Skip to main content

II. Overview of the Courts

  1. Separate Branch of Government
    Both the United States and Ohio Constitutions provide for three separate, co-equal branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial.See Ohio Judicial System Structure.

Click for larger image

  1. Ohio Court Structure
    1. The Supreme Court of Ohio is established by Article IV, Section 1, of the Ohio Constitution, which provides that “the judicial power of the state is vested in a Supreme Court, Courts of Appeals, Courts of Common Pleas and divisions thereof, and such other courts inferior to the Supreme Court as may from time to time be established by law.”
      1. Article IV, Section 2, of the Ohio Constitution, sets the size of the court at a chief justice and six associate justices and outlines the jurisdiction of the court.
      2. The Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Ohio. The court may grant leave to appeal criminal cases from the courts of appeals and may direct any court of appeals to certify its record on civil cases found to be “cases of public or great interest.”
      3. The Supreme Court makes rules governing the practice and procedure in Ohio courts.
    2. Courts of Appeals are established by Article IV, Section 1 of the Ohio Constitution and their jurisdiction is outlined in Article IV, Section 3. The court is divided regionally into 12 districts.
      1. As an intermediate-level court, its primary function is to hear appeals from the courts of common pleas and municipal and county courts, which may, in turn, be further appealed to the Supreme Court. Each case is heard and decided by a three-judge panel.
      2. The appellate courts also hear appeals from some administrative agencies and have original jurisdiction over writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, procedendo, prohibition, and quo warranto.
      3. Appellate court judges do not have authority to perform weddings but can be appointed by the Supreme Court to serve as a Probate Court judge for a day for purposes of performing a wedding.
    3. The Court of Claims has statewide original jurisdiction over all civil actions filed against the State of Ohio. The Court of Claims sits in Franklin County.
    4. Courts of Common Pleas are the only trial court created by the Ohio Constitution. They are established by Article IV, Section 1, of the Constitution and their duties are outlined in Article IV, Section 4.
      1. There is a court of common pleas in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. The courts of common pleas have original jurisdiction in all criminal felony cases and original jurisdiction in all civil cases in which the amount in controversy is generally more than $5,000. Courts of common pleas have appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of some state administrative agencies. The divisions below may be combined in some counties.
        • Court of Common Pleas, General Division – has original jurisdiction over all criminal felony cases, civil stalking protection orders, all civil actions in which the amount in controversy is generally greater than $5,000 and jurisdiction over the appeals of decisions of certain administrative agencies.
        • Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Division – has original jurisdiction over all proceedings involving divorce or dissolution of marriages, annulment, legal separation, spousal support, domestic and dating violence civil protection orders, and conciliation; the division also determines allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, child support, parenting time, and visitation (for married couples as well as non-parent, third parties to original action).
        • Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division – In addition to jurisdiction over wills, estate matters, and guardianships, the probate division has jurisdiction over the issuance of marriage licenses, adoption proceedings, determination of sanity or mental competency, name changes and certain eminent domain proceedings. Probate judges also can solemnize marriages within their counties.
        • Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division – has original jurisdiction over cases involving delinquent, unruly, abused, neglected, and dependent children; also hears adult cases involving paternity, child support, allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, and parenting time for unmarried parents. Other cases specific to this division include the following: contributing to the delinquency of minors, failure to send a child to school, grandparent powers of attorney and caretaker authorization affidavits, juvenile traffic, civil protection orders where the respondent is under age 18, involuntary hospitalization for mental illness of a juvenile, county family and children first council agency disputes concerning services or funding, applications for consent to marry by a minor, and authorization to consent to abortion (bypass) by a minor without notification to the minor’s parents.
    5. Municipal and County Courts – The subject matter jurisdiction of municipal and county courts is identical. Each county court was established to have under its territorial jurisdiction those regions of a county not otherwise served by a municipal court. They have the authority to conduct preliminary hearings in felony cases, and both have jurisdiction over traffic and non-traffic misdemeanors. These courts also have limited jurisdiction for civil cases in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $15,000 and small claims cases up to $6,000. Judges of municipal and county courts have statewide authority to solemnize marriage ceremonies.

  1. Purposes of Courts

Click for larger image


  1. Video: Ernie Friesen “Purposes of Courts”
  2. Online course: Introduction to the Courts” is offered by the Supreme Court's Judicial College.

  1. Court Governance
    1. Ohio courts are governed by the Supreme Court’s Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio. Judges and staff have an ethical obligation to follow the rules. Authority for such stems from the Ohio Constitution. Each court is obligated to designate by judgment entry an Administrative Judge and Presiding Judge. The court is required to advise the Administrative Director of the Supreme Court who holds these positions annually before January 15th. One judge may hold both positions. Below is a table of the applicable Rules of Superintendence.
    2. Ohio’s Ethical Rules
      1. Judges and magistrates are subject to the Ohio Judicial Code of Conduct.
      2. Court employees are referenced in the Ohio Judicial Code of Conduct and are subject to it as well. For example, court personnel are prohibited from making statements about a pending or impending case that the judge would otherwise be prohibited from making that might affect the outcome. Some of the rules that impact court staff include Sup. R.’s 2.3, 2.8, 2.0, 2.10, 2.12, and 3.1.
      3. As judges, magistrates, and court employees are public officials and employees, they are also governed by the Ohio Ethics Laws.
      4. Online course: “Ethics for Court Employees” is offered by the Supreme Court’s Judicial College.
    3. There are some specific provisions for some courts and as a result, the court administrator should always review the code to see if one of those provisions apply to his/her court (R.C. 2301)
Word files may be viewed for free with Office Online.

PDF Files may be viewed, printed, and searched using the Free Acrobat® Reader. Acrobat Reader is a trademark of Adobe Inc.