116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
So Nick Maybanks has worked in the Linn County Attorney’s office for more than 21 years. He worked with and under retired County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, who picked Maybanks to be his replacement. The Board of Supervisors approved the appointment.
Now Maybanks, a Democrat, is the lone candidate running for county attorney. It might seem like electing Maybanks would be a vote for the status quo.
“Yeah, I just think based on the changes I’ve already made, and what I put out there to folks about what my plans are for the office, they’re going to see that I will be running the office differently,” Maybanks told me in an interview after announcing his run. He said his tenure would bring a “new era.”
He pointed to his office’s marijuana diversion program, which Maybanks was heavily involved in creating under Vander Sanden. First time offenders charged with marijuana possession are given six months to complete community service and other obligations in exchange for having the charge expunged.
Maybanks said he wants to expand the program beyond first-time offenders and potentially to other categories of drugs. He’d also like to include some low-level financial crimes such as forged checks and shoplifting.
“I think that we can devise a system where we can quickly resolve those cases. And by doing so, we free up the time and resources of our talented prosecutors to address violent crime,” Maybanks said.
He says the question of legalizing marijuana is up to state lawmakers. Ditto with decriminalization, which he supports with the caveat that he remains concerned about dangerous substances “masquerading” as marijuana. He’s seen the polls showing increased support for legalization.
“I’m very aware of the public sentiment,” Maybanks said. “We’ve actually had just recently, anecdotally, a couple of instances where we couldn’t even find a full a jury pool to hear a marijuana case because of the opinions folks have on marijuana.”
Iowa ranks among the top states for racial disparities tied to marijuana crimes, with Black Iowans far more likely to be arrested than whites, despite comparable use rates. I asked Maybanks for his take on racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
“I mean, I think the statistics speak for themselves,” he said. “I think that the issue is primarily and largely about finding ways to enact policies that improve people’s lives. And that is a duty that our lawmakers need to take on.
“From a law enforcement standpoint, I’m proud to work with law enforcement in Linn County … And that they have no interest persisting in any kind of policies that further racial disparities,” Maybanks said.
Maybanks’ predecessor faced intense criticism of his handling of the case of Jerime Mitchell, a Black motorist, shot by former Cedar Rapids Police Officer Lucas Jones. Critics argued the county attorney, who works so closely with police, should have handed the case off to an independent prosecutor.
Maybanks said the first stop for every case will be at his office. But bringing in the Attorney General’s Office, for instance, might be appropriate in some cases.
“But that being said, there are some cases that, upon review, are straightforward enough where I can make a decision. And I think being an elected official, the community would expect me to do that,” Maybanks said.
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