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Statistics show that the busy court has to work full-time

May 15 – A local part-time municipal court judge says it is time for his role to transition to a full-time position to keep pace with growing caseloads, ensure the rights of defendants and victims are protected, and create the opportunity for new programs.

Franklin Municipal Court Judge Ronald Ruppert told the Franklin City Council that recent changes in the Constitution and law, as well as other changes in court rules, have increased the demands on local court administrators. He is seeking the council’s support before filing a motion with the Ohio Supreme Court to begin the process.

Ruppert said the court plays an expansive and important role with Marsy’s Law, which gives crime victims meaningful and enforceable constitutional rights equal to the rights of suspects. He also said there would always be a full-time judge available who could set up programs and files, for example to help people get their driver’s licenses reinstated.

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The judge’s increased availability would allow him to address changes in traffic laws that include provisions to remove fines and points from driver records, such as the texting-while-driving law, Ruppert said. It would also allow for expedited arraignments for people accused of criminal offenses, plus probable cause hearings for search warrants in criminal and code violation cases.

He said it would also reduce the need to bring in a visiting judge because of potential conflicts of interest because Ruppert is a practicing attorney, which is allowed for part-time judges. However, if the judgeship becomes full-time, he would have to give up his practice as a lawyer.

“Everything about the court would remain the same,” Ruppert said. “The only thing that would change is me.”

One change would be the judge’s salary, which is determined by state law. The local share would rise from $35,500 to $61,750. The city is responsible for 60% of the salary and the province is responsible for 40% of the local share. The rest of the judge’s salary is paid by the state.

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Franklin Municipal Court is one of eleven municipal courts in Ohio with a part-time judge. One of these, the Lebanon Municipal Court, has received approval from the Ohio Supreme Court to appoint a full-time judge. The process took Lebanon several months to complete and received the support of key provincial officials and the Lebanese council. The request must be approved by the Ohio General Assembly before it can go into effect.

Of the 11 courts with a part-time judge, Franklin’s court is the busiest, hearing 9,815 cases in 2023, according to Ohio Supreme Court statistics. The next highest municipal court is the Lebanon Municipal Court, with 5,735 cases handled, followed by Lawrence. County Municipal Court that handled 3,872 cases in 2023.

Franklin Municipal is also the busiest municipal court in Warren County. Of the four municipal courts in Warren County, only Franklin and Warren County Court have part-time judges, while Mason and soon Lebanon will have full-time judges. The court’s jurisdiction is all of Franklin Twp. and the cities of Franklin and Carlisle.

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According to the Ohio Supreme Court, Mason Municipal handled 7,724 cases in 2023, while Warren County Court handled 5,708 cases.

Ruppert told the council there would be no additional court staff; no additional funding for staff, no additional security personnel, and no additional prosecutorial involvement.

Council members did not comment on the proposal during the meeting.

Ruppert said once there is support to move forward, he will prepare a proposal for the Ohio Supreme Court to consider.

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