The Mahoning County Bar Association (MCBA), on behalf of its four local courts, received a grant in FY 2010 (SJI-10-T-090) from SJI to contract with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) on a study of potential court consolidation for all courts in the county. This included a municipal (limited jurisdiction) court system based in Youngstown, Ohio. Prior to the project, the Ohio Supreme Court and State Court Administrator’s Office had been encouraging courts and counties to move towards greater efficiencies, and identified court consolidation as one of the methods of achieving those goals. With the support of the Judiciary and AOC, as well as the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners, the MCBA began coordinating with the NCSC to submit an application to SJI for further support and funding of the analysis.
With one of the more robust municipal courts systems in the country, Ohio’s courts of limited jurisdiction have responsibilities that go beyond standard municipal court case proceedings. Mahoning County has a strong bar association who, along with other stakeholders, observed the difficulties of the current court system. Of particular interest to the MCBA, County Commissioners, and courts, were the following considerations: 1) constitutional and statutory framework for limited jurisdiction courts in Ohio; 2) statutes explicitly dealing with limited jurisdiction courts in Mahoning County; 3) potential governance and management structure required to consolidate and operate the courts post-consolidation; and 4) consolidated court system facilities.
The project recently concluded, and a final report was released detailing the advantages and disadvantages of consolidating the limited jurisdiction courts in Mahoning County below the Court of Common Pleas, including four County-area courts, the Youngstown Municipal Court, two additional municipal courts, and three mayor courts. Ultimately, the report concludes that there are a number of benefits to court consolidation in Mahoning County and provides a 3-phase plan to complete the process.