The Morrow County Court of Common Pleas consists of the General Division, the Probate Division, the Juvenile Division and the Domestic Relations Division. Morrow County is one of only five (5) Ohio counties where the common pleas judges handle all divisions. In Morrow County two judges, Judge Tom C. Elkin and Judge Robert C. Hickson, Jr. divide the caseload equally. The Court of Common Pleas hears felony criminal cases and civil cases where the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional limits of the Morrow County Municipal Court. The Morrow County Municipal Court is a separate court.
Estates and Guardianships are heard in the Probate Division. Cases involving minors, including delinquency, parentage, abuse, neglect, dependency and custody, visitation and child support, where the parties are unmarried, are handled by the Juvenile Division. The Domestic Relations Division of the Court addresses termination of marriage, legal separation, civil protection orders, property division, child custody, visitation and child support where the parties are married. The Domestic Relations Division also addresses another growing area of the law: civil protection orders between members of the same household.
The Morrow County Court of Common Pleas also acts as its own Juvenile and Probate Clerk of Courts. The Clerks are responsible for processing and maintaining all documents that are filed with the Juvenile and Probate Divisions of the Court.
The Morrow County Court of Common Pleas also operates the Adult Community Corrections Department, more commonly known as the Adult Probation Department, and the Juvenile Community Corrections Department, more commonly known as the Juvenile Probation Department.
In addition, the Morrow County Court of Common Pleas operates the Morrow County Dependency Treatment Court, commonly referred to as “drug court.” This Court is comprised of four specialized dockets that are designed to combat the growing problem of drug and alcohol abuse in our community. The specialized dockets actively address the root issue of many criminal acts and family problems by dealing with substance abuse. Certification from the Ohio Supreme Court is now required to obtain funding for drug courts. All four of the specialized dockets operated by the Morrow County Court of Common Pleas were certified in December of 2013. The dockets have retained certification and are thus eligible for grants.
Morrow County Court of Common Pleas operates a mediation department. The mediation department operates under the court’s administrative structure, but independently from the Court’s procedural dictates. The Ohio Supreme Court has now strongly suggested that all courts have a mediation department that functions as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism with a mediator, who is not a judge, but a facilitator. The mediator seeks common ground between the parties so that they can create a workable settlement themselves. Where mediation is successful, it saves everyone, including the Court, the County and the parties, time and resources.
The Court also has two Magistrates on staff to insure that domestic relations cases and juvenile cases are heard in a timely manner. A magistrate functions similarly to a judge. By assigning preliminary and substantive hearings to the Magistrates, the judges’ time is conserved for other critical proceedings, such as felony trials, which only the Judges can handle. Additionally, one of the Magistrate’s acts as Court Administrator. Both of the Magistrates have been admitted to the practice of law for more than 30 years.
The Judges and Magistrates are assisted by three administrative assistants. All three of the administrative assistants have multiple job duties in an effort to keep operating costs as low as possible for the Court. Each courtroom has an assigned bailiff who handles scheduling for the judges and other tasks. A number of employees perform multiple tasks which saves the tax payers money by limiting the number of employees.
The Morrow County Court of Common Pleas strives to serve the citizens in Morrow County while exercising fiscal responsibility. Approximately one third of the funds used to operate the Court are provided by grants.
Judge Howard Hall retired from the bench at the end of 2016. He served from 1999 until 2016 as a Judge. Prior to serving as Judge, he served Morrow County as County Prosecutor. Judge Hall continues to assist the Court as an assigned Judge.