SHELBY COUNTY COMMON PLEAS COURT
The year 2012 saw the completion of my first term as Common Pleas Judge. The citizens of Shelby County have favored me with re-election and I am looking forward to serving the citizens of Shelby County for another six-year term.
In 2012, we started a joint project with the Clerk of Courts, with Juvenile-Probate Judge William Zimmerman and with Sidney Municipal Court Judge Duane Goettemoeller which will likely take a couple of years to bring to fruition. The court’s current case management software will no longer be serviced as of January 2014, which necessitates a major upgrade. To save money for both the county and the city, we have commenced a joint project, which, if successful, will result in all three courts operating the same or similar software programs. Not only will this increase efficiency it should also make it easier for attorneys and other users of the court systems if all courts are using the same programs.
A major part of this project will be the implementation of electronic filing. Increasingly courts across the state are moving from paper filing systems to digital records and electronic filing. The potential long-term costs savings to courts with electronic filing is enormous.
I am pleased to report that domestic relations court Magistrate Gary Carter was recently recertified as a Family Law Specialist. The Ohio State Bar Association created specialization programs to give licensed Ohio attorneys the ability to become certified as specialists in particular areas of law. The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) program is accredited by the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Certification of Attorneys as Specialists.
OSBA certification is a voluntary process that requires a commitment to excellence. Ohio attorneys who are certified as specialists by the OSBA must take and pass a written examination in their specialty field, demonstrate a high level of substantial involvement in the specialty area, fulfill ongoing education requirements and be favorably evaluated by other attorneys and judges familiar with their work. Attorneys who have earned family law specialty certification must be recertified at least every four years and must earn a minimum of 12 continuing legal education credits in the specialty area every two years. Gary is the only Shelby County lawyer certified as a Family Law Specialist. Gary has served as the Shelby County Common Pleas Court Domestic Relations Magistrate since his appointment by Judge John D. Schmitt in 1991.
In 2012, new and reopened criminal, civil, and domestic cases totaled 1,013. Foreclosure filings continue to be a troubling statistic in the court. Of the 418 new and reactivated civil filings, 61% were mortgage foreclosures. On a positive note, the number of foreclosure filings dropped by 23 from 2011. Criminal cases prosecuted in court totaled 225. That was a significant decrease from 2011, but the criminal case filings are expected to increase in 2013. The domestic relations court filings totaled 234. There were 172 people who attended the domestic relations court sponsored parenting program. The domestic relations court also conducted 35 civil protection hearings.
Budget constraints continued to be a problem for the court. I have a dedicated, professional staff that continues to provide exemplary service even without pay raises in years. It troubles me that while my staff’s cost of living has increased over the years, their pay has not even matched their increase in living expenses. This is effectively a net loss of income. I hope that when the economy recovers we will be able to remedy this inequity. In the meantime, the staff continues to provide dedicated service to the citizens of Shelby County.
I look forward to another busy year for the court providing justice services to the citizens of Shelby County.
Judge James Stevenson