Since the first Ohio Constitution in 1802 established a supreme court and court of common pleas, Ohio courts have been resolving disputes and ensuring that the law is applied impartially and fairly.
The Constitution separates our state government into three branches - the executive, the legislative, and the judicial - each with distinct areas of responsibility.
To understand the responsibility of the judicial branch, it's important understand where our laws come from.
There are five sources of state law, including constitutional, statutory, and case law.
The Ohio Constitution defines the rights of Ohioans and responsibilities of the government. None of the other sources of law can violate the constitution.
The Ohio Revised Code is the second source, and it is the laws made by the elected officials of the legislative branch.
Case law is the law as interpreted by judges and predicts based on precedent how specific actions of individuals relate to the Ohio revised Code and the constitution.
When a dispute arises, the judicial system is designed to resolve it. Which court resolves that dispute is determined by the rules of jurisdiction.
As the highest court in the state, the Ohio Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all types of cases, including those on appeal from the Ohio courts of appeals, cases dealing with questions of constitutionality, and death penalty cases.
But where do most court cases in Ohio start, and how might a case that originated in Ohio make it all the way to the Supreme Court of Ohio?
Ohio has three levels of courts.
Each level has a different jurisdiction. First are the Trial courts, then the Courts of Appeals and finally the Supreme Court.
This three-tiered system is outlined in Article IV of the Ohio Constitution of 1851.
In most instances a case is heard for the first time in a trial court. Ohio has several types of trial courts.
Municipal and County Courts hear misdemeanor offenses, traffic cases, and some civil action cases. Each of Ohio's 88 counties has one or more municipal or county courts.
For example, if an intoxicated motorist is pulled over and charged with a misdemeanor charge of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, the hearing would take place in a municipal or county court.
Another type of trial court found in each county is the Court of Common Pleas. The Court of Common Pleas have four divisions: general, domestic relations, juvenile, and probate.
The General Division hears civil and criminal cases and appeals from administrative agencies. As an example, a foreclosure case would be heard in the General Division.
The Domestic Relations Division hears divorce and dissolution cases, as well as related child support and custody issues.
The Juvenile Division deals with offenses involving minors and most paternity actions. When minors commit offenses, their cases are heard in the juvenile division.
The fourth division of the Court of Common Pleas is the Probate Division. Decedents' estates, guardianships, mental illness commitments, adoptions, and marriage licenses, are handled by the Probate Division of the Court of Common Pleas.
Another type of court at the trial level is the Court of Claims, which hears all cases filed against the state. These cases may be for personal injury, property damage, contract disputes and wrongful death, and a special type of matter involving compensation for crime victims.
The judges in the Court of Claims are not elected but rather, they are assigned by the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.
The next level in the Ohio judicial system is the Court of Appeals. Ohio has 12 Courts of Appeals districts. Each case in an appellate court is heard by a three-judge panel. Appellate courts review decisions appealed to them from the trial courts. A trial court decision can be appealed if a party believes the trial court made an error.
The courts of appeals also have original jurisdict