal Justice Act?

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees an accused the right to representation by counsel in serious criminal prosecutions. Enacted in 1964, the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) establishes a comprehensive system for appointing and compensating legal representation for accused persons who are financially unable to retain counsel in federal criminal proceedings.

Link to: Criminal Justice Act (CJA) Guidelines

To find out who is on Iowa Northern's CJA Panel, please contact the CJA Panel Administrator:
 
Cedar Rapids (319) 286-2300
Sioux City (712) 233-3900
 
 
 
Court-Federal Courts Courthouse FAQ
How are federal judges assigned to cases?

The basic considerations in making assignments are to assure equitable distribution of caseload and avoid judge shopping. By statute, the chief judge of each district court has the responsibility to enforce the court's rules and orders on case assignments. Each court has a written plan or system for assigning cases. The majority of courts use some variation of a random drawing. One simple method is to rotate the names of available judges. At times, judges having special expertise can be assigned cases by type, such as complex criminal cases, asbestos-related cases, or prisoner cases. The benefit of this system is that it takes advantage of the expertise developed by judges in certain areas. Sometimes cases may be assigned based on geographical considerations. For example, in a large geographical area it may be best to assign a case to a judge located at the site where the case was filed. Courts also have a system to check if there is any conflict that would make it improper for a judge to preside over a particular case. 

 

 

Court-Judges Courthouse FAQ
Can I speak to a federal judge?

Generally speaking, all communication with a federal judge should be in writing.  Ex parte communications are permitted only when legally and ethically appropriate.

 

 

Court-Judges Courthouse FAQ
May I obtain surety in lieu of paying bond?

Bonds requiring the posting of personal or real property, other than cash, will be accepted for a surety bond only upon order of the court.  The court will specify the personal or real property required to be posted by the party.  

The surety company must be certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.  Link to: List of Certified Companies.

 

 

Court-Financial Courthouse FAQ
Can I obtain another Certificate of Naturalization?

If you need a Certificate of Naturalization, you may request a replacement by filing form N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document. You may request Form N-565 by calling the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Forms Line (800) 870-3676 or download via link.

Link to: N-565, Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document

 

 

Court-Cases/Documents/Copies Courthouse FAQ
Can I make criminal debt payments online or over the phone?

Currently, the court does not accept payments online or over the telephone.

 

 

Court-Financial Courthouse FAQ
How do I get a certified copy of a document?

You may request a certified copy of a document from the Clerk's Office. There is a fee of $11.00 for the certification of each document, as well as a copy fee of $.50 cents per page. The Clerk's Office must receive full payment before a certified copy of a document is provided.  

 

 

Court-Cases/Documents/Copies Courthouse FAQ
Can I obtain a copy of a sealed document?

If you are not a party, the Clerk's Office does not have the authority to provide a copy of a sealed document to you. 

 

Court-Cases/Documents/Copies Courthouse FAQ
How should checks or money orders be made payable?

Any negotiable instrument presented to the court should be made payable to:  Clerk, U.S. District Court.

Link to: Fee Schedule

 

 

Court-Financial Courthouse FAQ
What case records are available at the courthouses in the Northern District of Iowa?

In Cedar Rapids and Sioux City, there is a public terminal available in the Clerk's Office.  You may look up cases that are on our electronic system. Sealed documents in a case are not available.  Cases prior to 2004 may not be on the court's electronic system. There may be cases that are partially available in electronic format. Cases not available in electronic format may be archived at the National Records Center. Please note that, in 2008, the Cedar Rapids courthouse was flooded and records were destroyed.  The Clerk's Office no longer has documentation available for those cases (Flood Files).

You may contact the Clerk's Office to see if the file you are seeking is available electronically, is located at the National Records Center, or has been designated a Flood File.  You may also request information from the National Records Center.

 

 

Court-Cases/Documents/Copies Courthouse FAQ
Is the law library in the Cedar Rapids courthouse open to the public?

Yes, the law library is open to the public.

Policies for Non-Court Library Users

 

Court-Facility Courthouse FAQ
Where can I park?

 

              

Court-Facility Courthouse FAQ
Can I attend a hearing or trial?

Yes, as long as the proceeding is not sealed, a member of the public may attend hearings or trials.

 

 

Court-Proceedings Courthouse FAQ
Can children attend a hearing or trial?

Children may attend court proceedings, but they must remain quiet and not cause any distractions. If a child becomes too active or noisy, you and your child may be asked to leave the courtroom. 

 

Court-Proceedings Courthouse FAQ
How do I make recommendations on ways to improve services provided by the Northern District of Iowa?

You may put your recommendations in writing and mail them to either of the following addresses:

Clerk, U.S. District Court                                                                         
Northern District of Iowa                                                                        
111 7th Avenue SE, Box 12                                                                   
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401 
 
Clerk, U.S. District Court
Northern District Court
320 Sixth Street, Room 301
Sioux City, IA 51101                                                                      
 
 
Court-Facility Courthouse FAQ