Ohio Court Records
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How Does the Ohio Court of Claims Work?
Created by the Ohio General Assembly via the 1975 Court of Claims Act, the Ohio Court of Claims is a court of limited jurisdiction. The court caters to cases involving claims against the state of Ohio. These claims usually seek financial compensation for damages. The Court of Claims is a part of the Ohio Supreme Court system.
The Ohio Court of Claims also exercises jurisdiction over actions that seek to appeal the Attorney General’s decisions on claims under the Victims of Crime Compensation Program. The program compensates innocent victims of violent crimes and their families, with amounts up to $50,000. Victims typically submit claims to the Ohio Attorney General, who investigates the claims and presents a finding of fact and recommendation to the court.
If the Attorney General’s decision is not favorable, the claimant may first appeal to a panel of three commissioners. The commissioners are appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court and maintain the position for six years. Crime victims may further appeal a decision to the judge of the Court of Claims. However, note that the judge’s decision may not be appealed.
Apart from the Attorney General’s decisions, the Court of Claims is the court responsible for all cases involving all state establishments. These may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Supreme Court
- General Assembly
- All offices of elected state officials, such as the auditor of the state, governor, treasurer of state, and secretary of state
- All state commissions, agencies, institutions, offices, departments, colleges, and universities
In addition to financial claims, the Court of Claims also handles public record claims between citizens and the Ohio government. These cases involve matters related to public records where access has been restricted. In these instances, the cases are first referred to mediation. However, matters that cannot be handled appropriately by mediation are eventually channeled to the Court of Claims.
Note that the Ohio Courts of Claims is not restricted to cases that specifically identify financial claims. Most of the cases heard by the court include the following:
- Personal injury
- Employment discrimination
- Property damage
- Medical malpractice
- Contract disputes
- Immunity of state officers and employees
- Wrongful imprisonment
Rulings on civil complaints about claims worth $10,000 or less are made by the court‘s clerk or deputy clerk. Also called ‘administrative determinations,’ the Court of Claims created this method to provide a fast and informal way to determine these cases and their respective claims. The court clerk or deputy clerk decides these cases based on documents submitted, including photos and affidavits. These decisions are made without a trial or hearing.
Administrative determinations may be appealed to a Court of Claims judge for review. However, the court’s ruling is final and not subject to further appeal. Note that interested parties in other cases may further appeal Court of Claims rulings to the Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals in Franklin County.
Cases seeking more than $10,000 are assigned as judicial cases, and a single judge may hear and decide on any civil action in this category. However, the state or claimant may apply to the court for a panel of three judges to hear the case. If granted, the Supreme Court’s chief justice may select three judges to hear and determine a resolution. For a panel of three, a concurrence of two members is necessary for a ruling. Note that the Ohio Supreme Court’s chief justice may also appoint magistrates to the Court of Claims. However, this usually happens if the chief justice believes the decision will expedite a case’s equitable resolution. Note that the Ohio Court of Claims may not exercise jurisdiction over private matters.
Persons bringing claims to the Court of Claims may represent themselves. To file a claim, complete the Claim Form with details outlined in the court’s claim form instructions. The form requires the claimant’s personal contact details and information on the state agency or department against which the claim is brought. Claimants are advised to fill in the correct information to move the case along. Note that the Court of Claims may dismiss the case if the claimant cannot be contacted.
Although persons with claims above $10,000 may represent themselves, such claimants are strongly advised to hire a qualified attorney. Note that both categories of persons must pay a filing fee of $25. Send the completed claim form along with the filing fee to the court at the following address:
Ohio Court of Claims
Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center
65 South Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: (614) 387–9800
Toll-Free Phone: (800) 824–8263
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
The Court of Claims allows indigent litigants to file a claim without paying a filing fee. However, the person must prove eligibility by filling a Fee-Waiver Affidavit and Order. The form must contain personal information, including the claimant’s full name, date of birth, address, and the last four digits of the person’s social security number. On the form, the claimant must confirm receipt of one of the following benefits:
- Ohio Works First
- Ohio Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans Pension Benefit
- SNAP/Food Stamps
The form must also confirm that the person’s gross benefits, including any of the above, do not exceed 187.5% of the federal poverty guidelines. Based on the claimant’s information, the Court of Claims may accept or deny the report. Claimants with denied applications must pay the $25 filing fee.
With claims for $10,000 or less, the state agency involved has a maximum of 60 days to submit a written investigation report to the Court of Claims. After the submission, the claimant will be given a maximum of 21 days to file a written response to the report. The clerk or deputy clerk may then make a ruling after the claimant’s response.
Note that claims more than $10,000 follow a more detailed process. This type of case may involve a case screening, plaintiff inquiry, court review, trial order, a case management conference, and a pretrial hearing.
Depending on case details and findings at each stage, claims more than $10,000 may take between 12 and 24 months.
Persons interested in accessing court records may use the case search function available on the Ohio Court of Claims website. Searches may be conducted using the names of the parties involved, case status, case file date, and judgment details.