Ohio Court Records
How do Ohio Courts work?
The Supreme Court serves as the highest court authority in Ohio, and exists mainly to review decisions made by the Court of Appeals. This allows the Supreme Court to resolve any conflicts, questions, and precedents raised. The Court of Appeals in turn reviews the decisions made by the courts below it, after one party decides to contest. These lower courts are the 88 superior or trial courts across the 88 Ohio counties. There were 397 cases in the Supreme Court in 2018, 145 cases in the Court of Appeals first district and 477 cases in the second district.
Civil Cases and Small Claims
Civil cases are those in which a petitioner is looking for an amount of money over the value of $250,000. Around 175,000 of these are filed each year on average in Ohio alone. These types of cases can also involve non-monetary dispute over things such as property, name changing, and restraining orders. Small claims court deals with petitions under $3,000 in value, of which there are just under 100,000 a year in the state. These can include anything from a dispute over deposits and warranties to loans between friends.
Appeals and court limits
There are some differences in the appeals process and court limits surrounding both small claims court cases and those in civil courts. You are allowed to both use pretrial discovery and have a lawyer accompany you and file papers in civil court, but neither are allowed in small claims. Civil court also allows up to 120 days after the initial filing to complete your case, compared to the 30-70 days in small claims court. The filing itself costs between $180 and $320 in civil court, whereas small claims only cost $30-$100 per claim. Either party can appeal a decision made in civil court, while only the defendant in small claims cases has the right to appeal. However, in small claims court you do not have to be a US citizen to file or defend, and if you lack English skills, you can hire an interpreter.
Why are court records public?
The Ohio Open Records Law was passed in 1954, with the latest amendment coming as recently as 2008. The aim of the law is to guarantee that court records, as well as other public records, can be accessed by any member of the public. It was signed by the legislature to allow all Ohio residents the ability to request government records at all levels. When the law was passed, it declared this ability as a fundamental right of all Ohio residents. This is to maintain maximum disclosure and safeguard government accountability. It is similar to the Ohio Open Meeting Law which governs how public meetings are conducted.
People can find out more information and access records online.
Office of Judicial Services
Supreme Court of Ohio
65 South Front Street, 6th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215-3431