Mayor’s Court Experience Decade Long Decline in Caseload
Led by nearly a 25 percent decrease in intoxicated driving cases, mayor’s courts in Ohio are seeing a decade of decline in the number of cases filed.
A new report by the Ohio Supreme Court of mayor’s court activities mirrors similar findings of Ohio’s other courts, such as municipal and common pleas courts, where the filing of cases has been on the decline. The one exception is the filing of traffic cases not involving Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated (OVI). Traffic cases increased from 2012 to 2013 in mayor’s courts by 3 percent.
New cases rose to 264,914 in 2013 for mayor’s courts from 260,548 a year ago due to increased traffic cases. Overall, mayor’s courts are receiving 14 percent fewer cases than 10 years ago.
Mayor’s courts hear misdemeanors, OVI, and traffic code infractions. Mayor’s courts have been operating in Ohio for decades, but beginning in 2004 the courts began reporting caseload statistics to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The current report provides the first opportunity to do a comparison of a full decade of caseloads. The largest decrease over the last 10 years is in OVI, which dropped from 5,356 in 2004 to 4,045 in 2013, nearly 25 percent. Municipal and county courts have seen a dramatic drop in OVI with a nearly 16 percent decrease over the decade.
Misdemeanors filings in mayor’s courts peaked for the decade in 2009 at 42,547 and have dropped 9 percent to 35,172 in 2013.
While traffic cases rose by 3 percent in mayor’s courts, they increased by 1.4 percent in Ohio’s municipal and county courts from the prior year. The majority of court cases in Ohio are traffic-related and totaled 1.5 million in 2013 when combining the municipal, county and mayor’s courts.
In 2013, a new state law limited mayor’s courts to operating in municipalities with at least a population of 201(except for Lake Erie island municipalities), and the number of mayor’s courts in operation dropped from 318 in 2012 to 310 in 2013. The numbers of courts operating peaked for the decade at 336 courts in 2005.
Mayor’s courts operate in 65 of the state’s 88 counties. Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties are the only two to have 20 or more mayor’s courts in operation. The majority of the courts are in municipalities with 1,000 to 5,000 residents (147 courts) but three operate in cities of 40,000 or more citizens.
Mayors do not need to be attorneys to preside over cases and their rulings can be appealed to municipal or county courts. In 2004, the Supreme Court was granted authority by state lawmakers to provide court procedures and require legal education for mayors hearing cases.
Additional highlights from the 2013 statewide summary include:
- Nearly 79 percent of cases were disposed either by payments of fines to traffic violations bureaus with no court appearance or the entry of a guilty plea in court.
- Of the 291,628 cases disposed in mayor’s courts in 2013, mayors presided over 330 trials, while magistrates appointed by mayors presided over 1,586 trials.
By analyzing case filing patterns and trends, the Supreme Court attempts to assist in the efficient administration of justice at all levels of the judiciary. The Supreme Court does not examine or analyze larger social and governmental trends that may contribute to or influence changes in case filing volumes. Court filings can be affected by a complex variety of factors, including economic conditions, fluctuations in crime rates, changes in law, and population levels.