Ohio Supreme Court Taking Steps To Deal With Judicial Emergencies

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The Supreme Court of Ohio is proposing changes to deal with judicial emergencies and temporary relocation of courts. The proposals come after questions arose from emergency-related events, such as the 2012 wind storm that closed the Logan County Courthouse, and whether current Ohio law and court rules adequately address such emergencies.

The changes to current Rule 14 of the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio and proposed legislation were recommended by the Advisory Committee on Court Security.

“We are looking at language that has essentially remained unchanged since Rule 14 was originally enacted in 1971,” committee Chair Judge Scott Gwin said. “The new rules would provide greater clarity for the powers and responsibilities of the Chief Justice during a judicial emergency.”

The proposed rule changes include requiring the Chief Justice to:

  • Issue an order declaring a judicial emergency and setting forth basic information such as the name of the affected court or division, a description of the circumstances necessitating the declaration, the duration of the judicial emergency (which is initially limited to 30 days), and any other relevant information.
  • File the order declaring a judicial emergency with the Clerk of the Supreme Court and, if possible, the clerk of the affected court or division.
  • Consult with the administrative judge and court administrator of the affected court or division prior to taking action during a judicial emergency.

As part of updating the rules, the Supreme Court will also submit proposed amendments to R.C. 1901.0211, 1907.0111, 2301.011, and 2501.04 to the Ohio General Assembly. The proposals would provide courts specific authority and direction for temporarily relocating outside of the court’s territorial jurisdiction during a disaster, civil disorder, or any extraordinary circumstance that interrupts orderly operation of the court or division of the court within its territorial jurisdiction. Among the provisions in the proposed amendments:

Allow the administrative judge of the court or division to issue an order authorizing the court or division to operate at a temporary location either inside or outside its territorial jurisdiction.

Provide that while the court or division operates at the temporary location, it continues to have its normal territorial jurisdiction and has jurisdiction to hear actions and conduct proceedings the same as if it were operating within its territorial jurisdiction.