Ohio Court Records
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How Do Ohio County Courts Work?
The General Assembly establishes Ohio County Courts according to Chapter 1907 of the Ohio Revised Code. Ohio County Courts are not available in every County. Instead, the courts cover territorial jurisdictions that are not under the jurisdiction of the state’s Municipal Courts.
Ohio County Courts generally maintain territorial jurisdiction within their county boundary lines. However, certain County Courts have territorial jurisdiction that may stretch further than their primary territorial jurisdiction, to cover the Ohio River. Specifically, the County Courts of Jefferson, Monroe, Meigs, Belmont, and Adams counties have jurisdictions that extend past the north and northwest shores of the Ohio River. These counties’ territorial jurisdictions also cover areas between the boundaries of adjacent Municipal or County Courts. Note that the County Courts mentioned above may also share jurisdiction with any other County Courts that border on the Ohio River.
Ohio County Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. This means that the courts are not authorized to hear and decide every kind of case. County Courts have similar jurisdiction with Municipal Courts and may hear certain types of civil and criminal matters. Civil matters heard by County Courts include:
- Judgment collection actions
- Contract cases
- Specific nuisance cases
- Interpleaders (cases initiated by two parties which involve the rights to a property under the control of a third party)
- Temporary protection orders
- Replevin (cases involving the rightful owner of confiscated goods to keep said goods in their possession until the County Court passes judgments to protect the rights and interest of all involved parties
- Cases that seek to recover financial or personal property
- Forcible entry and detainers
- Certain cases involving real property titles or boundaries
County Courts may also hear a limited number of criminal cases, including:
- Preliminary hearings for felony cases
- Traffic misdemeanors
- Some violations of township resolutions
- Non-traffic misdemeanors
- Some parking violations
Note that County Courts may hear most civil cases with claims less than $15,000. The courts have exclusive jurisdiction over cases with claims less than $500 and exercise original jurisdiction over cases where none of the parties hold claims over $15,000.
Each Ohio County Court has a small claims division that handles all civil cases that cater to claims for a maximum of $3,000. The County Court appoints a magistrate to preside over this division. Note that for many cases handled by the small claims division, parties to the case may represent themselves. Self-representation usually happens when the disputed amount is much lower than the cost of hiring an attorney.
County Courts transfer cases directly to the Court of Common Pleas if the cases involve matters statutorily higher than the County Court is allowed to hear. Also, Ohio County Courts share some jurisdiction with Mayor’s Courts. These may include some criminal traffic cases and municipal ordinance violations.
County Courts may also exercise appellate jurisdiction over appeals or default judgments for local, noncriminal parking infractions, as provided by Chapter 4521 of the Ohio Revised Code. The courts may exercise exclusive jurisdiction over all civil actions related to a municipal traffic ordinance or state traffic law committed within the court’s territory.
Interested parties may appeal County Court rulings to the Court of Appeals. However, the appellant may need to prove that the ruling was obtained by corruption, fraud, or other inappropriate means.
Ohio County Court judges are elected to six-year terms at nonpartisan general elections. A county judge must be a licensed attorney and must have at least six years’ experience in the practice of law in Ohio. The county judge must also be a resident in the County of the election. Note that a county judge may be assigned to an additional area of separate jurisdiction in some cases, giving the judge jurisdiction over more than one County Court district.
Each candidate for the position of a County Court judge may only be nominated by petition. The petition should be signed by less than 50 qualified electors of the County Court district. The nominating petition must be duly signed and submitted to the state’s board of elections latest a maximum of 90 days before the date of the general election.
If a County Court district has only one judge, the judge will act as the administrative and presiding judge in that district. However, judges of a County Court district with more than one judge must elect a member to serve as the district‘s administrative and presiding judge.
In the event of a vacancy due to suspension, recusal, or disqualification, Ohio Supreme Court’s chief justice may appoint a judge to fill the vacancy. The chief justice may appoint a sitting judge of another court of record or a retired judge of any court of record. Although this position is temporary, the assigned judge may serve for as long as prescribed by the Chief Justice.
If a judge is temporarily absent for reasons other than a disqualification, recusal, or suspension, the judge may do one of the following:
- Appoint a temporary replacement who is resident in the County Court’s district
- Request that the chief justice of the Supreme Court appoints a temporary replacement
Note that this process is only applicable to County Courts with only one judge. For County Court’s with more than one judge, the presiding judge is required to make the appointment in place of the Supreme Court’s chief justice. If the population of the County Court district is less than 25,000 according to the latest federal decennial census, the presiding judge may appoint a replacement from a territory contiguous to the court. However, note that the presiding judge may only select an external replacement when unable to select a qualified member from within the County Court district.
The length of time required to resolve a case varies. Factors that contribute to each case’s time factor may include the facts of the case, the parties’ availability to the case, and the County Court’s caseload.
Ohio does not provide a central repository where persons may find records for the state’s County Courts. Interested requestors are to contact the County Court that handled the specific case directly. Some County Courts provide online search functions requestors may use. For instance, the Adams County Court provides an online record search function for interested requestors. The tool allows interested persons to search for particular cases using the parties’ names, filing dates, case numbers, ticket numbers, and other related information. A calendar search may be used to find court cases within a set date range is also available if the requestor does not have specific details.
Alternatively, interested persons may directly contact the County Court that heard the case.