Ohioans deserve a civil legal process that can fairly and promptly resolve disputes, yet with runaway costs and delays, our civil justice system often fails to meet this standard. That’s what brought Ohio judges, clerks, and personnel to a recent meeting at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center. The Ohio Supreme Court invited the speaker, Florida’s Eleventh Circuit Judge Thomas Rebull, who recently received a grant from the National Center for State Courts, to discuss a pilot project designed to improve the way civil court cases move along.
“Litigation is sometimes not pleasant,” Judge Rebull said. “We want people to be done with it as quickly and inexpensively as possible.” When he speaks of civil cases, he’s talking about anything not criminal, a car accident, personal injury case, or contract or employment dispute. He said the pilot project also has another benefit. “It also frees the judge up to do more significant tasks,” said Judge Rebull. “Maybe to do more significant tasks, where others they were focused on were more mundane.”
Franklin County Municipal Court Clerk Lori Tyack says the court in Columbus has what’s called a drop list. “After six months of no action in a case, the court is advised to dismiss the case,” Tyack said. “The worst case scenario is that the case will be refiled.” Some of the recommendations to improve efficiency, handed down by the Conference of Chief Justice’s Civil Justice Improvements Committee, include putting cases in three categories: A streamlined path for cases that present uncomplicated facts and legal issues and require minimal judicial intervention but close court supervision. A complex pathway for cases that present multiple legal and factual issues, involve many parties, or are likely to require close court supervision. General pathway for cases whose characteristics do not justify assignment to either the streamlined or complex pathway.
The conference was all about taking accountability, as well. “The takeaway from today is to go back and reevaluate what we’re doing,” said Clerk Tyack. “For example, who’s responsible for those types of activities, whether it’s making sure systems are in place in terms of documenting how long motions might be.”
Author: Anne Yeager, May 31, 2018