Q: What is a municipal court?
municipal courts are trial courts located in counties and townships throughout
Ohio. There are more than 120 municipal courts in Ohio.
Q: What kinds of cases do municipal courts
A: Depending on the size of the
municipality, a municipal court may have the following divisions that hear a
variety of cases:
(1) a civil division, which generally hears civil cases
with less than $15,000 at issue;
(2) a traffic/criminal division, which generally hears
traffic offenses and misdemeanor criminal cases; and
(3) a housing and/or environmental division, which
generally hears civil and criminal actions to enforce local
building, housing, health and safety codes in places intended for human
habitation, and in some municipalities, evictions and landlord/tenant issues.
Q: How many judges does each municipal court
A: Each municipal court has a different
number of municipal court judges, depending on a particular municipality’s
population. In some counties, one judge handles all municipal court divisions.
In other counties, one judge may handle two or more divisions. In the most
populous counties, many judges share the workload of a single division. For
example, the Franklin County Municipal Court has 14 judges in the general
division who hear both civil and traffic/criminal cases, and one judge who hears
cases in the environmental court.
Q: How are cases assigned to municipal
municipal court assigns cases differently. Generally, if there is more than one
judge, each civil case is randomly assigned when the case is filed. For a criminal
case, the on-duty judge will generally handle the defendant’s arraignment. At
the arraignment (the defendant’s first appearance in court), the defendant is
informed of the charges and enters a plea of guilty or not guilty. After the
arraignment, the case is usually randomly assigned to one of the municipal
court judges, who oversees the case to its conclusion.
Q: What kind of workload do Ohio municipal
court judges have?
A: In 2011, nearly two million new cases
were filed in Ohio’s municipal courts. More than half of these new cases were
traffic violations. The workload for a particular municipal court judge can
vary widely. For example, in 2011, each municipal court judge in Hamilton
County handled more than 22,000 cases, while the part-time judge in the Oakwood
Municipal Court handled a little over 1,700 cases.
Q: How are municipal judges chosen, and
what qualifications must they have?
A: Municipal court judges are elected to
six-year terms. Municipal court judges must be attorneys with at
least six years of experience in the practice of law.
Q: What do municipal court judges spend
their time doing?
A: Municipal court judges spend much of their
time hearing cases in court. In many jurisdictions, municipal court judges
handle both misdemeanor and felony criminal arraignments. At the arraignment,
the defendant is informed of the charges against him or her and is asked to
enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. In a criminal case, a municipal court
judge conducts pretrial conferences and hearings, and rules on evidentiary and
other pretrial motions. The municipal court judge also conducts criminal trials.
In a civil case, a municipal court judge hears and rules on discovery and other
pretrial motions, conducts pretrial conferences, facilitates settlement of the
claims, and, if necessary, conducts civil trials.
Q: Do all municipal court trials have
A: No. Juries hear some cases, but sometimes
a case is brought before a judge, who decides the matter. In a misdemeanor
criminal case, the defendant has a right to a jury of eight people, and all
eight must agree to a verdict of guilty or not guilty. A criminal defendant who
would rather have a judge hear his or her case must waive the right to a jury
both in writing and verbally, in open court. In a civil case, a litigant (the
person bringing the case before the court) is not automatically entitled to a
jury. Rather, he or she must request a jury in writing and usually must submit
a jury deposit. If a civil case is tried to a jury, eight jurors are chosen,
and at least six of the eight must agree in order to reach a verdict.
Q: What if I think an error was made in my
have the right to appeal to the district court of appeals that handles the
county or municipality in which your case was tried. For a map of the Ohio
courts of appeal covering each Ohio municipality, visit www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/JudSystem/districtCourts/.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio
State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by attorneys Douglas Riddell and
Bridget Purdue Riddell of Riddell Law LLC. The column offers general
information about the law. Seek an attorney’s advice before applying this
information to a legal problem.
Labels: municipal courts