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Overview of the Ohio Court System

The Ohio judicial system includes five different courts:

  • The Supreme Court
  • Courts of appeal
  • Courts of common pleas
  • Municipal and county courts
  • The Court of Claims

The municipal and county courts, which make up the bottom tier of the system, have nearly identical subject-matter jurisdiction. These courts conduct preliminary hearings in felony cases, hear misdemeanor and traffic cases, and hear civil cases involving amounts of less than $15,000.

The Court of Claims hears all civil actions that are filed against the state and its agencies. These cases include contract disputes, property damage, personal injury, wrongful imprisonment, and discrimination.

The courts of common pleas are Ohio's trial courts and include four divisions: general, domestic relations, juvenile, and probate. The general division has jurisdiction over all criminal felony cases and civil cases involving amounts of more than $15,000. Domestic relations courts hear cases involving divorce, separation, and spousal and child support. Juvenile courts hear cases involving individuals who are below 18 years of age and who are charged with acts that would be considered crimes if committed by an adult. Probate courts handle cases involving the administration of estates and guardianships, as well as adoptions.

The next tier are the courts of appeal, which are Ohio's intermediate appellate courts. These courts hear appeals of decisions from the courts of common pleas, municipal and county courts, and the Court of Claims.

The top tier is the Supreme Court. Most of its cases are appeals from the courts of appeal. The Supreme Court also hears all cases involving the death penalty, cases involving questions that arise under the U.S. Constitution and the Ohio Constitution, and cases where are there conflicting opinions among two or more courts of appeal.

In addition, Ohio does have “mayor's courts,” which hear cases involving violations of local ordinances and state traffic laws, but these courts are not part of the state judiciary. The decisions reached in mayor's courts, however, can be appealed to municipal or county courts.

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