Municipal and County Courts
Municipal and county courts are created by the General Assembly as provided in R.C. 1901 and 1907. When municipal courts exercise countywide jurisdiction, no county court is needed. A county court is needed if an area of a county is not served by a municipal court.
The subject-matter jurisdiction of municipal and county courts is nearly identical. Both municipal and county courts have the authority to conduct preliminary hearings in felony cases, and both have jurisdiction over traffic and non-traffic misdemeanors. These courts also have limited civil jurisdiction. Municipal and county courts may hear civil cases in which the amount of money in dispute does not exceed $15,000.
Judges sitting in these courts, like probate judges, have the authority to perform marriages.
Municipal court judges are elected to six-year terms on a nonpartisan judicial ballot. A municipal court judge may have jurisdiction in one or more municipalities, across county borders, in adjacent townships, or throughout an entire county. A county court judge is elected to a six-year term on a nonpartisan ballot. All county court judges and 20 municipal court judges are part-time.
Municipal court judges and county court judges must be attorneys with at least six years of experience in the practice of law.
Mayor’s courts are not a part of the judicial branch of Ohio government and are not courts of record. Still, they must file statistics quarterly and annually with the Supreme Court. Additionally, at the request of the General Assembly, the Supreme Court has adopted rules providing for court procedures and basic legal education for mayors. Mayors whose courts hear alcohol- and drug-related traffic offenses have additional educational requirements.
Ohio and Louisiana are the only two states that allow the mayors of municipal corporations to preside over a court. In Ohio, in municipalities populated by more than 200 people where there is no municipal court, mayor’s courts hear only cases involving violations of local ordinances and state traffic laws.
A mayor is not required to be a lawyer, but may appoint an attorney who has engaged in the practice of law for three years to hear cases in mayor’s court.
A person convicted in a mayor’s court may appeal the conviction to the municipal or county court having jurisdiction within the municipal corporation.