Ohio Court Records

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How Do Ohio Courts of Common Pleas Work?

The Ohio Courts of Common Pleas are the state’s trial courts. The Court of Common Pleas was created by Article IV, Section 1 of the Ohio Constitution, and is the only trial court created in this manner. Ohio has Courts of Common Pleas in all 88 counties. As trial courts, Courts of Common Pleas have general jurisdiction over most cases in the state. The courts typically exercise jurisdiction over felonies and civil matters where the dispute may amount to more than $15,000. Courts of Common Pleas may also exercise jurisdiction over cases with lower amounts. However, cases with a disputed amount of less than $1,000 are transferred to a Municipal Court.

According to Article IV, Section 4(B) of the Ohio Constitution, Ohio Courts of Common Pleas may exercise original jurisdiction over all justiciable matters in the state. The courts also have powers of review for all proceedings of administrative agencies and officers. Any limitations to these may only be as provided by the law.

Depending on several factors such as a county’s population, the Ohio General Assembly may split a Court of Common Pleas into four divisions. These include general, probate, juvenile, and domestic relations, divisions. Note that some counties may have two of these combined, resulting in a possible probate-juvenile division.

General Division

The Ohio Court of Common Pleas General Division may exercise original jurisdiction with all criminal felony matters and cases related to real estate titles. Note that a Court of Common Pleas may not exercise jurisdiction over a real estate title case if it involves an eviction matter. The general division may also hold original jurisdiction over any cases with an amount in dispute more than $15,000. In addition to the court’s original jurisdiction, Ohio Courts of Common Pleas may also exercise appellate jurisdiction over decisions made by city agencies and several Ohio administrative agencies.

Probate Division

The probate division has several duties as mandated by the Ohio Revised Code. The probate division handles matters related to the following:

  • Wills
  • Consent for medical treatment
  • Qualification and appointment of guardians
  • Adoption
  • Cases related to mental illness
  • Birth record registration and correction
  • Issuance of marriage licenses
  • Eminent domain proceedings
  • Supervision and enforcement of trusts
  • Land appropriations

Juvenile Division

Juvenile divisions handle cases of delinquent children; that is, minors engaged in activities that may be considered crimes if committed by adults. This jurisdiction also covers children who are neglected or unruly. Juvenile divisions may also exercise jurisdiction in adult matters that relate to minors. This includes paternity cases, child abuse, truancy, neglecting child support, and any act that supports a child’s delinquency.

Domestic Relations Division

The domestic relations division generally handles the following types of cases:

  • Divorce or dissolution of marriage
  • Annulment
  • Legal separation
  • Spousal Support
  • Child support
  • Parental rights

Note, in a few counties, the domestic relations division may be combined with one of the other Court of Common Pleas divisions.

Ohio Courts of Appeals may have one or more resident judges, depending on the county or district’s caseload. Each judge is elected to the position after succeeding in a partisan primary election and a subsequent nonpartisan general election. The judge shall sit and serve in the district of election or as the business of the court may require.

In counties or districts where there is more than one judge, the judges must elect a member to serve as the presiding or chief judge. In a case where the judges are unable to select a clear winner for the position of a presiding judge, the position shall go to the judge with the most extended total service in the Court of Common Pleas. However, note that this may be temporary if the judges later elect a different person as the chief judge. Each Court of Common Pleas judge shall serve a term of six years each, while a chief justice serves a one-year term. The following are the requirements prospective judges must meet to qualify for the position:

  • Must have practiced law for at least six years
  • Must be a resident of the county of election
  • Must not be more than 70 years old

In the event of a vacancy caused by a resignation, removal, or retirement, the Ohio governor will appoint an interim judge. The interim judge must take part in the first general election at least 40 days after the vacancy to retain the position. However, the acting judge may serve out the remainder of the departing judge’s term if the term ends within one year from the general election date.

A Court of Common Pleas judge may be suspended, retired, or removed by the Ohio Supreme Court following a complaint. The complaint must be filed with the Ohio Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, or the Ohio Office of Disciplinary Counsel. If two-thirds of the Board of Commissioners agree that the complaint is credible, the Supreme Court shall create a special commission of five judges to decide the appropriate discipline.

Judges of the Courts of Common Pleas are removed through one of the following ways:

  • A concurrent resolution of two-thirds of both Ohio General Assembly Houses
  • A conviction by two-thirds of the Ohio Senate and a majority vote of the Ohio House of Representatives, in favor of an impeachment

An interested judge may contest in general elections for an additional term of six years if the judge is less than 70 years old.

The Ohio Constitution provides for at least one Court of Common Pleas in each county in Ohio. Persons interested in visiting or otherwise contacting an Ohio Court of Common Pleas may use the court contact information provided by the Ohio State Government. The information provided may also include specific information on one or more court divisions in each county.

Ohio does not have a central repository where requestors may find Courts of Common Pleas records. Interested persons may either directly contact the court or find online search functions that may be available as provided by several counties.

For instance, the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts provides a public online search function that persons may use to find the Court of Common Pleas records in the county. The procedure allows requestors to find records by case type (civil/domestic and criminal) or by name. Requestors must provide all known information about the desired record to streamline the search results on the platform properly. Interested persons may also search by case number.

Note that requestors may not find online records for civil stalking protection order cases handled by a general division. This information may only be obtained in person.

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