Ohio looks to reduce the number of, but not end, mayor’s courts

It was once not entirely uncommon in U.S. history for cities and town to allow their mayor’s to serve as judges for lower courts; New York City’s mayor is still referred to as “His Honor” to reflect the office’s former authority. Most states, however, have abandoned the practice, the most notable exceptions being Louisiana and Ohio. It appears however that Ohio is set to restrict the number of localities which are allowed to establish such courts.

HB 523, as passed by the Ohio House’s Judiciary & Ethics committee, would increase from 100 to 1,000 the minimum population a locality must have in order to establish a mayor’s court. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, this would eliminate 92 of 318 courts.

SB 254, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary committee, would increase the threshold from 100 to 200, closing no more than 6 courts. Again according to the Beacon, this increase appears to be focused on one particular town (Linndale, population 179).

This effort is just the latest effort in the last decade to eliminate or curtail the use of such courts:

2003: HB 24 and SB 25 required municipality have a population of at least 100 in order to establish a Mayor’s Court. Enacted.

2005: HB 621 required a municipality have a population of at least 500 in order to establish a Mayor’s Court. Died in House Committee.

2007: HB 154 and SB 252 abolished Mayor’s Courts effective January 1, 2009. Municipalities with a population of at least 1,600 or that met the definition of an “urban township” would be permitted to  create Community Courts, defined as courts of record presided over by magistrate judges who must be attorneys. The House version was approved by the House Judiciary Committee but died on the House floor. Senate version died in the Senate Judiciary – Civil Justice Committee.