culture: the set of learned behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, values and ideals that are characteristic
of a particular society or population
There is no shortage of doomsday prophecies about the future of the court system. Over the
next 25 years, juvenile and family law-related cases will increase at an alarming rate as the
American family continues to define itself. Incidents of fraud and abuse against the elderly will
become more prevalent and more complex, as well cases related to the accessibility of medical
technologies. The emergence of “cyber law” is already causing courts to rethink intellectual
property laws, censorship, privacy issues. Advances in telecommunications are erasing
boundaries as the lines between workplace and home blur and nation states give way to global
economic networks. New supply chains are emerging as connectivity replaces capital as the
market driving force. The integration of biomedicine and technology raises social and ethical
issues heretofore unfathomable.
In a 1997 report entitled “Theme for Courts to Consider” the Conference of Chief Justices
wrote, “The present and future implications for both society and the legal system can not be
overstated. The information revolution is outstripping our capacity to cope, antiquating our
laws, transforming our mores, reshuffling our economy, redefining our workplaces, putting our
Constitution to the fire, and shifting our concept of reality.” How must the court system be
equipped to operate in the face of these dramatic and unpredictable dynamics?
In asking The Ohio Courts Futures Commission to craft a vision for the future of Ohio’s state
court system, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer said, “Use your imagination.
Consider the unorthodox.” (June 1997) Members were challenged to “take the long view”, to
consider not only tomorrow’s possibilities, but the seemingly impossible as well.
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 1
Futures Planning and the Judiciary
In the short term, most people safely assume the future looks pretty much like the present —
only better. To consider anything less would assume no progress, no advancement. In the long
term, however, the future is up for grabs. There are no future “facts”. Futures planning is not a
substitute for traditional planning; they are complementary processes. Scientists and
sociologists who engage in futures planning study emerging social, economic and technological
trends, explicate several possible future scenarios — the probable, preferable and preventable
future — and postulate how present circumstances support or detract from each. In essence
stipulating the “necessary present” for each possible future. The process requires what
psychologists refer to as “fresh learning” — the willingness to receive new information outside
of what is known or experienced. Futures planning does not predict the future, it gives it form.
The Commission began its work by examining numerous factors likely to affect the state
court system in as well as over the next 25 years — demographic trends, public opinion, state
and national court reform movements — and envisioning the key attributes, qualities and
characteristics of a court system operating in that environment. These attributes served as a
“litmus test” during subsequent phases of the Commission’s work. They provided the
framework for the range of issues studied. They directed the scope of the recommendations put
The Commission worked in five task forces. Each relied on a variety of sources, including
legal research; testimony from judges, attorneys, and other specialists; regional and national
public opinion surveys; innovations executed by other states to develop ideas for public
discussion. Four months of public comment followed based on several “what if” scenarios for
Ohio’s courts. [add stats on responses] The Commission reconvened and spent the next several
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 2
months reviewing their experiences, sharing what they had learned, and debating a broad range
of proposals designed to move Ohio’s courts collectively forward. Care was taken not to
propose reform for reform’s sake. In the continuum of the court services, there is tremendous
synergy. Change in one area necessitates change in another. As the Commission discussed
ways to advance the administration of justice — through alternative dispute resolution, uniform
trial processes or jury reform, as examples — each member was sensitive to the relationships
among and between the many distinct groups of judicial stakeholders: the public, the justice
system at large, the legal profession, judges and court personnel, the legislature and the executive
What you are about to read is one vision of the future of Ohio’s judicial system. It is more
beacon than road map, more vision statement than treatise. It is the result of over two years of
intensive study and debate. It strives to be comprehensive, to consider all aspects of the
judiciary, yet is purposefully focused on the court system, rather than justice system at large. It
is the easel, the canvas and the palette. You, the reader, hold the brush.
II. Future Court Attributes
In the future, Ohio’s court system (is):
Simple and affordable to use.
Accessible and available to a richly diverse population. [too soft - the idea is about respect
for individuals - culture, gender, others?]
Fair and efficient, characterized by timely decision-making and understandable processes.
Highly-respected and enjoys high levels of public confidence and understanding.
Characterized by flexible dispute resolution practices which encourage resolution at earliest
possible point and reserve the courts for the most contentious [or compelling] issues.
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Staffed by judges and court officers who are selected based on superior qualifications and
continually educated on legal and non-legal court-related matters.
Provides a consistently-high standard of quality through uniform of rules, procedures and
Where a desirable future attribute seems redundant or duplicative to what is the currently
accepted legal, cultural or social norm, remember, the only present day court characteristics
which apply in the future are the ones we choose, by intention or omission, to perpetuate. The
challenge for Ohio is perpetuating the strengths of the present system while aggressively
pursuing opportunities for reform — building the necessary present to support the most desirable
III. Overview of Recommendations
In the future, Ohio’s state courts are open and accessible to all. There are no physical or
functional barriers to court facilities or services. Court services are affordable, and all forms
and processes are understandable and simple to use. Justice is administered swiftly and
consistently and there is wide spread support for a variety of dispute resolution alternatives.
Accountability and high quality are key indicators and judges, judicial officers and nonjudicial
court personnel have the skills, the training and the tools they need to perform at the highest
possible level. The public is well informed about the capabilities and limitations of the court
system, and reports a high level of confidence in the system’s ability to deliver justice in a fair
and timely manner.
By 2025, a uniform court framework streamlines court operations and supports the exchange
of data and information as technology continues to drive process improvements and net
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 4
systemwide efficiencies. Individual courts to communicate effectively among themselves and
with the community at large and courts are active participants in establishing nexus to other,
ancillary service providers, institutions and facilities. Local innovation is valued as a means to
advance the system.
Summary of Concepts
To design a higher quality, more value-added judicial “product”, the Commission used a
wide lens — looking at the court system as a whole and as the sum its many parts — to bring the
big picture into focus. The landscape of Ohio’s court system is changing.
Ohio ranks seventh in the nation for population over 65 currently, and by 2020, 20% of
Ohio’s population will be over 65, with the fastest growing segment of those age 85 or older.
As people live longer with greater levels of wellness, there will be a greater number of elderly
cases involving the elderly. Cycles of divorce and remarriage will complicate probate matters.
Increasing incidences of crimes by and against the elderly will necessitate new attitudes about
diversion and rehabilitation.
Ohio’s population is more culturally-diverse. Immigration increased 20% between 1995 and
1996. As this trend continues, sociologists say, the American “melting pot” will give way to the
American “mosaic”, and in the future the concepts of personal liberty, tolerance and freedom
will be recast in a new spirit of “culturalism” designed to advance distinguishing cultural
characteristics: language, behavioral mores, and attitudes about dispute resolution, justice and
There are also problems of public perception. Court language is often incomprehensible to
the average person, and studies reveal many people feel the court system is difficult to
understand, difficult to navigate, and not particularly effective. Unfortunately for the courts, the
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highest levels of dissatisfaction and the lowest levels of confidence are reported by those who
have had first hand experience with the judicial system.
The law does not necessarily lend itself to future thinking — cases are based upon prior
interpretations of the law; rulings are built on precedent — yet, the society surrounding the
courts changes daily. As Ohio’s populations ages, grows and becomes more diverse, every
individual will define advances in the administration of justice from their personal perspectives.
An increased focus on customer service in face of greater public scutiny and a call for higher
quality, more user-friendly options and courteous treatment does not de-institutionalize the
judiciary, it demystifies the process. Ensuring Ohio’s judiciary treats people as they are
expected to treat the court — with dignity and respect in a timely and informed manner — will
go a long way towards creating a more accessible court system because it takes the long view
from the outside, looking in.
Consider the teenage mother from Elyria who wondered in 1999, “Do I have to pay to vote?”
The irony is, in America, we are both proud and sad to answer her, because when we say “not
anymore” it reminds us not only of how far we have come, but also of how long it takes to
implement real and meaningful reform. As you read further, remember: there are no future
facts. Nothing can be assumed. The future is a democracy and all members of a society have a
responsibility to participate in crafting the collectively preferred vision.
Ohio’s state courts are open and accessible to all. There are no physical or functional
barriers to court facilities or services. Court services are affordable, and all forms and
processes are understandable and simple to use.
There is no such thing as an “typical” court customer. Ohio courts received 3,114,886 new
cases in 1996, continuing a three-year increase in statewide case filings [stats on court use]. The
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only thing all these people have in common is that none of them entered the court system by
choice. They came out of necessity. The courts were the only place they could go to have their
disputes heard or to satisfy a legal requirement. There was no competitive option. (must seek
other ways to incentivize quality). To be truly equitable, Ohio’s courts must go beyond
providing services without discriminating on the basis of personal status considerations (e.g. age,
race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical or cognitive disability, etc.). They must
raise the collective consciousness of the system and make a commitment that until all Ohioans
have ready and meaningful access to the court system, there is more work to be done. It is a
results-oriented vision and it will require leadership, flexibility and a commitment to results.
Factors limiting an individual’s ability to participate fully in the court system vary from case
to case and from county to county, but the fact remains there are disparities of access under the
current system. A study commissioned by the Ohio State Bar Association (a.k.a. The
Spangenberg Report) concluded that 83% of low income Ohioans did not get help with civil
legal problems that arose between 1989 and 1990, and with recent indicators showing a growing
number of Ohioans living in poverty, meeting the legal needs of the poor will continue to stress
the court system. This is especially troubling because the legal problems of the poor often
involve the very core of human existence — health, family, shelter and security — and with as
many 60% of children under 18 living in poverty, many low income court users are children.
Federal initiatives such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and other legislative
actions have gone a long way toward removing the physical and intellectual barriers to justice,
and enabling technologies such as speech-to-text translators, automated voice response systems,
and closed captioning have made the courts more accessible to people who are hearing or
visually impaired. But what about the cognitively disabled, victims of fraud or abuse, the
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elderly, or those for whom English is a second language? How accessible are the courts to these
people? Illiteracy, both in the practical sense of the inability to read and in the functional sense
of a general lack of knowledge about the court system, is a tremendous obstacle for many
Ohioans. These individuals are unable to use the judicial system effectively because they do not
or can not understand the options available to them through the courts. Courts must take
leadership role in educating the public about what the court system can and can not do in
addressing societal ills (violence, fraud, moral issues).
Designing court forms and processes which are simple to use and to comprehend will
make using the courts less intimidating, less expensive and less traumatic for a majority of
people. Even lawyers and judges will be well served by clear, consistent processes.
Standardize forms, sample pleadings and procedural information written in plain language will
enable all people to use the courts more effectively — empowering those who choose to
represent themselves to do so in an informed and responsible manner and protecting economic,
lingustic and cultural minorities from being disadvantaged or denied due process of law because
they were unable to comprehend or to participate fully in proceedings.
Justice is administered swiftly and consistently and there is wide spread support for a
variety of dispute resolution alternatives.
In the theory of the self-organizing society, increasing dissatisfaction with current
mechanism or institutions fuels alternative distribution channels. The internet is a prime
example. It is the self-organizing society in practice — no one is in charge, no one sets the rules
yet the network thrives. The internet society solved its own problems and overcame barriers to
connectivity, information sharing and data management. From the judicial perspective, the
self-organizing society, manifest in movements favoring the privatization of the public sector,
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has given rise to a private mediation industry and created a competitive market place for justice.
Private mediation practices are growing for a number of reasons. Among the most frequently
cited are a desire to conduct proceedings privately, private mediation is faster and less costly the
court-delivered services and the practice of “judge shopping” for a level of expertise or
specialization in the disputed issues.
If the courts are to continue in their role as the forum of public dispute resolution, they
must establish means for effective communication, such as hiring bilingual staff and creating
multilingual forms and court information, and be willing to accept new forms of dispute
resolution. As demand for culturally-appropriate forms of dispute resolution servcies increases,
judges and judicial personnel, lawyers and others in the court will need training in cross-cultural
communications and diversity issues.
Accountability and high quality are key indicators and judges, judicial officers and
nonjudicial court personnel have the skills, the training and the tools they need to perform at
the highest possible level.
The expanded role of court and the commitment to leverage technology wherever possible in
the delivery of court service means court functions and the requisite skills needed to fulfill them
will continue to evolve. In adopting a customer-service orientation, the Commission has
broadened “the plane of contact” between the court system and the end user. Doing so requires
analyzing traditional job functions in the context of a more open future system and making sure
people have the skills they need to be successful in the dynamic work place. In some cases this
will be job training, in others it will extend to successful completion of a certification or degree
program. As with increasing access and raising public confidence, increasing the performance
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of the courts requires a blend of “high tech” and “high touch” in which high tech in about
upgrading machinery and the high touch is about empowering people.
The public is well informed about the capabilities and limitations of the court system, and
reports a high level of confidence in the system’s ability to deliver justice in a fair and timely
Justice is blind. It does not differentiate between male or female, black or white.
Justice is the same for the rich as it is for the poor. It applies equally to the educated and to the
illiterate. The principle of equal justice for all is the hallmark of an effective court system.
(stats on public perception and misunderstanding)
Many of the concepts the Commission considered to increase public awareness and
confidence had to do with making court facilities more accessible. As mentioned earlier, ADA
compliance will help, but other considerations relating to the local delivery of court services, the
desirability of bringing government closer to the people, also emerged. Studying court facilities
in terms of their functional characteristics will be enable continual improvements in where, when
and how people use the courts.
A uniform court framework streamlines court operations and supports the exchange of
data and information as technology continues to drive process improvements and net
In considering how the Ohio’s court system might impact or be impacted by future
circumstances, the Commission identified only one constant: change. Changing
demographics. Changing legislation. Changing technology. Changing case load demands.
Regardless of what the future holds, the Commission concluded, in order for courts statewide are
to have the resources, capabilities and tools to perform at a consistently high level through
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increasingly complex times, uniformity at all levels of court system is essential. The four pillars
of a uniform court framework as proposed are:
1. A centralized administrative and technological infrastructure.
As the court system becomes more open through technology, the paradox between
technology as facilitator and technology as obstacle makes it increasing important to have an
uniform system for assessing and managing cases across the state. Where a manual system
has a margin of error and allows some flexibility in how information is gathered and
transmitted, an automated system relies procedural standards. Using technology to improve
access or streamline processes necessitates fairly rigid strict operating and procedural
standards and consistent methods of collecting, storing and distributing information
2. Local, decentralized management and organization.
To the extent that courts across the state operate within a uniform framework, each court
must free to determine for itself how to satisfy the requirements of uniformity. Staffing
needs, management procedures and court structure will continue to vary from county to
county as each court determines how best to utilize resources, promote efficiencies and
provide services to ensure meaningful access for all court users. The framework provides
objective criteria for evaluating the reasonableness and necessity of court operation
appropriation requests for continuous improvement planning or program funding while
increasing the access to and the advancment of local innovations.
3. Uniform court rules, processes and procedures.
A system characterized by consistency, openness and transparency nets the user benefits of
ease of access, clarity of process and predictability of outcomes. Standardized forms and
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pleadings, simplified language and processes, streamlined case management procedures and
uniform court rules all serve to make the court easier to use without compromising the
integrity of the judicial process.
4. Flexible delivery service mechanisms.
On-line networks and dot.com services are the catalyst for a fundamental shift court service
delivery. The enlightened use of internet communications will help the system re-define
“local service delivery” with meaningful two-way communications and remote access to
court services, resources and information. So looking forward to a time when technology
has become the primary tool for interpersonal communication, people will seek and be richly
rewarded by opportunities for intimate, non-technological contact. The types of services
and programs offered by the courts, the essential functions of the judicial branch, are well
suited to delivery along this dual track. The key is finding the right blend of “high tech” to
complement the need for “high touch” in performing essential court functions. Megatrends
author John Naisbitt compares advances in biomedical technology with trends in
therapeutic massage and alternative medical techniques, to illustrate the point, “The more
technology we put into hospitals”, Naisbitt said “the less inclined we are to give birth or die
there, and the more we are avoiding hospitals in between.”
Individual courts communicate effectively among themselves and with the community at
large and courts are active participants in establishing nexus to other, ancillary service
providers, institutions and facilities. Local innovation is valued as a means to advance the
The adoption and adaptation of expert systems, secure intranet communications and standard
operating procedures will enable individual courts to operations and expedite the exchange of
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information. Using technology in the redesign of these core business functions aligns
modernization efforts with the overall service strategy of the courts —making the courts active
participants in emerging information networks, the design of justice system databases and the
appropriate links to government or social service agencies, bar associations, schools, universities
and others who would benefit from a connection to judicial databases.
Conclusion / Implementation
More aspiration than recommendation, the Commission’s proposals addresses the courts in a
variety of roles — some familiar, some new. Many of these “future” ideas are in place today,
but are important in this context to affirm a commitment to the principles of equity, accessibility
and quality in the courts and to emphasize the need for continuous improvement. Others
respond to limitations or deficiencies, real and perceived, in the current system. Some may be
implemented with a high degree of support: others are mere suggestions designed to satisfy a
desired attribute and will require further study.
... the Commission did not consider the question of how the recommendations might be
implemented, choosing instead to articulate why they are appropriate in moving forward. How
is a contemporary question, and the Commission’s query was the future.
Envisioning the Future of Ohio’s Courts -
The recommendations of the Ohio Courts Futures Commission
A. Access to the Courts and the Delivery of Justice
The vision ... In the future, people have ready and meaningful access to a wide variety of
administrative and dispute resolution services are offered by or through the judicial system.
Individual courts accommodate all persons, using appropriate technologies to enhance court
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administration and case management processes and to provide a consistently high level of
service to the public. There is no discrimination. Professional legal services are available to
meet the needs of all who seek to use the courts, whether they can afford to pay for those
services or not.
By 2025, courts statewide are proactive in adopting and implementing proven technologies.
Standardized electronic case filing systems have long since replaced paper filing systems, and
immediate and secure access to the courts and court records is available from public places and
remote locations. Operating within procedural guidelines promulgated by the Supreme Court,
the use of technology does not erode security, privacy, due process, or other fundamental
constitutional or procedural safeguards.
Courts serve a richly diverse constituency and are respectful of individual needs. Published
court materials are comprehensible and useful to a broad constituency and reflect a systemic
sensitivity to cultural, gender and literacy issues. Interactive tutorials on court processes,
dispute resolution options and courts services educate students, court personnel and members of
the general public on the workings of the court system. Instructional and procedural
information is written in basic language and designed to promote understanding and expedite
service delivery. All court materials are produced in multiple, skill-sensitive formats and are
widely available through a variety of channels.
Summary of concepts regarding court access and the delivery of justice
The last decade has brought social changes and trends which are likely to continue and
perhaps accelerate in the future. Computer technology has provided 24 hour access to goods,
services and information. Today people can shop, invest, obtain medical advice, make airline
reservations, book hotels and do many other things at any time of the day or night without
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leaving their homes. Expectations about availability and quality of goods and services has risen.
Most consumers are more knowledgeable and sophisticated than they were in the past. The
demand for speed, efficiency, and high quality service is not limited to commercial settings, but
spills over into the public sector as well. At the same time, sociologists tell us that the gap is
widening between the rich and the poor, the technology literate and the technology illiterate.
Additionally, the very make up of society has changed and will continue to change. Today it
is not unusual to hear people speaking foreign languages on the streets of small Ohio towns
where not long ago anything but English was unthinkable. In addition to Catholics, Protestants
and Jews we have significant populations of Muslims and Hindus. We have become more
culturally diverse and we are becoming more tolerant of and sensitive to diversity.
It is in this context that the Futures Commission considered issues of access to the justice
system in the year 2020. Meaningful access must not only encompass the use of technology to
deliver prompt, efficient, high quality service. It must also ensure that service recognizes and
embraces diversity and is universally available to those who are disadvantaged.
2. Recommendations and rationale
a. Enhancing physical access
Courts accommodate all persons with special needs and continually seek means to improve
physical and functional access to facilities and services. Americans with Disabilities Act
compliance is achieved.
There are expanded hours of operation, with evening and weekend hours available for
in-court services and other self-service options available electronically on a 24/7 basis as
appropriate. Flexible staffing arrangements support this service delivery model.
Courts regularly assess their status and needs for optimizing public safety, accessibility, and
convenience in court facilities under the guidance of the Supreme Court. The courts have
achieved a balance between the need for security and the need for open access.
b. Enhancing functional access
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In the court system, self-service processes and remote access tools can reduce, and in some
cases even eliminate, the need for people to travel to the courthouse to transact business.
Suggestions brought before the Commission for making court processes more accessible include:
reducing the complexity and increasing the uniformity of court language and forms and making
all court education/information materials multilingual, increasing the number, availability and
use of interpreters/translators and case managers statewide, implementing appropriate
technologies to make multilingual or translation services widely available, collaborating with
social service agencies serving elderly, low income or immigrant populations, and performing
community outreach, including a proposed mini-curriculum on state courts for use in ESL
programs and similar types of programming statewide.
Court procedures are simplified and delays minimized wherever possible. The emphasis is
on making the law more understandable to a larger public audience by using technology and
whatever means of popular communications exist to present legal issues in lay terms.
Informational barriers to the court systems are removed to the extent possible, resulting in
self-service access to basic forms and legal information, in appropriate, understandable
language, in skill-sensitive formats to the extent practicable, and upon payment of translation
fees as appropriate. Twenty-four-hour access to appropriate information in databanks and
an automated telephone system are available.
High quality service is a priority and courts have established performance and service
standards to encourage ongoing evaluation and continuous improvement practices.
Judicial and nonjudicial court personnel deliver services in an impartial, efficient, timely, and
uniform manner, ensuring fairness to all participants. They promote confidence in the court
system. Resources that assist lawyers and consumers of legal services include: clear rules,
uniform procedures; simple, standardized forms and pleadings, and written instructions;
resource persons to explain court procedures, process, and requirements; directories of legal
services and resources.
c. Achieving diversity in the court system
The Commission acknowledges the judiciary is not by statute or intention literally
“representative” of any constituency, but believes bringing the composition of the judiciary into
registration with the composition of the general population will help Ohio realize a court
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system in which all people feel not only welcome but also well received regardless of the nature
of their dispute, problem or inquiry.
Courts ensure equal access to all persons, and there is no discrimination. All people are
treated with respect, dignity, and courtesy in the courts.
Judges, magistrates, and other court personnel reflect the diversity of the community.
Diversity, gender sensitivity and customer service training are ongoing in each court and
include information about the needs, limitations and talents of people with disabilities. These
skills are viewed as important to job performance.
Courts recognize and acknowledge the trend toward a more multi-cultural society; articulate
a commitment to serve all persons equally; and pursue intercultural communication, respect,
and understanding in a manner that promotes confidence in the justice system.
d. Providing legal resources to enhance access
There are mechanisms for providing legal services for low income individuals throughout the
state. Legal aid societies [one in every county or 18 statewide?], the primary organizations
providing civil legal services to those who can not afford them, are funded by filing fees from
civil cases and interest earned on trust accounts held by attorneys or title agents (IOLTA /IOTA
funds). The Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, one repines of the Spangenberg Report, is
committed to increasing resources for Ohio’s legal services programs and developing innovative
methods for closing the gap on the unmet civil legal needs of the poor. Yet many times
individuals are barred from accessing the court system for reasons other than economics.
There is a recognition of the need for all persons to have access to adequate legal resources
and fees and costs do not present an unreasonable barrier to access to the courts.
Lawyers and judges have developed mechanisms to assist in providing adequate legal
resources for all, including, but not limited to dispute resolution, fast track trials, and
Lawyers represent those who do not have adequate resources to engage counsel
independently. This may include, but is not limited to legal aid programs, pro bono
representation, sliding scale fees, expanded court-appointed counsel, legal interns, and
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Public defenders and legal assistance programs have adequate resources to fulfill their
responsibilities, and innovative approaches to better serve the legal needs of the poor
continue to be developed statewide.
e. Meaningful access for the self-represented
There is a recognition that people have the right to represent themselves. However, such
individuals should be mindful of the rights of the opposing parties and the responsibility of
the court to see that justice is provided to all parties.
Legal instructional materials, including sample pleadings and forms, are available for
disputants without counsel. Simplifying, streamlining, and making uniform legal processes
and court forms enables disputants to represent themselves when desirable or necessary.
(from rules) Legal instructional materials are available for litigants without counsel.
Simplifying, streamlining, and making uniform legal processes and court forms enables
litigants to represent themselves when desirable or necessary. These efforts also expedite
cases through the system, requiring courts and opposing counsel to spend less time assisting
self-represented litigants through proceedings.
Court personnel may assist self-represented persons in civil cases by explaining court
processes, assisting parties in preparing and filing simple or form documents, and supplying
them with informational pamphlets and court forms. This assistance is limited to providing
neutral information and does not include giving legal advice to disputants.
B. Embracing Alternatives in Dispute Resolution
The vision ... In the future, the courts model a cultural change in the way society and the
legal profession approach disputes. This culture change has been accomplished in part by
encouraging civility in all court procedures and by providing processes that directly involve the
parties and others affected by a dispute, as well as their lawyers, in negotiating resolutions to the
dispute. As a result, the general public, law schools, courts, and lawyers have re-oriented their
approach to conflict from an adversarial approach to a problem-solving approach. The court
system has lead this effort, as people are accustomed to turning to the courts to resolve problems,
and now serves as a catalyst for building capacity within communities for people to manage
conflict more effectively and to resolve disputes without having to go to court.
By 2025, the court system has institutionalized alternative, non-adversarial dispute resolution
techniques. Mediation and other forms of negotiation assistance are now the first step and a full
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partner with litigation in the resolution of disputes. All Ohio courts encourage mediation and
other forms of negotiation assistance, such as case evaluation, fact-finding, and mini-trials, in
appropriate cases soon after the parties have exchanged sufficient information to assess
settlement possibilities. The courts also offer mediation, OR assure that other, non-judicial
service providers (e.g., social service agencies, churches and civic institutions, cultural resource
centers, private mediation programs, etc.) offer negotiation assistance on a voluntary basis even
before the parties sue. Courts maintain high quality mediation programs. Community advisory
committees assist courts in establishing and monitoring these negotiation assistance programs.
1. Summary of concepts regarding dispute resolution
a. Trends in dispute resolution
Support for non-adversarial court processes is nothing new. Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth
president of the United States, said in 1850, “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to
compromize whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser -
in fees, expenses and waste of time”. Yet, until recently there were few tools other than
litigation available to solve disputes, and with 95% of law suits settling — many just before
going to trial — it seems most people would prefer an alternative. Traditional litigation is and
will continue to be a fine way to resolve disputes where a clear winner or precedent is needed,
but current processes require people to prepare simultaneously for settlement and for trial. This
is an expensive, time-consuming and disruptive model for the parties as well as for the courts
and other litigants.
Mediation and other forms of interest-based negotiation assistance can be much faster and less
expensive than traditional litigation. More importantly, since mediation is based on problem
solving, and the parties are direclty involved in the negotiations, it can sustain relationships, lead
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to greater compliance with settlement agreements and help people understand how to deal with
the next conflict that comes along.
Over the past 10 years, thousands of mediators have been trained for court and private
mediation programs throughout Ohio as the use of mediation has grown significantly. Some form
of mediation exists in practically every court in the state, from the complex appeals heard by the
Supreme Court to school truancy problems handled by the juvenile courts.
Ohio has been a leader in the Alternative Dispute Resolution movement principally because
of Chief Justice Moyer’s guidance of court programs and the efforts of the Ohio Commission on
Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management to support school and government mediation
programs. Since 1991, the number of court and community mediation programs has grown
from 11 to 121 with programs in 44 counties. These efforts have been extremely successful
principally because they allow people, with the assistance of a neutral party, to solve their own
problems in ways which best satisfy their personal needs. Early settlements also permit courts
to move litigation more quickly and to focus on cases that most likely will go to trial. The
Supreme Court is making grant funding available with the goal of having Alternative Dispute
Resolution programs in all of Ohio’s common pleas courts by the 2006. In addition, to
support this cultural change, promote non-violence and teach children better ways to resolve
differences as they move toward adulthood, peer mediation programs have been established in
more than 360 of Ohio’s 670 school districts under the guidance of the Department of Education
and the Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management.
2. Recommendations and rationale in dispute resolution
a. Civil Mediation
Court users may file a request for a mediation instead of a lawsuit.
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Each trial court has an array of tracks or systems that parties may use to resolve their
disputes. The court and court personnel, trained in all dispute resolution options, assign
cases to the various tracks or systems consistent with the nature of the controversies. These
include mediation and fast track trials. There may be mandatory mediation in some cases or
situations, but there is no penalty for proceeding with litigation if a dispute remains
The courts have developed strong, high quality mediation programs, that complement private
sector mechanisms and enhance efficient and appropriate dispute resolution. Courts have
criteria for selecting and maintaining qualified mediators and administrators who serve
independent of the litigation processes, strengthening the integrity of both the mediation and
litigation components of resolving cases. The process may include a selection committee,
representing a spectrum of litigant interests, to interview and recommend candidates to the
court. The confidentiality and independence of the mediation process is maintained.
Mediation works best when there are relationships between the parties (families, neighbors,
partnerships and other business arrangements ) which the parties want to protect and maintain.
This is why child custody, visitation, truancy and such juvenile and domestic relations courts
problems are excellent for mediation and have been at the heart of this cultural change.
Because juvenile court mediations have been so successful, it makes sense that some of these
mediations should be mandatory, at least to the extent that the parties are ordered to attend
mediation. They should not, however, be required to reach an agreement or be punished for
failing to do so. The right to a trial is preserved.
Another solid base of the mediation movement has been the municipal courts where tens of
thousands of small claims and minor offenses have been resolved by getting the parties to sit
down and talk about their differences in a controlled environment assisted by a neutral. The
focus of these mediations is on the interests of both sides and how they should deal with each
other in the future so this doesn’t happen again or become more serious.
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“Settlement Week” and the other common pleas court mediation programs have brought
mediation into the mainstream. Studies have consistently shown that lawyers who serve as
mediators or represent clients in these programs are much more likely to use them than those
who have not participated. Indeed, these programs have fostered the growth of private and
community mediation in which parties resolve their disputes without even coming to court. We
expect the rapid growth of private and community mediation to continue. This will further
relieve court dockets. Where parties cannot afford or do not choose private or community
mediation, they will be able to file for a court mediation instead of filing a suit.
The successful experience with mediation in juvenile and municipal courts is a key reason for
the growth of community courts. They bring these services closer to the people in neighborhoods
and small towns. Community court programs have been particularly effective when community
service punishment is imposed in the neighborhood and drug and alcohol treatment are part of
the correction effort.
The effectiveness of ADR programs will depend on getting disputes on the right track of
the dispute resolution continuum as early as possible. Advice from counsel may be the first
step in this process, followed by professional court staff who will guide disputants through their
choice of mediation, case evaluation, fact finding, mini-trials, fast track trials, summary jury
trials, arbitration, litigation or other dispute resolution methods or combinations of such options.
If the ADR methods are not successful, arbitration or litigation will still be an option. When on
those tracks, early in the process, the judge or arbitrator may again suggest ADR after sufficient
information has been obtained in discovery to evaluate the case for settlement. High quality
in-take staff, mediators and other neutrals will be a necessity. Involvement of community
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advisory committees in these court programs will increase awareness, support and diverse users
b. Public policy disputes and mass tort cases
To obtain more appropriate outcomes and speed up the process, courts will use mediation to
assist in the resolution of public policy disputes and mass tort/product liability litigation.
The use of mediation, or consensus-based processes, in public policy disputes and mass tort
cases is increasing across the country and should do so in Ohio as well. Mediation is ideal for
resolving many public policy disputes because of the continuing relationship between the
disputants and the balancing of interests that is required to reach agreement; the win-win
Mediation has been used in asbestos, agent orange, breast implants and other mass torts and
according to the Y2K legislation, should be the first step in solving high technology problems.
Several states already use mediation to resolve disputes over water, fishing and hunting rights,
land development and plant sitings. Such mediations, as a prelude to legislation, have been very
effective in getting the various interest groups to reach consensus on priorities. In Ohio,
consensus-based processes have been used to develop state-county partnership agreements
regarding welfare reform, to develop the Great Lakes Water Quality Rules and to revise the
state’s Medicaid long-term reimbursement system.
There is a clear distinction between public and private parties and issues with respect to
confidentiality. The outcomes of disputes involving public agencies and offices, public policy
issues, some mass tort cases, and other similar types of disputes are made public.
Confidentiality is a cornerstone of mediation; a premise upon which parties negotiate openly and
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 23
reveal their interests and what it will take to settle. On matter of public policy, the public has
broad rights to know the basis for decisions. Making the outcomes of public policy decisions
public may suffice, but the Commission is confident a balance will be found, as it usually is,
through negotiation and mediation.
c. Criminal Mediation
The Commission recognizes that the application of mediation or dispute resolution may be
different in criminal cases than in civil cases.
Community-based mediation is available on a voluntary basis at the pre-filing stage in certain
lower-level cases, such as neighborhood disputes, graffiti, and shoplifting.
Voluntary mediation through courts is available in some lower-level felony and delinquency
cases (nonviolent cases, defendants with no prior criminal records) at the victim’s request
after a case has been filed.
Courts have available voluntary mediation for criminal misdemeanor or similar level
delinquency cases, in certain categories.
Courts have voluntary, restorative mediation programs after a criminal or delinquency case
The value of voluntary mediation in dealing with lower level criminal offenses has been
proven in a number of programs like the Columbus Night Prosecutor Program . Such
restorative justice gives the victim some restitution and permits the offender to avoid a criminal
record. As the offenses move up the criminal ladder, use of these programs is more carefully
controlled to avoid setting a pattern of excusing serious offenses. The victim’s rights and the
prosecutor’s responsibilities must be recognized. Thus, most of these programs that deal with
felonies and delinquencies only permit mediation with the consent of the victim and after
conviction. Time and experience will tell whether these restrictions are justified or should be
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d. Mediation at the appellate level
The Supreme Court has expanded its use of mediation of appeals and original actions in
appropriate cases as have the courts of appeals.
Mediators are available on-call to assist in public policy and other similar disputes at the state
level or within an appellate district.
The Supreme Court continues to lead and monitor the ADR programs in state courts.
The Supreme Court and courts of appeals are using mediation for appeals and original
actions at an increasing rate. Some would believe there is little chance of worthwhile settlement
negotiations at this late stage of the litigation, yet the settlement rate of cases on appeal is more
than 40% of the disputes referred to mediation. These successful programs should be expanded.
Furthermore, the appellate levels should have mediators for public policy, MASS TORT and
similar disputes, within the appellate district or state-wide, depending on the breadth of the
dispute. An organization such as the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict
Management , whose commissioners are appointed by all three branches of government, could
also be enlisted to provide mediators if political pressures make it unwise for court mediators to
become involved in some public policy disputes.
C. Court Structure, Organization and Management
The vision ... In the future, Ohio’s courts are structured and organized to promote
expeditious, efficient, and sound adjudication, and all people — all “customers” — are treated
with dignity and respect. Each county has its own trial court system, organized according to the
needs and expectations of its local constituency but operated within procedural guidelines
promulgated by the Supreme Court. Organizationally, individual courts are encouraged to
innovate — establishing and abolishing specialized or regional courts as needed to manage case
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 25
loads — and to allocate resources in the most efficient manner to provide the highest possible
level of service to the local constituency. The pursuit of “best practices” has eradicated resource
inequities across the state and outcomes-based mechanisms provide for innovative or
experimental programs or services which are evaluated, and if appropriate, formalized and
integrated on a local, regional or statewide basis through the Supreme Court.
By 2025, court rules and procedures governing court operations are uniform as uniform as
possible across the state, and are designed to enhance the efficient and fair administration of
justice. Trial courts resolve disputes on the basis of evidence presented to the court during a trial.
Active, early, and continued involvement of judges allows for timely resolution of cases and
disputes in the most appropriate manner. Technology is implemented system wide to expedite
discovery (pre-trial investigation), net efficiencies of process, make proceedings understandable
and convenient for all parties, and otherwise facilitate resolving issues at the earliest possible
point and the lowest possible cost.
Appellate courts render decisions in a timely manner, guaranteeing fundamental fairness and
promoting finality. Appellate districts are evaluated regularly and adjusted based on local need
and other considerations designed to facilitate expediency. Technology reduces or eliminates
delays in transmitting the record for appeal and makes data on similar experiences and outcomes
available. Many of these materials are computer-based and apply algorithms enabling
comparisons and other advanced features in an open yet secure environment.
1. Summary of concepts regarding court structure, organization and management
Article IV, Section 1 of the Ohio Constitution provides that ìthe judicial power of the state is
vested in a supreme court, courts of appeals, courts of common pleas, courts of probate, and such
other courts inferior to the courts of appeals as may from time to time be established by law.
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The basic structure of Ohioís court system has remained (pretty much) the same since 1851, with
some amendments to the Constitution in 1912.
Ohio has three levels of courts: the Supreme Court, courts of appeals, and trial courts. The
Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Ohio and hears primarily appeals from the courts of
appeals. The Court also hears automatic appeals on matters from the Board of Tax Appeals,
Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and Industrial Commission, as well as habeas corpus and
death penalty cases. The Supreme Court also exercises powers of superintendence over the trial
and appeals courts, and makes rules governing practice and procedure for Ohio courts.
The Constitution also provides for intermediate courts of appeals. In Ohio, there are twelve
district courts of appeals, and their primary function is to hear appeals from the common pleas,
municipal, and county courts. Each case is heard and decided by a three-judge panel. There
are twelve appellate districts, consisting of from one to seventeen counties; the appellate districts
range in size from five to twelve judges.
The Court of Claims created by the General Assembly in 1975, is the only statutory court having
statewide jurisdiction. The Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction in all civil actions against
the state of Ohio, and, along with the Attorney General, administers claims for compensation by
victims of crime.
The court of common pleas is the only trial court created by the Ohio Constitution. There is
a common pleas court in each of the 88 counties. Courts of common pleas have specialized
divisions created by statute. The general division has jurisdiction in criminal felony cases and
civil cases in which the amount in controversy is more than $500. The decisions of certain
administrative agencies may be appealed to the court of common pleas. The domestic relations
division has jurisdiction over divorces and dissolutions and custody of children. The juvenile
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division is responsible for offenses involving minors, and most paternity actions. The probate
division has jurisdiction over decedentsí estate, mental illness, adoptions, and issues marriage
licenses. Seven counties in Ohio are part of a growing trend to combine domestic relations,
juvenile, and portions probate into a family court.
Municipal and county courts have jurisdiction over felony arraignments, most traffic and
non-traffic misdemeanor offenses. Municipal and county courts can hear civil actions up to
$15,000. The jurisdiction of municipal and county courts are identical. County courts are
primarily part-time courts that exist anywhere in a county that is not under the jurisdiction of a
Mayorís courts are not courts of record and not subject to the Supreme Court Rules of
Superintendence. Mayorís courts have jurisdiction over violations of local ordinances and
The Ohio Courts Future Commission concludes on the basis of its review of other states,
research, and public hearings that the structure of the Ohio court system is basically sound. The
Commissionís recommendations reflect a desire to make the allocation of judges among the
appellate districts more flexible. The Commission recommends that trial courts should be
permitted to make adjustments based on the needs of the county to operate more efficiently.
These could include reorganizing the trial courts into one or two tiers, replacing mayorís courts
with the local delivery of court services through the trial courts; giving counties the option to
create community courts to assume some of the functions of mayorís courts; creating specialized
courts, such as drug courts, housing courts, environmental courts, and business courts; and even
permitting the creation of multi-county partnerships where collaboration is in the best interest of
the courts and the counties.
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The Commission also recommends that local courts should continue to govern themselves.
Finally, the Commission recommends that the essential functions of the court should be
increasingly funded by the state to improve funding equity among the courts.
2. Recommendations and rationale
Recommendation: Courts of Appeals.
The Chief Justice should continue to make assignments of court of appeals judges across district
lines to balance caseloads and improve the disposition of cases. The Supreme Court should
appoint an appellate redistricting commission every ten years to ensure an equitable distribution
The Commissionís research reveals that caseloads vary among the various appellate districts.
As a result, the Commission sought to provide additional flexibility in adjusting judicial
resources, including the continuing and expanding the Chief Justiceís authority to assign
appellate judges across district lines. The commission recommends that the Supreme Court
continue to make assignments of appellate judges outside their own appellate districts in such a
manner as to assure relative equity in caseloads and expeditious handling of cases among the
The Commission also recommends that appellate court geographical boundaries should be
reviewed every ten years by a commission appointed by the Supreme Court to evaluate caseloads
for the purpose of ensuring relative equity in caseloads, prompt disposition of cases, and
appropriate population balance, and to make recommendations on the judicial resources to the
This would include the adjustment of appellate court geographical boundaries based on
population growth, caseload, and other relevant factors. The Commission wants to insure that
the system is flexible enough to be able to make adjustments without undue delay.
Recommendation: Trial Courts ñ Common Pleas, Municipal, and County Courts.
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Ohio has retained the current three levels of courts: trial courts, appellate courts, and the
Supreme Court. Each county continues to have its own trial courts. Mayorís courts have been
merged with the other trial courts in the county. With the approval of the Supreme Court and
the General Assembly, the trial courts of a county may be reorganized as follows:
1) a single trial court, combining common pleas, municipal, and county courts, with full-time
judges and magistrates, and hearings in local areas at convenient times; or
2) a two tier trial court: a) common pleas, and b) a second tier, combining municipal, and
county courts with full time judges and magistrates, and hearings in local areas at convenient
The Commission concluded that it is important to retain an individual trial court system in
each county. The courthouse is often the symbol of government and justice in the county and
the existence of a trial court is an important part of the fabric of county government.
The Commission recommends that counties should have the flexibility, with the approval of
the Supreme Court and the General Assembly, to make adjustments in the basic structure of the
trial court system in the county to meet local needs. The Commission also recommends that
mayorís courts be merged with the full-time courts of record, while retaining the local delivery of
court services through the trial courts.
The Commission recommends that the trial courts in the county may, with the approval of the
Supreme Court and the General Assembly, be reorganized in one of two different ways. One
option would be a single trial court, combining common pleas, municipal, and county courts,
with full-time judges and magistrates, conducting hearing at local areas at convenient times.
The single trial court option would provide the greatest flexibility, because it would combine the
functions of several courts and permit the court to allocate judicial and other resources as
necessary. The Commission expects that most of the functions of the common pleas court
general division would remain basically the same.
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The jurisdiction of municipal and county courts are similar/identical and include felony
arraignments, traffic and non-traffic misdemeanors, and lower level civil cases. The municipal
and county courts could be efficiently combined into a single court. They could also be used to
provide access to the courts in local areas (such neighborhoods in larger cities and small towns
and villages in rural areas) at convenient times. This expansion of services could cover the
functions of former mayorís courts, since the Commission emphasizes that it is important to
continue and enhance the local delivery of court services.
The second trial court option would be a two-tier trial court retaining the common pleas court
and its various divisions and creating a second tier combining municipal and county courts.
Recommendation: Mayorís Courts; Community Courts.
Mayorís courts have been replaced by local delivery of court services through trial courts with
locations convenient to the public. Community courts may assume some of the functions of
Over the years, mayorís courts have been the source of some controversy. There have been
occasional television and newspaper stories about ìspeed trapsî in certain communities with
expressions of concern about ìfrontier justice.î In 199_, the Ohio General Assembly established
mandated improved standards for the operation of mayorís courts, including requirements that
mayorís courts have written procedural standards and that mayors seeking to preside at mayorís
courts have annual training provided by the Ohio Municipal League.
There have also been concerns about conflicts of interest that occur when the mayor, who
represents the executive branch of government, performs the duties of the judicial branch,
particularly when the city may have a financial interest in the outcome of the cases (the amount
of fine revenue may support a portion of the operations of the police force or other parts of city
government). As a result, many mayorís courts have appointed magistrates to preside at
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 31
mayorís court. However, this issue culminated in a recent federal court decision, DePiero City
of Macedonia et al. [NEED CITATION], which held that: [INSERT LATER].
Proponents of mayorís courts asserted a number of local concerns: 1) convenience for
constituents; 2) members of the community want to feel that they are receiving local justice; 3)
keeping the police close to the jurisdiction, particularly amidst concerns about time spent
downtown in municipal court; and 4) the need to expedite local cases.
The Commission recommends that mayorís courts be replaced by the local delivery of court
services through existing trial courts with locations convenient to the public. The Commission
emphasizes the importance of full-time professional judicial officers presiding over cases
affecting the life, liberty, and property of citizens. The Commission recognizes the importance
that the trier of fact be neutral, citing the DePiero City of Macedonia et al. case, and the need to
eliminate actual conflicts of interest as well as the appearance of conflict of interest.
The Commission also recognizes the importance of convenience, efficiency, and fiscal
responsibility, including the use of police time. As a result, the Commission recommends that
the trial courts provide for the delivery of local court services at locations convenient to the
public, perhaps in many of the same locations as mayorís courts. The Commission emphasizes
the importance of local hearings with convenience to the community and having court
proceedings at convenient times, including evenings. The Commission also recognizes the
importance of making efficient use of police time in permitting the police to appear at the local
branches of the courts.
Recommendation: Community Courts
Trial courts may create, as a division or branch of the court, community courts to provide trials
and mediation for less complex civil and criminal matters at convenient locations in the
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 32
The purpose of community courts is to bring the justice system closer to the public by
making the court more accessible, the activities and benefits of the courts more visible, and
citizensí responsibility to abide by the law more apparent and immediate, and to resolve disputes
as efficiently and effectively as possible at locations convenient in the community. Community
courts could exist in neighborhoods in large cities or in small communities in rural areas.
The Commission envisions that the trial courts in a county or municipality would have the
option to create community courts, a division or branch of the court a community court. The
community court would provide trials and mediation service for selected less complex civil and
criminal matters. Cases could include some criminal matters, including traffic violations,
graffiti, disorderly or unruly conduct, shoplifting, bad checks, petty theft, and vandalism. It
could also include neighborhood disputes such as excessive noise, disruptive parties, and fighting
and trespassing. Disputes between neighbors could be resolved through mediation, which could
result in an agreement on how the individualís behavior would be changed so that neighbors are
no longer offended. Treatment of drug or alcohol cases could also be an outcome. The
community courts would also be supported by and involve community organizations, such as
local business and churches. The community courts promote restorative justice in the
community. An advisory committee representing the community assists in administering the
Recommendation: Multi-County Partnerships
With the approval of the Supreme Court and General Assembly, trial courts have the option to
create multi-county partnerships where regional courts or justice centers would optimize the use
of judicial resources.
The Commission recognizes the importance of flexibility in permitting courts to make
maximum use of judicial resources. For example, small counties may not have the judicial,
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 33
staff, or financial resources to support specialized courts, such as a drug, housing, or
environmental court. However, several counties or municipalities could engage in a joint
venture to accomplish what they could not do alone. The Commission believes that local courts
are best equipped to decide how to use their resources and that the creation of multi-county
partnerships provides an opportunity to enhance access to all court users and promotes efficiency
in the court system.
Recommendation: Specialized Courts
Trial courts within a county or a multi-county court system may recommend to the Supreme
Court and the General Assembly the creation of specialized courts, such as family courts, drug
courts, housing courts, environmental courts, business courts, and the like.
Specialized courts is a flexible concept. It does not necessarily require a separate judge or
courtroom. Specialized courts is largely a case management issue, permitting the allocation of
particular types of cases to a judge with a particular interest or expertise in the area. For
example, a judge may have an interest in business or commercial law and is willing to handle
more commercial cases than the judge would ordinarily be assigned under the random selection
assignment process. Or the court may wish to create a separate docket for drug offenders who
are in a court-supervised rehabilitation program. The Futures Commission encourages the
individual courts to innovate and to experiment with specialized courts, within the statutory
framework establishing the courtís subject matter jurisdiction and the Commissionís
recommends statewide performance standards for courts. The Commission hopes that courts
may allow courts to better manage their cases.
For several years, seven courts in Ohio have consolidated domestic relations, juvenile, and
portions of probate jurisdiction, such as guardianships, into a single court called a ìfamily court.î
By statute, judges are assigned to the family court which is a separate division of the common
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 34
pleas court. In 199_, the Supreme Court initiated the Family Court Feasibility Study, an
18-month effort to study how Ohioís courts interact with families and to consider the feasibility
of creating additional family courts in Ohio. The study recommended that the Supreme Court
support the creation of family courts, but that family courts not be mandated. The choice is up
to each county. In addition, Chief Justice Moyer appointed the Family Court Task Force to
consolidate existing code provisions into a single family code, to minimize duplication and
conflicts in the law. In addition, the Supreme Court has supported a number of pilot family
courts, with the National Center for Juvenile Justice providing on-site technical assistance and
evaluation. Among the issues for study are expanded mediation, central intake, innovative uses
of technology, and expanded court services.
Ohio is a national leader in the creation of drug courts, along with the treatment, corrections,
and law enforcement communities established a collaborative effort to support the development
of drug courts. To date, eleven drug courts have been created. A grant from the U.S.
Department of Justice has provided a full-time drug court coordinator to provide technical
assistance in the support and creation of drug courts. (NOTE: ASK MELISSA KNOPP TO
HELP BEEF THIS UP.)
The Cleveland Municipal Court has a created a housing division and Franklin County
Municipal Court has created an environmental court to deal with housing and other similar local
or neighborhood disputes such as noise, nuisance, and other types of cases some of which were
described in the section on community courts. In addition, the Ohio State Bar Association is
studying business courts.
Recommendation: Local Court Governance and Administration
Local courts govern themselves within a framework of standards adopted by the Supreme Court,
including standards on information technology, facilities, personnel qualifications, training,
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 35
operations, and performance. Each court selects its own presiding or administrative judge.
Each court hires a professional court administrator and staff, and nearly every court has a
The Commission recommends retaining the current system of governance for trial and
appellate courts. Currently, trial and appellate courts are administered at the local level under
Rules of Superintendence which are uniform operating rules promulgated by the Supreme Court
of Ohio. The Commission believes that the overall efficiency of the court system could be
improved by the implementation of statewide standards in certain areas, including information
technology, facilities, personnel qualifications, training, operations, and performance. The
standards would provide a road map for the trial courts. They would provide courts with
general guidelines in establishing procedures in these areas, and standards against which the
courts can measure themselves. In addition, it would improve consistency across the state. The
Supreme Court would assist the courts in meeting the standards.
With respect to individual court administration, each court would continue to select its own
presiding or administrative judge. The Commission also emphasizes the importance of
professional court administration. Court administration has emerged as a profession in the last
twenty-five years and the Commission believes that all the courts in Ohio would benefit from
trained, professional court administrators. The Commission recognizes that not every court
needs or could afford a full-time administrator but by the year 2025, it is expected that most
every court will have a full-time administrator.
Recommendation: Court Funding
The essential functions of the court are increasingly funded from state general tax revenues.
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 36
The Commission recognizes the importance of adequate funding to the future of the courts.
The Commission notes that the administration of justice is enhanced when funding is adequate
and there is funding equity among the courts.
The Commission recommends that the Ohio court system begin to move increasingly toward
state funding for essential court functions, supplemented by cost based user fees and local
appropriations. Increased state funding will ìlevel the playing field,î and insure that each court
has adequate resources to perform essential functions. The Commission also recommends that
new requirements imposed by the state be supported by state funding.
Essential functions are those necessary to resolve disputes. They include the compensation
of judges, court staff, and related personnel; equipment; supplies; and administrative expenses,
including technology; and a portion of the cost of operating court facilities.
The administration of justice is enhanced when funding for courts is adequate and there is
funding equity among courts. The Ohio Courts Futures Commission recognizes that many of its
recommendations will require new or expanded funding for courts. The Commission also
recognizes that it may be necessary to shift the balance between state and local funding to
achieve adequate funding.
The Commission recommends that state funding be phased in through an orderly and
deliberate process over a period of years including judicial compensation, court staff, court
equipment and supplies (including technology), and a portion of court facilities.
With the assumption by the state of financial responsibility for essential court functions,
formulas should be developed to assure adequate fiscal resources for those functions. The
distribution of court costs and possibly some fines and fees may be altered, with the state
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 37
receiving an increased share of these revenues. Courts should retain the flexibility to increase
(or decrease) fees to meet local needs within each locality.
The Supreme Court should continue to fund pilot programs in county or multi-county court
systems. These programs implement and test approaches to improve the administration of
justice. To meet fiscally extraordinary cases (e.g., multi-party litigation such as asbestos), the
legislature sets aside a special fund which local courts may seek permission to access.
Recommendation: Clerks of Court.
Clerks of court are an integral part of the function of the court system.
As with other offices, including judicial officers and court personnel, the Commission
recommends that the General Assembly establish qualifications for clerks of court, which may
include, but are not limited to, education, training, work experience. The Commission also
recommends that the functions performed by the clerks of courts be subject to performance
As with other court employees, clerks of court and staff should receive continuing training if
necessary for the discharge of their responsibilities.
The clerks of court should use technology appropriate to the court-related aspects of clerkís
D. Court Rules and Procedures
The vision ...
1. Summary of concepts regarding court rules and procedures
In the year 2025, as they are today, courts will be the dispute resolution centers of our
society. While courts today provide an ample means for resolving disputes, even when used
appropriately, court processes can be too expensive and lengthy. The increasing access of
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 38
citizens (and lawyers!) to courts in the future, made available through technology, will intensify
areas that already can face difficulties. Moreover, the availability of technology provides an
opportunity to enhance the quality of service that courts can provide the public, as long as care is
taken to address potentially problematic areas.
Clearly, citizens want court processes that are understandable, and that can help them resolve
their disputes quickly, effectively, and appropriately. There are several critical components for
this to occur. These include an effective system for assessing and managing cases to
accomplish this end. It requires professional, trained court personnel, and parties and lawyers
that use the system appropriately.
Comprehensible, simple rules are critical to access and appropriate movement of cases
through the court system. On the other hand, each court, whether viewed by county or by level
(e.g., trial, appellate, supreme court) has distinctive functions and environment. The following
recommendations seek to enhance the efficient and fair administration of justice, by providing
access to them, clarity, conformity to a general standard, and consistency, while recognizing the
need to develop rules on a more court - specific basis.
The Commissionís recommendations in the areas of rule and procedures, case management,
court administration, and court processes are designed to enhance the quality of current court
practices in the context of modern litigation, developing areas of concern, and available
Already, in most courts, there are tools available to resolve cases short of protracted litigation
and trial. These include ìalternativeî dispute resolution mechanisms, such as formal settlement
opportunities with a judicial officer or a trained facilitator (mediation), by a truncated hearing by
a panel of lawyers (arbitration), or even mini-trials. We recommend courts build on these
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 39
successful approaches. By evaluating cases on their entry into the court system, and directing
them to a means that will help the parties resolve the dispute at the earliest appropriate level, the
process is quicker, less costly, and more satisfactory to the parties. In other words, why
schedule someone for a heart transplant, if a by-pass, or even a low cholesterol diet, is the
appropriate step? Of course, if a transplant is necessary, it needs to be an available option, even
these days of managed care!
Another essential component of an efficient court system is trained court managers, and a
comprehensive court operations plan. Moreover, all participants in the process must cooperate
in an effective use of each stage of the proceedings. Trials, when held, will consist of well-
organized presentations of the evidence on disputed issues only.
ìDiscovery,î the means by which the participants (parties) in a case obtain information from
each other, can be a problem area. Some assert that it is responsible for 80 percent of the cost of
litigation. Factors identified as contributing to discovery problems include the adversarial
model of litigation, financial incentives, and failure of courts to set and enforce appropriate
discovery standards. Both formal and informal means can achieve the goals of discovery while
limiting unnecessary expense and delays.
Also necessary to a successful litigation process are participants who are ethical, civil,
cooperative and professional, whether as a party or a court clerk.
Under the current system, rules, primarily written in ìlegalese,î are established at three
different levels. The Supreme Court establishes rules of practice and procedure in those matters
not affecting substantive rights. The General Assembly enacts laws regarding substantive
matters. Local courts may establish rules of practice for their jurisdiction. This multi-level
approach can lead to considerable confusion for practitioners and parties. Laws enacted by the
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 40
legislature sometimes conflict with rules established by the Supreme Court. Local rules often
act as a trap for the unwary, leading to decisions based on failure to comply with the local rules
rather than on the merits of the case. As courts increasingly are accessed from remote sites, and
by citizens who are not lawyers, this dilemma intensifies.
Not all disputes are resolved in the courtroom. Judicial officers may assign cases to
different tracks depending on the nature of the controversy. Trials are held only in those cases
where other dispute resolution alternatives have failed or were found to be inappropriate. Trials
are well-organized presentations of the evidence only on disputed issues. In the court system,
all individuals are treated with dignity and respect.
2. Recommendations and rationale
Recommendation: Delivery of Services
Courts continue and enhance high standards of professionalism. Standards of conduct are
The Commission strongly recommends early that, in order to maintain public trust and
confidence, courts must continue and enhance high standards of professionalism. The relatively
recent ìA Lawyerís Creedî and ìA Lawyerís Aspirational Idealsî provided a first step, and the
Commission encourages compliance and enforcement along with vigorous enforcement of the
standards of conduct for judges and lawyers. The Commission believes that civility, ethical
behavior, fundamental concern for the treatment of the public, and respect for the courts, the
judicial system, and participants should guide behavior in the judicial process. There are and
will continue to be comprehensive codes of conduct and professional responsibility for judges,
magistrates, court personnel, and attorneys and these standards must be vigorously enforced
consistent with these priorities. Also, judicial officers, clerks, and court personnel will continue
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 41
to deliver services in an impartial, efficient, timely, and uniform manner to ensure fairness to all
Recommendation: Court Administration
Courts are administered professionally by court administrators as part of a comprehensive
As recently as 1970, there were no court administrators in the courts of the United States.
Over the last 25 years, court administration has emerged as an important profession. Today,
virtually all courts have a professional court administrator. The purpose of court administration
is to preserve the time and attention of judges so that they can be directed to the disposition of
cases. However, as court administration becomes more complex, it will be more and more
important to have professionally trained court administrators. While the Commission would
prefer that every court have a full-time court administrator, the Commission recognizes that the
caseload and staffing of smaller courts may not justify an individual full-time court administrator
for each court.
In addition, the Commission recommends that each court have a comprehensive management
plan, a court operations plan, to assist in assessing service needs, allocating resources to meet
projected needs, evaluating performance, and planning to ensure compliance. Such a court
operations plan should be reviewed and updated periodically.
Recommendation: Case Management
Each court implements an integrated, effective, case flow management process to promote
predictability, early and continuous court involvement, flexibility, adaptability to changing
circumstances, and optimum use of resources. All divisions of a multiple judge court cooperate
to manage case flow
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 42
Since the early 1990ís, each court in Ohio has been required to develop and file with the
Supreme Court a case management plan. The Commission supports this requirement and
recommends that the case management process continue to be improved.
A fundamental principle is that each case should be treated individually. The court should
evaluate and track each case pursuant to a plan. Upon filing, each case should be assessed to
determine the best and most efficient way to resolve the case fairly. This may be compared to
ìtriageî in the medical field, in which the patient is evaluated and a treatment plan developed.
Each case management plan should promote an integrated, effective, case flow management
process. Key characteristics include predictability, early and continuing court involvement of
the judge and the court, flexibility, adaptability to changing circumstances and optimum use of
resources, including judicial officers, staff, and information technology. Case management
processes should move cases from filing to disposition in a timely, cost effective manner using
the best means available. Such means may include mediation, arbitration, and conventional
litigation. In addition the judicial management process should be consistent throughout the
court. Cases should be reported as closed only when all matters have been disposed.
An important element of good case management is evaluation. The Commission
recommends that the Supreme Court continue to improve its computerized reporting system and
enforce mandatory reporting guidelines. The Commission also recommends periodic audits by
the Supreme Court. This computerized reporting system and supporting technology should
provide compatibility and interchangeability of data that are consistent with statewide standards,
and meaningful sanctions should be enforced for noncompliance.
Recommendation: Rules and Procedures
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 43
Court rules, forms and procedures should be uniform throughout the state to enhance the
efficient and fair administration of justice.
During the Commissions research and public comment process, one of the more significant
concerns expressed by the public is that litigation takes too long and costs too much. The
Supreme Court has continued to make efforts to expedite the disposition of cases. In general,
the Commission encourages the Supreme Court to continue these practices. Court rules, forms,
and procedures regarding the practice and general case process should promote efficiency and
the best use of party, attorney, and court resources.
The Commission recommends that court rules, forms, and procedures regarding practice and
general case process be as uniform as possible throughout the state and consistently apply. We
live in a mobile society. Ohioans conduct business and personal affairs across city, county, and
state lines. The effectiveness, efficiency, and credibility of the court system depends in part on
the ease with which the constituents of the court system can make use of the processes that are
available to them. One example cited was a requirement that briefs in one county be in a
particular type style. A lawyer from another county had his case thrown out because he simply
was unclear and used one variation of a type style rather than the type specified in that court.
Uniform standards also promote decisions based on the merits rather than technical grounds.
However, local courts may adopt rules that are consistent with the intent and requirements of the
rules of general application.
The Commission also recommends that all court rules, forms, and procedures and other
related documents be written in a language that a lay person can understand. This is not only to
facilitate the orderly the decision of cases, but also to permit the users of the court system to
understand what is occurring. Also, in order to enhance public knowledge of the court system,
the court recommends that all rules, forms, and procedures be published and available on the
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 44
Internet, or its technological counterpart, according to a process and standards adopted by the
Supreme Court. In addition, all rules and changes, including local rules should be written and
published or posted in a timely manner in an accessible location, including the Internet or its
equivalent. In the information age, more and more people will wish to be involved in legal
matters, especially simple proceedings.
The Ohio Courts Futures Commission also recommends the continuation of the Supreme
Court Rules Advisory Committee, or its future equivalent, to draft, implement, and monitor rules
of general practice and procedure and foster innovations and improvements. The committee
should also monitor pending legislation for consistency with the rules of practice and procedure
and as in current practice, the committee should identify innovations created by local rules, and
if appropriate, draft rules of statewide application.
The Commission also encourages that pleadings contain a clear, concise statement of the
controversy and the relief sought. Currently, it is sometimes difficult to determine the issue in
dispute which may create problems for the judges and the parties. Too many lawyers use
ìcannedî pleadings on the computer without focusing on the actual specific nature of the current
case or controversy.
Recommendation: Appeals Court Process
Appellate courts render decisions that resolve disputes in a timely manner, guaranteeing
fundamental fairness and promoting finality. The commission encourages appellate courts to
adopt streamlined case processing.
The Commission notes that the same types of case management, practices, and technology
that are implemented in the trial courts could also apply in the courts of appeals, and that the
same basic principles could be used to enhance case management at all levels with similar goals
of uniformity, consistency, and efficiency.
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 45
The Commission recommends that appellate issues be consolidated for presentation and
finality, and a citation system developed that encompasses all forms of case publication,
including technological means.
The Commission specifically recommends that the appellate courts consider fixed time limits
for filing appeals, scheduling arguments, and rendering decisions. A multi-tiered identification
system, based on the nature of the case, could be used. This is similar to the case evaluation and
tracking or ìtriageî discussed in the trial court case management.
In addition, to expedite civil appeals, appellate court should require dispute resolution, as
appropriate, with cases assigned by the administrative judge. In some types of cases where time
is of the essence, such as custody disputes and cases involving juveniles, parties may use
expedited appeals. Criteria prescribe which cases qualify for these appeals.
The Commission recommends that appellate courts use case management practices and
conferences to direct cases to mediation, identify and narrow issues, and seek stipulations.
The Commission recommends the use of appropriate technology which enhances the
efficiency of the appellate process.
The Commission recommends that appellate decisions are clear and their use is not
Recommendation: Trial Court Process
Active, early, and continued involvement of judicial officers in cases allows the effective,
appropriate and timely resolving of cases and disputes. Counsel and parties cooperate fully in
the process, which facilitates resolving their dispute.
The Commission recommends that judicial officers communicate with counsel, early and
throughout the proceedings and that the judicial officer control the proceedings, and expect a
high degree of professionalism and civility in the conduct and management of the case. Judicial
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 46
officers should meet with counsel early in the process, and map a schedule for the case and
continue to meet with counsel at regular intervals to monitor progress. On the other hand,
counsel should be responsible for promptly bringing difficulties in meeting the schedule to the
attention of the judge. Judges and judicial officers should be available to promptly resolve
discovery disputes. The judicial officer should identify cases that may need active intervention,
schedule more frequent conferences, and impose sanctions to discourage and reduce incidents of
noncompliance and, court decisions should be clear and articulate the basis for all of the
substantive parts of the decision.
Recommendation: Role of Counsel and Parties
Counsel and parties participate and cooperate fully in resolving the case or dispute, using court
By the year 2025, judicial officers, lawyers, and parties should continue to recognize that
the fundamental mission of the courts is to resolve disputes as efficiently as possible within the
adversarial model. The Commission emphasizes the importance of active, early, and continuing
involvement by judicial officers.
Counsel should deliver services professionally and in a manner designed to promote the
efficient and fair resolving of the dispute, consistently with the law, court rules, and professional
standards. They should facilitate problem solving through effective dispute resolution
mechanisms. Technological advances should be used whenever possible to expedite discovery,
manage cases, and for trial practice. Counsel resort to judicial involvement only where
necessary to resolve an issue, and not for areas in which they should cooperate. Local counsel is
responsible for communicating practice requirements to out of town counsel. Both are
responsible for the content and tone of pleadings.
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 47
Recommendation: Litigants Without Counsel
Courts develop and use approaches which better serve the legal needs of the poor and the needs
of disputants without counsel.
The Commission concluded that courts should permit individuals to exercise their right to
represent themselves, as long as they do not unduly burden the system. In addition, legal
instructional materials should be available for litigants without counsel. Simplifying,
streamlining, and making uniform legal processes and court forms will enable litigants to
represent themselves when desirable or necessary. These efforts will also expedite cases
through the system, requiring courts and opposing counsel to spend less time assisting
self-represented litigants through proceedings.
Trials are concise, well organized presentations of the evidence featuring succinct explanations
of the issues in dispute
Over the last several years, much progress has been made in improving trial procedure and
encouraging trials only on matters in dispute. Apparently, courts encourage lawyers and parties
to move toward resolution of the case in the most efficient and appropriate manner, including the
use of alternative dispute resolution and stipulations (agreeing on matters that are not in dispute).
In addition, the Commission recommends that:
Judges rule on evidentiary issues, admissibility of exhibits, disputed issues and expert
witness qualifications prior to trial, where applicable and appropriate. There are uniform
standards for expert testimony. Where appropriate, judges conduct settlement discussions at
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 48
Although courts favor in-person testimony of witnesses during court proceedings, the use of
stipulations, depositions, and other technological means to provide evidence most conveniently
and at the lowest cost is encouraged.
Courts and counsel should be skilled in the use of technology.
E. Jury Trials and Jury Reform
The vision ... In the future, the jury trial continues to be an important method of resolving
disputes. There is widespread understanding among all user populations of how the jury system
advances the standards and morals of the community within the court system. Jury service is
accepted as a responsibility of citizenship and people view jury duty as a community service and
an opportunity to contribute to how society resolves civil disputes, deters criminal conduct and
otherwise protects the rights the individual.
By 2025, juries are respected as valuable to the administration of justice and courts use of
jurors time efficiently and responsibly. Jurors receive adequate compensation for expenses
associated with service, including the expense of time away from personal and professional
commitments, and jury service is as comfortable and convenient as possible — even extending to
remote access as appropriate.
Technology has allowed the courts to build jury pools which accurately reflect the diversity
of the jurisdiction. Judges actively manage the jury selection process to ensure diversity is
maintained and the focus is on issues pertinent to the legitimate purposes of voir dire and not the
personal characteristics of the jurors.
Juror comprehension is considered paramount to high-quality decision making and fair and
just adjudication. Attorneys and judges use a variety of techniques to serve the individual
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 49
learning needs of the jurors and enhance jury participation. Court practices support a juror’s
need to participate in an informed and involved manner and encourage the use tools which
enhance the decision-making process.
1. Summary of concepts regarding jury trials and jury reform
Juries are the essence of democracy in our courtroom. The belief that citizens should be
judged by their peers is held more strongly in our country than in any other. Thomas Jefferson
described the citizen jury as “the only anchor by which a government can be held to the
principles of its Constitution”. (Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, State of the Judiciary Address
to the 122nd General Assembly, February 12, 1997.)
In the future, jury trials will continue to be an important method of resolving disputes and an
important part of our court system. In fact, there is no more important public duty than jury
service. In the past, there was the perception that jury service was uncomfortable and
unpleasant. Unfortunately, the perception was not always incorrect. In some courts jurors
were kept in cramped, crowded rooms, often with little to do. Often, little effort was made to
make efficient use of jurorís time and the convenience, comforts, and compensation were
minimal. In addition, over the years, statutory exemptions for certain occupations evolved, and
persons over the age of 70 were exempted from jury service.
Over the last 15 years, numerous efforts have been made across the country to improve the
quality of juror service by eliminating exemptions, making jury service as convenient and
comfortable as possible, and providing adequate compensation and expenses. Efforts have been
made to expand the jury pools to reflect the diversity of the jurisdiction. In addition, there have
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 50
been efforts to enhance jurorsí ability to participate in the trial in an informed and involved
In 1997, Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, in his State of the Judiciary address to the Ohio
General Assembly, called for jury reforms, legislation to eliminate all occupational and age
exemptions from jury service and increase the compensation for jury duty, which does not
always cover the individualís costs for parking and lunch. In 199_, the General Assembly
enacted _____ Bill No. [ask Rick Dove for details].
On the basis of its research and study, the Commission concluded that jury service is one of
the most important responsibilities in our democracy, and that efforts should be made to enhance
the quality of jury service. The Commission emphasized that many of the recommendations
relating to the improvements in the jury system are currently being implemented or tested in
Ohio and elsewhere. As a result, the Commission strongly recommended that the Supreme
Court begin implementation of jury reform as soon as possible.
2. Recommendations and rationale
Recommendation: Jury Summons
The jury summons provides adequate notice, is clear and understandable, and explains the court
system and jury service, and provides an opportunity for potential jurors to ask questions.
Improving the quality of jury service begins with the jury summons. The summons provides
an opportunity to communicate with potential jurors and to provide information about jury
service and the Ohio court system. The jury summons should, at the very least, provide
adequate notice, so that potential jurors can arrange their schedules. The information should be
clear and understandable and provide information on the court system, jury service and the role
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 51
of jurors. In addition, jurors should have the opportunity, in advance, to ask questions about
The summons and the accompanying information should be encouraging to potential jurors.
There is evidence that a few people may avoid jury service because they feel inadequate to serve
as jurors; others avoid jury service based on perceptions of former conditions of jury service. In
either case, the jury summons should encourage a positive attitude toward jury service.
The Commission also recommends that courts should have appropriate procedures for
addressing persons who simply do not respond to jury summons.
Recommendation: Jury Pools
Courts use expanded jury source lists to achieve more representative juries. Jury service is
managed to ensure that all qualified citizens have the opportunity to participate in jury service.
In the year 2025, courts work from greatly expanded jury lists to achieve more
representative juries, with the goal that the jury pool is inclusive to reflect the diversity of the
jurisdiction. Courts also manage their jury programs to ensure that all qualified citizens have an
opportunity to serve. Courts use technology to enhance the quality of the jury lists and the
demographic representation. For example, jury lists may be expanded to include voter
registration lists, driverís license lists, motor vehicle registration lists, telephone directories, state
identification card lists, and other sources to ensure an adequate representative jury pool.
According to the Ohio Jury Standards, juries should include “all cognizable groups within the
Most large courts in Ohio are currently combining their efforts to create a continued jury
pool, in one location, administered by a single jury commission to serve all of the trial courts in
the county. Courts using the single jury pool report that it is more efficient, avoids duplication
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 52
of personnel and technology, and minimizes overlaps in jury lists and otherwise. The
Commission recommends that other jurisdictions consider the creation of single jury pools to
serve all of the trial courts of the county.
Recommendation: Voir Dire
Judges are involved and actively manage the voir dire portion of the jury selection process.
There are no written rules regarding voir dire and the participation of judges in the jury
selection process. The Commission recommends that all judges become actively involved in
managing the voir dire process. This may include permitting judges to excuse protective jurors
outside the jurorís presence, in allowing attorneys to present ìmini opening statementsî to
potential jurors before the selection of the jury, so that jurors have a context for the questions
asked and the later trial testimony.î However, the Commission urges that the process of jury
selection to continue to respect and safeguard the privacy and dignity of jurors.
Juror Service and Treatment
Jurors are respected, valuable part of the justice system. Courts make efficient use of jurors’
time, and make jury service as comfortable and convenient as possible. Jurors receive
adequate compensation and expenses.
Jurors provide an important public service. In the past, the courts did not always take into
account jurors’ personal lives or employment or make efficient use of jurors’ time. The
Commission recommends that courts make every effort to make the most efficient use of jurorsí
time and ensure that jurors are not unduly burdened by jury service. Jurors should have
comfortable, accessible waiting rooms designed specifically for that use. Jurors should be
adequately compensated, and additional funds provided to cover incidental expenses associated
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 53
with juror service, including parking. Courts should also make an effort to provide
transportation and parking.
To minimize inconvenience to jurors and their employers, jurors should serve the shortest
possible term consistent with the needs of the trial court. Currently, courts in Ohio are
experimenting with methods such as ìone day-one trialî and ìon call.î In ìone day-one trial,î
jurors are summoned for a single day or a single trial and, to the extent possible, know when
they will be called and what they will be doing. The ìon callî or ìcall inî method uses
technology to permit jurors to call in at the beginning of the day to determine whether they will
be needed on that day. In addition, courts should use technology to gather data and to minimize
wasted time and inconvenience caused by last minute settlements and rescheduling. Again,
using ìcall inî or ìon callî technology and calling the minimum number of jurors are efficient
mechanisms and encouraging juror participation.
The Commission recommends that the jurorís employment and salary should be protected.
The Commission also recommends that there be ample information for jurors. As discussed
above, the summons should provide information, but the Commission also recommends an
orientation and written materials to familiarize potential jurors with jury service. The
Commission recommends that judges continue to advise the jury of the expected length of the
trial, trial procedures, and the progress of the trial. In addition, judges and courts should make
every effort to address language and cultural differences to enhance jury participation and
Recommendation: Jury Activities, Juror Understanding of Evidence
In order to provide jurors with the necessary tools to process, evaluate, and comprehend the
evidence and the law and to make informed decisions, court procedures allow jurors, under
appropriate instruction, to discuss evidence, take notes, ask questions, and keep notebooks.
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 54
After considerable research and discussion, the Commission concluded that every effort
should be made to ensure that fully understand the case that they are deciding. Courts should
provide jurors with the necessary tools to process, evaluate, and comprehend the evidence and
the law, and to make informed decisions. The Commission recommends that after sufficient
evaluation, court procedures should allow jurors, with appropriate instructions, to:
- discuss evidence during the trial, when all jurors are together;
- take notes, including the use of electronic means, during the trial and during -
deliberations to aid their memory for both factual and conceptual items;
- ask questions in a manner in which both partiesí rights are protected;
- in lengthy trials and trials of complex cases, have notebooks for keeping documents and
other information about the case;
- have access to projected real-time transcripts during the trial to facilitate jury service
and to comply with the ADA (American With Disabilities Act);
- during deliberations, jurors have the text of jury instructions and trial testimony;
randomly designate the alternate jurors just before deliberations;
- consider the use of special masters to simplify issues to be presented to the jury.
Recommendation: Jury Instructions and Deliberations
The judge provides jury instructions when they are most useful to jurors, using clear, simple
The Commission concluded that the traditional method of providing juror instructions at the
end of the trial could be improved upon. For example, it may be appropriate for a judge to
provide final instructions before closing arguments instead of after them. Many judges now
provide instructions in writing or even in electronic format available to all jurors.
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 55
The Commission also felt that it would be useful to have jury instructions and trial testimony
available through technological means during deliberations, just as historically they have had
physical evidence. If jurors reach an impasse, the judge, together with the attorneys, may agree
to provide the jury with additional information, such as testimony, stipulated evidence, and legal
instructions, in order to assist the jury in deciding the case. This support helps to preserve the
integrity of the jury system, and promotes judicial economy and finality.
Finally, the Commission encourages judges who are not already doing so to instruct the jury
on effective techniques for selecting a foreperson and deliberating.
Recommendation: Statewide Jury Commission
The Supreme Court will establish a statewide jury commission to evaluate jury practices
statewide, establish uniform statewide standards for jury service, foster the development of
innovative jury practices, and make recommendations to the Supreme Court and the General
Assembly regarding improvements in jury service.
The Commission recommends the appointment of a statewide jury study commission to
assist the Supreme Court in implement the changes recommended by the Ohio Courts Futures
Commission. Some of the Commissionís recommendations can be implemented immediately or
through pilot projects. The Supreme Court may also require an evaluation/assessment of jury
practices statewide. The Commission would also encourage uniform jury practices statewide,
foster the continuing development of innovative jury practices, and make recommendations to
the Supreme Court and the General Assembly regarding improvments.
The Ohio Courts Futures Commission recognizes that a number of the recommendations relating
to improvements in the jury system are currently being implemented or tested in Ohio and
elsewhere. Since many of the recommendations have already been demonstrated to be effective,
the Supreme Court should begin implementation of jury reform.
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 56
F. Judicial Officers and Court Personnel
The vision ... In the future, all court personnel, including judicial officers, are selected on the
basis of superior qualifications and appropriate requisite experience. Judicial officers are
qualified, fair, and impartial. They are part of an independent judiciary and represent the rule of
law. Judicial officers represent the diversity of the community. The judiciary inspires public
confidence in the judicial system.
Any method of judicial selection is consistent with, and reinforces, this vision of the
judiciary. All who select judges, including the Governor, political parties, selection committees,
and voters, are committed to the same vision. They are informed about the judicial system and
1. Summary of concepts regarding judicial officers and court personnel
Ohioís court system is regarded as one of the best in the nation. Ohio is blessed with
excellent judges; 702 active judges in the Supreme Court, courts of appeals, common pleas,
municipal, and county courts, and approximately 130 retired judges who are available for
assignment by the Chief Justice.
Ohioís judges have demonstrated national leadership. Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer
served as president of the national Conference of Chief Justices and Chairman of the Board of
the National Center for State Courts; Judge Thomas C. Nurre (check facts, organizational names,
and spellings) of the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court served as President of the American
Judges Association and Judges W. Donald Reader of Stark County and James A. Ray of Lucas
County have provided active leadership to the National Association of Juvenile and Family
Court Judges. In addition, numerous Ohio judges have served as faculty at the National Judicial
College and other national forums.
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 57
It is widely recognized that Ohio judges have the highest standards of performance, and there
have been few instances of poor performance or ethical lapses/misconduct. However, the
Commissionís research and public hearing process revealed major areas of concern about the
manner in which judges are selected, particularly the perceptions of conflict of interest in judicial
fundraising from attorneys and special interest groups, and the overall cost of judicial campaigns.
The Commission strongly recommends that in order to maintain and enhance public trust and
confidence in the judicial system, judicial officers (the term used in this report to include judges
and court magistrates) should be held to the highest standards, including qualifications,
performance, professional and personal ethics, and continuing education.
The Commission recommends a number of improvements which should be adopted regardless of
the method of judicial selection.
2. Analysis of Judicial Selection Issues
Under Article IV, Section 6 of the Ohio Constitution, all judges in Ohio at all levels (trial,
appellate, and Supreme Court) are elected to six-year terms by non-partisan election. If a
judicial vacancy occurs, under Article IV, Section 13, the governor has the sole power to fill the
Prior to 1850, Ohio judges were appointed. The Ohio Constitution was amended in 1851 to
require that all judges be elected. There have been periodic efforts to change this method of
selection. The most recent was a statewide ballot measure in 1987 that would have established
commissions whose members would be nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate
to nominate attorneys for Supreme Court justice and intermediate appellate judges. The
governor would appoint a judge from three names forwarded by a commission. Trial court
judges would continue to be elected. The ballot measure failed.
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 58
Across the United States, unlike the other branches of government, there is no uniform
method of judicial election. While, like Ohio, most states elected judges in the past, there is a
growing trend in favor of merit selection. About fifteen (15) states use merit selection for all of
their judges, and another twelve (12) states use merit selection for their state supreme courts, and
at least 35 states have some form of merit selection of judges (CHECK THIS).
Arguments in Favor of Merit Selection
In a democracy, all three branches of government ñ the executive, legislative, and judiciary ñ
should be accountable to the public. Periodic, contested, partisan elections have long proven to
be well-accepted devices to make the first two branches accountable.
Proponents of merit selection assert (believe, argue, contend, state) that in the judicial
branch, judges are, and should be, different from the other branches of government. Judges are
sworn to enforce the law in a non-partisan, fair, impartial, even-handed manner. They should
not be subject to the same types of pressures to rule in a particular way, that are appropriate for
members of the other branches of government. Nor should judges be pressured by the other
branches of government to rule in certain way, especially in cases where constitutional issues are
at issue. Of course, judges, like other public officials, should be accountable. Decisions can be
reversed on appeal, and judges can be disciplined or removed for violations of the Code of
Judicial Conduct. Proponents believe that merit selection makes it more likely that capable
individuals become judges, and retention elections preserve the ultimate right of the public to
hold judges accountable. [INSERT PARAGRAPH ON HOW MERIT SELECTION WORKS.]
There are also practical problems with judicial elections. There is much evidence that
judicial elections are plagued by very low turnout and a lack of information permitting voters to
make truly informed choices. This has been true in Ohio, where, perhaps ironically, most
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judges are initially appointed by the governor to fill an unexpired term, many judges run
unopposed, and there is low turnout and little substantive discussion of issue in judicial election
campaigns. Merit selection proponents contend that given the low turnout and high incidence of
unopposed candidates create a real danger that judges in Ohio, often appointed in the first place,
will essentially be chosen behind closed doors. When judicial elections are contested, the low
level of information available has meant that most Ohio voters use factors such as partisan
affiliation, name recognition, or incumbency to select a particular candidate.
Proponents of merit selection note other concerns, including: (1) low regard by the public
for judicial elections; (2) voters have few incentives or easy ways to investigate the
decision-making or courtroom practices of individual judges; (3) the media does a very uneven
job of covering the courts, usually focusing on sensational criminal cases; and (4) complex rules
place limits on what judges and judicial candidates can say during elections. In addition, recent
surveys indicate that a large majority of Ohioans felt that political campaign contributions
directly influenced judicial decisions.
Proponents also assert that merit selection is more likely to insure the representation of
women and African-Americans and other minorities on the Ohio bench.
Arguments in Favor of Electing Judges
Proponents of the current elective system assert that in a constitutional democracy, it stands
to reason that all of the branches of government that affect citizensí lives be accountable to those
people. Proponents of the current elective system for judges argue that the best, simplest, most
straightforward way to make judges accountable is to periodically elect them, as we do with the
other branches of government.
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In Ohio, all judges have been elected since an amendment to the Ohio Constitution in 1851,
and a majority of the United States still elect most or all of their judges. Proponents of the
current system assert that there are no compelling reasons to change this practice. In 1987,
Ohioans soundly defeated a merit selection proposal, based on the argument that voters should
not give up their right to vote for judges. Like the executive and legislative branches, judges
make policy by rendering decisions in civil and criminal cases brought before them that have
important consequences that affect our daily lives. If a particular judge makes bad policy,
voters should have the option not to elect, or re-elect, that person. Likewise, a judge who is
doing a good job will have the opportunity to be re-elected.
Proponents of judicial elections recognize that judicial elections are not perfect, as they
sometimes suffer from poor turnout, lack of information, or other problems, but they counter that
elections for the other branches of government often suffer from the same problems. Persons
running for the office, political parties, the media, and others can certainly do a better job
informing the public.
Proponents of judicial elections argue that merit selection is no panacea. Proponents of the
status quo argue that there are politics in the appointment process. The nominating
commissions to select judges under such plans are usually not chosen in a democratic manner,
and there is a real danger of elitism and interest-group control of the process, they assert.
Moreover, there is little evidence that the qualifications of judges differ in any meaningful way
in elective states as opposed to merit selection states. Finally, as more women and minorities
participate as candidates for our various elective offices, it is probable that electing judges is as
good if not a better way, compared to merit plans, to insure the judiciary is more representative
of those groups.
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3. Recommendations and rationale
Recommendation: Judicial Selection
Methods of judicial selection should have the following characteristics: a) is non partisan at all
levels; b) promotes diversity reflecting the community; c) provides that qualifications are based
on objective criteria and are published; d) includes mechanisms to ensure that voters are well
informed about judicial candidates; e) minimizes the role of money to avoid conflicts of interest;
and f) maintains and enhances public confidence in the justice system.
One of the most challenging issues faced by the Commission was the method of selecting
judges. Since 1851, all judges in Ohio have been elected. However, the Commissionís
research revealed that a majority of states have at least some form of ìmerit selection,î in which
judges are appointed and stand for retention elections, and the literature in the field and the
trends seem to favor merit selection.
The Commission debated the issue of judicial selection at great length and, in the end, voted
to present a balanced view of the alternatives in its final report. However, the Commission
agreed on certain basic principles for any judicial selection process. Any method of judicial
selection should have the following characteristics:
Non-partisan at all levels. The Commission recognized that it is difficult if not impossible
to remove partisan politics from the process. However, every effort should be made to make
the effort multi-partisan and, to the extent practicable, to remove partisan politics from the
process. This may include not listing the party on the ballot and non-partisan primary
Promotes diversity in reflecting the community. Statistics indicate that the judiciary in Ohio
is not representative of the makeup of the general population, including the number of
African-American and other minority judges and, to a lesser extent, in the number of women
on the bench. Only ___ of the 702 state judges are non-white. Approximately __ percent
are African-American compared to ten percent of the general population.
Provides criteria that are based on objective criteria and are published. As discussed above,
the criteria for selection for judicial officers should be enhanced. The criteria should be
objective. In addition, the criteria should be published and widely disseminated so that all
who are subject to the qualification criteria should have access to the information.
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Includes mechanisms to ensure that voters are well informed about judicial candidates.
There is ample evidence that voters are not well informed about judicial candidates. For
example, the number of voters decreases in judicial races. There was significant discussion
about the lack of knowledge of the court system and judicial candidates in the public
hearings and other aspects of the public comment process. As a result, the Commission
recommends a major effort to inform the public and voters about the court system and the
judicial education process and equally important is information about judicial candidates.
Minimizes the role of money to avoid conflicts of interest. The Commission recognized that
there is at least the appearance of conflict of interest when a judicial candidate accepts
campaign contributions from lawyers who appear before the court. Every effort should be
made to minimize the role of money generally and specifically those campaign contributions
that create actual or apparent conflicts of interest and maintains and enhances public
Maintains and enhances public confidence in the justice system.
The Supreme Court establishes qualifications for ìjudicial positions,î according to the same
process used for the promulgation of the rules of practice and procedure for Ohio courts (Article
IV, Section 5 (B) of the Ohio Constitution). The Supreme Court appoints a nonpartisan judicial
qualification commission to assist in establishing, administering, and enforcing the
qualifications; evaluating candidates based on the qualification criteria; and, for in-term
vacancies, recommending candidates for selection by the Governor.
The Commission recommends that the Supreme Court establish qualifications for judges,
magistrates, and others within the justice system. In order to preserve checks and balances, the
Commission recommends a process similar to that used for the promulgation of rules of court
practice and procedure for Ohio courts in Article IV, Section 5(B) of the Ohio Constitution.
Under that process, rules of court process and procedure are submitted by the Supreme Court to
the General Assembly in January, and the Court has until May to make amendments. The
General Assembly may hold hearings on the proposed rules and, unless the General Assembly
specifically disapproves the rules, they become effective on July 1.
The Supreme Court would be assisted in developing qualifications by a judicial qualifications
commission, a non-partisan/multi-partisan, representative, and diverse commission comprised of
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lawyer and non-lawyer members. The commission would assist the court in establishing criteria
for judicial office. The qualifications would be submitted to the General Assembly, amended if
appropriate, and become effective unless the rules are disapproved by the General Assembly.
The criteria would be widely distributed to the public.
The Commission would evaluate candidates for office based on the qualifications to
determine whether each candidate is qualified to serve as a judicial officer. In cases in which
there is an in-term vacancy in a judicial office, the Commission would evaluate all candidatesí
qualifications and recommend selected candidates to the Governor for appointment. In addition,
the commission would assist the Supreme Court in administering and enforcing the qualifications
for office. It was felt that many of the tasks in administering and enforcing judicial
qualifications were ministerial and could be better handled by a commission under the
supervision of, and with appeal to, the Supreme Court.
The Commission recommends enhanced qualifications for judicial officers. The
Commission discussed a number of additional qualifications for office, including requiring a
number of years of experience relevant to the position sought, increasing the number of years of
experience as a practicing lawyer from six to up to ten years, and requiring curriculum of courses
that would improve an individualís qualifications to serve as a judicial officer.
Recommendation: In-term Vacancies in Elected Judicial Positions
Under the Ohio Constitution, the Governor continues to have sole authority to name individuals
to fill judicial vacancies. When discharging that responsibility, the Governor appoints only
those individuals who meet the qualifying criteria for judicial candidates, as outlined above.
Additionally, the Governor appoints only individuals on a list of candidates nominated by the
judicial qualification commission, described above.
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Currently, the Governor appoints individuals to fill vacancies in judicial positions.
Governors vary in the selection process. Some consult with the local bar or political parties.
Others make the decision without consulting local officials.
The Commission recommends that the selection process be improved and strengthened. As
described above, all individuals must meet established qualifications for office. As describe
above, the Commission recommends the creation of a judicial qualification commission. The
commission would evaluate the candidates. For internal vacancies in elected judicial positions,
the judicial qualification commission would then narrow the list, as necessary, and forward a list
of recommended candidates to the Governor. Otherwise, there could be dozens of candidates
for a judicial position. The process would help to insure that high quality individuals would be
Recommendation: Judicial officers do not engage in the practice of law. Judicial
officers may serve more than one court or more than one function.
The Commissionís research revealed that part-time judges often practice law in the same
community, which creates at least the appearance of a conflict of interest. Part-time judges may
preside in court on one day and the next day practice in the same community and courts as
adversaries or co-counsel with other attorneys who appear before them in court. The
Commission recommends that all judges in Ohio should be full time. This would enhance the
professionalism of the court system and eliminate potential or actual conflicts of interest relating
to part-time judges. However, in areas where the caseloads do not support full-time judicial
officers, judges would be permitted to serve more than one court, and court magistrates would be
permitted to serve in more than one court or perform more than one function in the courts.
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An individual who has been selected for a judicial position should complete a mandatory training
program within six months of taking office, in addition to the educational requirements to qualify
as a judicial candidate. Such training would include, but is not limited to, mentoring by a sitting
judge. Some form of legal education continues for the entire period the individual sits as a
The Commission believes that another way to enhance the quality of judges in Ohio is to
provide additional training prior to taking the bench. In the past, newly elected judges received
a one or two day voluntary orientation by the Judicial College of the Supreme Court. In 1999,
the judicial orientation was made mandatory and expanded to one week. (CHECK THIS.) The
Commission recommends additional training. (Note: there is no formal educational
curriculum or other training for judges in Ohio. In Europe and other countries there are degree
programs and internships and extensive multi-year training programs for judges.) The
Commission recommends extensive training, which may include one week or more of training
prior to taking the bench and a follow-up training session after the judge has been on the bench
for several months. The training may also include mentoring by a sitting judge.
Recommendation: Judicial Training/Continuing Judicial Education
Equitable funding is provided for judicial officersí attendance at continuing judicial education
(CLE) programs, which are coordinated with Ohio law schools and other sources. Judicial
officers are required to take continuing education programs that incorporate gender, cultural, and
The Commission emphasized the importance of well funded continuing education for all
judicial officers. The Commission suggests that this could be coordinated with Ohio law
schools. In addition, judicial officers should be required to take continuing education that
incorporates gender, cultural and diversity training.
Recommendation: Judicial Evaluation
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The Supreme Court has established the judicial evaluation project which includes periodic
performance evaluations of judges according to appropriate criteria. The report of the judgeís
evaluation is widely disseminated to educate voters considering an incumbent in a retention
Currently, Ohio has no mechanism for evaluating the performance of judges. Many states,
including Arizona, have established a wide range of programs to evaluate judges. Over the
years, judges have requested some mechanism to assess their progress in the profession of
judging. As a result, the Commission recommends that the Supreme Court establish a judicial
evaluation process and that this process should include some user input. The process should be
based on objective criteria and the criteria should be known to the judge, the evaluator, and the
public. In addition, periodically during a judgeís tenure in office a report based on performance
evaluations, user input, and other appropriate criteria should be widely disseminated to educate
Judicial salaries, benefits, and retirement are sufficient to attract and retain well qualified
individuals. A separate and permanent judicial compensation commission recommends
compensation changes to the legislature, and those recommendations become law automatically
if formal legislative rejection does not occur.
The National Center for State Courts publishes a bi-annual report on salaries of judges in the
fifty states and some territories. There is some evidence that Ohioís judges salaries are not
consistent with the salaries of other similar states. The Commission recommends that every
effort be made to ensure that in Ohio judicial salaries, benefits, and retirement are sufficient to
attract and retain well-qualified individuals.
The Futures Commission recommends the appointment of a separate, permanent judicial
compensation commission to study judicial salaries and to recommend changes to the legislature.
In an effort to remove politics from the issue of judicial compensation, the Commission
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recommends that recommendations of the judicial compensation commission become effective
automatically unless there is formal legislative rejection. This process is similar to the process
for promulgating Rules of Practice of Procedure for Ohio courts in Article IV, Section 5(B) of
the Ohio Constitution.
Recommendation: Judicial age limits have been re-examined.
In reviewing demographic and other research information, the Commission recognized that
Ohioís population is changing. As part of the Modern Courts Amendment in 1976, the
Constitution was amended to prohibit individuals who had reached the age of 70 from running
for judicial office. Based on changes in society and medicine, resulting in people living longer
and continuing to be productive later in life, the Commission believes that the judicial age limit
should be re-examined.
Recommendation: Retention of Judges.
When a judgeís term ends, s/he faces an election to remain in office. If the incumbent is
opposed in the election, a traditional general election system is used, if the challenging candidate
meets the qualifying criteria. To remain in office, an unopposed incumbent will face a retention
election in which more than 50 per cent of the votes cast for that position must favor retention of
the incumbent in that position. If an incumbent does not receive more than 50 per cent of the
votes cast for that position, the position will be declared vacant and the Governor will appoint an
interim judge until the next regular election.
The current system of election for unopposed incumbent judges is retained.
Note: The Commission was divided on this recommendation. As a result, the Commission
agreed to include both options in the final report.
The Commission had extensive discussion and debate on whether there should be retention
elections for incumbent candidates who have no opposition.
On the one hand, it was argued that exceptionally qualified individuals may be unopposed
because they are doing an excellent job and it may be difficult to raise opposition. Others
argued that many judges run unopposed as a result of ìpolitical deal-makingî and not as a result
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A number of members of the Commission believed that the voters should have the
opportunity to meaningfully and affirmatively retain a judge in office. Under the present
system, an unopposed judge can remain in office with a single vote. Therefore, a plurality (near
majority) of members of the Commission favored a requirement that to remain in office, an
unopposed incumbent must face a retention election and receive more than fifty percent of the
votes, cast for that position to be retained in office. If an incumbent does not receive more than
fifty percent of the votes the position would be declared vacant and the Governor would appoint
an interim judge until the next regular election. Some opposed that approach on the theory that
it might encourage judges to intentionally find weak opposition. Others were concerned about
special interests mounting campaigns against a judge who has made a difficult or unpopular
decision which has occurred in a number of other states.
The Commission decided to present both options in the hope that the Supreme Court and the
General Assembly would consider both in reviewing elections of unopposed incumbents.
Recommendation: Magistrates and Other Court Personnel
All court personnel are professionally qualified and trained, and receive continuing education
The Commission believes that all court personnel should be selected on the basis of ability to
deliver high quality service; be well educated, trained, and qualified; and receive continuing
education and evaluation. The Commission believes that these recommendations support
increasing professionalism among court personnel in Ohio.
The Commission recommended retaining local hiring and administration of court personnel.
All court personnel should be employed by their local courts in accordance with criteria
established by the Supreme Court of Ohio relating to job qualification. Their performance
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should be monitored in accordance with established performance standards adopted by the
The Commission recommends that allocation of resources for personnel matters remains at
the local court level.
The Commission recommends court employee salaries, benefits, and retirement should be
sufficient to attract and retain well qualified individuals.
The Commission recommends the Supreme Court clarifies the appropriate roles and
responsibilities of employees and officers of the court and promulgated standards for their
utilization by, and accountability to, the judges who appoint them.
Behavior in the courts is guided by civility, ethical behavior, a fundamental concern for the
treatment of the public, as well as respect for courts, the judicial system and participants.
Comprehensive codes of professional responsibility for judges, court personnel, and attorneys
have been developed and enforced consistent with these priorities.
The performance of court employees should be evaluated in accordance with performance
standards adopted by the Supreme Court, to assist courts in measuring the performance of their
employees and to provide some uniformity of standards across the state.
Dale Kasparek is working on the text of this chapter and rationale as well.
In 2025, all Ohio courts will use appropriate technological tools to improve the justice (court)
system. Technology enhances court administration and case management, and assists in
providing better, faster service to the public. Technology will be applied to allow access to the
courts and court records in public places as well as through home electronic communication
systems. Interactive tutorials on court processes and systems will be used to educate court
personnel and members of the general public on the workings of the judicial branch of
government. In 2025, standardized electronic case filing systems will have long since replaced
the paper filing systems in use today. In 2025, courts will be proactive in their utilization of
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new technologies. The use of technology will not erode security, privacy, due process, or other
fundamental constitutional or procedural safeguards.
1. Summary of concepts
2. Recommendations and rationale
a. Ohio Court System Statewide Computer Information Network
The Ohio court system has a statewide electronic communications network to share information
among the courts, permitting the exchange and rapid dissemination of statistical information;
rules, including proposals; announcements, including continuing education offerings; court
management information; e-mail; general information, including updates on legislation, and
bulletins. Courts work with clerks and other custodians of court information to make filings,
decisions, and other public documents available to courts and to the public immediately through
Ohio courts use a statewide-integrated court communication network, including interactive
multimedia capabilities for access from homes, offices, and appropriate public access sites.
These capabilities are designed to provide accessibility for all, including the physically and
mentally challenged. Accessibility extends to transacting business with the courts from remote
There are no informational barriers to the court system to the extent possible, with self-service
access to basic forms and legal information, in appropriate English and multi-lingual formats.
Twenty-four-hour access to appropriate information in databanks and an automated telephone
system are available.
All appropriate means of communication are used to assist court users in finding relevant
information at each court location, making it easy to conduct court business. Pamphlets, videos,
public kiosks, and other means of communication assist users of the justice system to find
relevant information that will enhance their contact with the system and make it easy for them to
do court business.
b. The Court Technology Standards Committee
The Committee establishes standards to ensure interoperability of court systems throughout Ohio
and beyond. In formulating these standards, the committee incorporates standards established
and adopted by business and other government entities and technology standards organizations.
The Standards Committee will be responsible for evaluating emerging technologies and making
recommendations regarding the adoption of new technologies to enhance court operations and
c. General technology recommendations
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Technological advances are used whenever possible to expedite discovery (pre-trial
investigation), manage cases, and dispute resolution. Data on similar experiences and
outcomes is made available through technological means. Many of these materials are
computer-based and apply algorithms enabling comparisons and other advanced features.
Courts use technology to reduce or eliminate delay in transmitting the record for appeal.
Courts and counsel use technological advances to aid the people responsible for resolution of
a dispute or case, and judges encourage the use of effective communication practices. The
use of mutual agreements (stipulations), prior recorded testimony (depositions), and
technological means to provide evidence most conveniently and at the lowest cost is
Other technology recommendations
Courts employ current technology security procedures.
Court technology is funded to ensure reasonable access to technology for all Ohio
Courts provide programs for technological have-nots and others unfamiliar with court
applied technologies to assist in adaptation to new methods.
H. Public Education and Confidence
Part of the court’s mission is to enhance public trust and confidence in the state’s justice system.
Courts create an environment where all individuals ARE EDUCATED TO understand the
judicial system and are empowered to participate in it fully.
1. Summary of concepts regarding education and confidence
BECAUSE COURTS DEPEND UPON PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR THEIR LEGITIMACY,
THE BETTER THE PUBLIC IS INFORMED, THE MORE LIKELY THE JUDICIAL
SYSTEM WILL BE STRENGTHENED. THE PUBLIC NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND HOW
AND WHY THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM OPERATES AS IT DOES, AS WELL AS HOW
INDIVIDUALS CAN USE IT EFFECTIVELY. RECOMMENDATIONS IN THIS SECTION
ENCOURAGE OVERALL ACCESSIBILITY TO UNDERSTANDABLE INFORMATION;
URGE MEMBERS OF THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM TO REACH OUT TO THE PUBLIC AND
COMMUNITY; AND RECOMMEND THAT INFORMATION BE AVAILABLE IN A
VARIETY OF VENUES FOR COURT USERS.
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2. Recommendations and rationale
Prior studies and research, confirmed by our own testing of that data, show that average
citizens get most of their information from the media and, coincidentally, believe the information
is distorted. In the future, courts must necessarily establish a working relationship with the
media if they wish to communicate adequately with the public. [This] changing, shifting and
evolving information dynamic, it is critical that courts look beyond traditional definitions of
media and consider the necessity to become technologically proficient. If the courts fail to keep
up with these technological changes and innovations, they risk losing an opportunity to inform,
educate and communicate. To reach the widest audience, courts must include personnel with
technological expertise who are able to follow information and communication trends and use
Not everyone may be able to use cutting-edge technology, due to ability or cost, the courts of
the future must also be prepared to communicate through a broad array of information resources,
including traditional media outlets. But the process must not be confined to the courts. Sharing
responsibility for communications are justice-related groups, organizations and associations such
as the Ohio State Bar Association. Educating, informing and empowering citizens is an objective
that should become the objective of every judge, attorney, mediator and court system employee.
To reach the broadest audience, the audience that shapes public opinion, the judicial system must
reach out to the press with the tools and spirit needed to educate the media and the public about
the serious challenges facing the courts and their potential solutions.
a. COMPREHENSIVE INFORMATION AND PUBLIC EDUCATION
ALL OHIOANS ARE EDUCATED ABOUT THE OHIO COURT SYSTEM. THE COURTS,
BAR ASSOCIATIONS, LAW SCHOOLS, PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS AND
MANY OTHER ORGANIZATIONS PARTICIPATE IN DESIGNING AND IMPLEMENTING
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SCHOOL CURRICULA AND OTHER PUBLIC EDUCATION PROGRAMS ABOUT THE
Courts take a proactive role in educating the public about the court system and THE serious
challenges facing IT. Interested journalists HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE
PROPERLY TRAINED AND are encouraged to assign knowledgeable reporters to cover
LEGAL NEWS EVENTS. PROGRAMS IN LOCAL MEDIA VENUES ROUTINELY
AND ACCURATELY EXPLORE COURT ISSUES.
A statewide integrated court communication network, including interactive multimedia
PPROVIDES ACCESS FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO TRANSACT COURT BUSINESS
FROM REMOTE LOCATIONS SUCH AS [private residences], offices OR appropriate
public sites. Available media and technology are used to provide court non-technical
explanations of law and court processes.
[BECAUSE TECHNOLOGY BREAKS DOWN PHYSICAL, CULTURAL, AND
EDUCATIONAL BARRIERS,] courts ALLOW live coverage of judicial proceedings
through traditional media as well as through ALL APPROPRIATE new technologies.
The Supreme Court encourages law schools to COOPERATE with media IN PRESENTING
PROGRAMS justice and current and [emerging] legal issues.
b. Community Outreach
[People] in rural and suburban areas of Ohio tend to view the [judicial] system differently
than those who reside in larger metropolitan areas. The level of detachment appears to be greater
in larger metropolitan regions in smaller cities, villages and townships where people can
interact on a more personal level with those in the judicial system. This observation
underscores a conviction that some form of community-based administration of justice is key to
public understanding of the judicial system. Judges and court personnel who are able to
communicate directly with citizens in a community or neighborhood setting are more likely to
have an opportunity to educate and inform.
Public education about the judicial system is not confined to a classroom but includes the
community and must begin early. The most resounding message heard from those who provided
input to the [Commission] was that schools must play a key role in educating the next generation
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of Ohioans [about justice]. On a larger scale, formal education about the judicial system is only
the beginning of a lifetime of education. Judges and other court personnel can offer vital help to
Court officials willingly work with educators to help develop comprehensive curricula to
provide students of all ages a fundamental understanding of the court system and how it
affects their lives. Courts and schools bring young people into the courts to talk with court
personnel. Conflict resolution and reduction programs are integrated in public and private
school curricula at all levels, creating a generation of young people who understand that the
courts are not always the best place to resolve every dispute. State-financed creative
programs such as street law allow first-year law students to teach basic law to the public.
JUDICIAL OFFICERS and court personnel learn about the communities and people they
serve, striving to perform their legal responsibilities with cultural sensitivity. Judges are
allotted reasonable time away from their primary responsibilities on the bench to participate
in such education programs. JUDGES MAY DISCUSS WITH LEGISLATORS THE
PRACTICAL IMPACT OF LEGISLATIVE MANDATES ON THE COURTS.
As a normal part of their duties, JUDGES reach out to individuals and community groups to
provide knowledge about the court system’s values and processes. A rotating judicial
speakers bureau HAS CREATED a central repository of topics and materials for judges to
use IN SPEAKING WITH THESE groups. COURT EMPLOYEES AND LAW
ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO GAIN PROFICIENCY IN
LANGUAGES USED BY GROWING SEGMENTS OF THE COMMUNITY.
THE CANONS OF JUDICIAL ETHICS HAVE BEEN REVISED TO PERMIT AND
ENCOURAGE JUDGES AND OTHER COURT OFFICIALS TO BE ACTIVE IN
EDUCATING THE PUBLIC. JUDICIAL TRAINING MINIMIZES THE LIKELIHOOD
A JUDGE WOULD UNINTENTIONALLY CAUSE THE HARM THAT THE CANONS
WERE DESIGNED TO PREVENT.
c. VARIETY OF VENUES FOR Public Information
[This] view of the judicial system does not necessarily embrace the current or traditional
court structure, nor does it presume the traditional role of judges and courts as an initial step in
achieving justice will prevail in the future. If the courts draw closer to its citizens, and citizens
move closer to the courts, both education and empowerment are addressed. Educational
opportunities are more likely to flourish in an environment where the players know each other
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 75
and community values are shared by the stakeholders. Providing a variety of venues for the
public to access information helps the courts communicate with their constituents to this end.
PUBLIC RECORD information is EASILY available. Public information expertise is
available to all courts
AT EACH COURT LOCATION, appropriate means of communication, including public
access points, HELP court users in finding relevant information .at each court location,
making it easy to conduct court business. [Those with] SPECIAL NEEDS SUCH AS
people with disabilities OR THOSE WHO SPEAK ENGLISH AS A SECOND
LANGUAGE WILL BE ASSISTED SO THEY ARE ABLE TO CONDUCT THEIR
IN ALL LEGAL CLINICS AND SIMILAR AGENCIES, general court information is
available in current technological formats, including those that aid the vision and hearing
STATEWIDE AND LOCAL LISTS OF VOLUNTEER INTERPRETERS WHO USE THE
uniform standard for court interpreters, developed in coordination with the National Center
for State Courts Interpreter Certification Program, ARE MAINTAINED IN ALL COURTS.
COURT STAFF SUPPLEMENT language-based aids [to] HELP THOSE who are
non-English speaking or who have difficulty reading.
The Supreme COURT'S public information office maintains a clearinghouse of educational
projects available statewide and actively develops educational materials and disseminates
THE public HAS access to GENERAL information about the courts and sources of legal
research materials. County law libraries have connected to the state telecommunications
network, and the automation of local law library collections is encouraged. Each appellate
district HAS ESTABLISHED regional centers FOR RESOURCE SHARING AND
INFORMATION DELIVERY, while preserving the local control and autonomy of county
law libraries. Access hours and points are adequate.
V. Implementation Plan / Proposals of Change
VI. Summary Comments
Where will we be as a society in 25 years? In answering this question, a futurist would most
likely blend empirical data with trends and aspirations then extrapolate the most probable
outcome. But, ask a futurist how justice will defined in the future, how we will administer it, or
Ohio Court Futures Commission REVISED DRAFT 12/29/99 76
what must we teach our children so they know justice too and you may get blank stares and cold
To get to the preferred collective vision requires moving beyond the realm of what is known
and understood into the realm of what might be. Framed by the vision, the future becomes more
clear. No longer obscured by the totality of what was unknown, the attributes establish
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS - Laralyn Sasaki is working on this.
APPENDICES and ATTACHMENTS
RESOURCES / REFERENCES
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