Ohio Court Records

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How Does The Ohio Municipal Court Work?

Ohio Municipal Courts are created by the General Assembly, as available in Chapter 1901 of the Ohio Revised Code. These courts handle a small range of cases, mostly regarding the violation of municipal ordinances in the state.

Ohio Municipal Courts may punish contempt, issue process, preserve order or summon and impanel jurors. Thesecourts may also set a verdict aside, reverse or alter a judgment, order the suspension of a sentence upon receiving a notice of appeal, or grant a new trial. Municipal Courts also have the power to issue all orders deemed necessary, whether before or after it has passed judgment on a case. These orders may include the following:

  • Arrest
  • Attachment or garnishment
  • Appointing a receiver for personal property
  • Aid of execution
  • Revivor of judgment

All civil proceedings and actions in an Ohio Municipal Court shall begin with a complaint filed with the Municipal Court Clerk. The Clerk may then issue a summons or a writ to the effect.

Ohio Municipal Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. These courts may exercise jurisdiction over the following types of criminal cases:

  • Traffic misdemeanors
  • Non-traffic misdemeanors
  • Most township resolution violations
  • Municipal ordinance violations
  • Certain parking violations

These courts may also exercise jurisdiction for the following types of civil cases:

  • Recovery of personal property
  • Contract cases
  • Money recovery
  • Interpleader—a case brought by two parties to resolve the rights or claims to property controlled by a third party
  • Replevin—This allows the owner of seized goods to temporarily hold on to the goods until the Municipal Court rules on the rights and interests of all persons involved
  • Temporary protection orders
  • Some nuisance cases
  • Forcible entry and detainer

Each Ohio Municipal Court operates a Small Claims Division that handles civil cases with a dispute of $3,000 or less. Most Small Claims Divisions are headed by a court-appointed magistrate and allow self-representation by parties to a case. This comes in handy when the amount in dispute is low and may be higher than the cost of litigation. Municipal Courts also have exclusive jurisdiction over cases with less than $500 in dispute. This is in addition to the Municipal Courts’ original jurisdiction in cases with a maximum of $15,000 in dispute.

Cases brought before the Municipal Court, for matters higher than what is statutorily allowed to be heard by the Municipal Court, may be transferred to the Ohio Court of Common Pleas. Municipal Courts may also conduct preliminary hearings for felony cases in the state.

Apart from Small Claims, certain Municipal Courts also have Housing or Environmental Divisions. The Ohio court system allows these divisions to hear certain criminal matters as well as civil cases. Note that the civil jurisdiction exercised by these divisions is not affected by the size of the financial disputes in these cases. Furthermore, an Environmental or Housing Division may exercise exclusive jurisdiction with civil cases related to ordinances and regulations on health and safety codes. Municipal Courts are similar to County Courts in Ohio. Certain counties allow Municipal Courts to exercise countywide jurisdiction where there is no County Court.

Each Municipal Court judge serves a term of six years after election via a nonpartisan judicial ballot. If a Municipal Court has only one judge, the judge shall simultaneously serve as the administrative judge and the presiding judge. For Municipal Courts with at least two judges, the administrative and presiding judge shall be elected among the judges. Note that a Municipal Court judge may have jurisdiction in more than one municipality in the same county, or across county borders.

In the event of a vacancy due to incapacitation, disqualification, recusal, suspension, or removal, the Supreme Court’s chief justice shall assign a temporary replacement. The assigned judge may remain in the position for as long as may be prescribed by the Supreme Court chief justice. If the vacancy is in a municipal court with only one judge who is temporarily absent for reasons other than those as mentioned earlier, the judge is required to do one of the following:

  • Choose a temporary replacement who is resident within the court’s geographical jurisdiction.
  • Ask the chief justice of the Supreme Court to appoint a sitting or retired judge of another court.

Note that the Ohio Supreme Court’s chief justice may only be involved where the Municipal Court has only one judge. If the vacancy is in the office of a Municipal Court judge with more than one judge, the presiding judge will be responsible for making this decision. If the Municipal Court’s territory has a population less than 25,000, as stated by the latest federal decennial census, the presiding judge is also allowed to select a replacement from a territory of a Municipal Court that is contiguous to the court. However, note that this is only allowed if the presiding judge cannot appoint a replacement from the current Municipal Court territory.

Each prospective or assigned judge in an Ohio Municipal Court must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a licensed attorney.
  • Have at least six years of experience in the practice of law
  • Be a resident of the county or district of election
  • Be younger than 70 years old

A judge who turns 70 while in office will be allowed to complete the tenure. Although reelection is impossible, the judge may be appointed to active duty in another capacity. Judges assigned to further active duty after the age of 70 will be compensated on a per-day basis, depending on the tasks assigned. This extra pay does not, in any way, diminish the judge’s initial retirement benefits.

The Ohio Judicial System does not provide a central repository where interested persons may find Municipal Court records. Requestors may directly contact the court in each state for information about these records. Send a written request with all available details about the record to the Clerk of courts, or directly to the Municipal Court. Note that this method may attract varying copy fees.

For example, Cuyahoga County provides an online search function where requestors may find Municipal Court records.

Interested persons may also search online for Franklin County Municipal Court records. Requestors may search by name or by case number. The name search allows requestors to provide last, first, and middle names, date of birth, company name, and the party type. The case search allows searches using a case number, case type, ticket number, case year, and case status.

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