'Un-Conventional' Center to Resolve Traffic Cases
By Csaba Sukosd | June 9, 2020
COVID-19 put the brakes on traffic cases for more than two months in Ohio's courts. With the light finally green, Franklin County Municipal Court has a new destination for its busiest docket, while maintaining social distancing.
The court recently began a three-month agreement with the Greater Columbus Convention Center to hold hearings for its traffic violations bureau.
"It was probably the biggest problem that we had facing us," said Administrative Judge Ted Barrows.
Over the next three months, the court will work through a backlog of cases, and the new approach. The court is implementing staggered appearance times for defendants. Instead of everyone arriving for the start of the docket at 9 a.m., and potentially waiting hours for their turn, officials are spreading out the case volume for public safety, and to save litigants time. Requisite face masks and temperature checks are also part of the court's health protocols.
"The team that I've been working with are really intelligent, creative people who are flexible, and when we stumble across something we hadn't anticipated, we're going to figure it out, and get it straightened out," Judge Barrows said.
The larger, centralized convention center space also will house other entities to assist with case-related obstacles on the spot. Those include the Columbus Legal Aid Society and the Franklin County Public Defender's Office to help indigent individuals with legal concerns.
The municipal court clerk's office also has installed payment kiosks for those who need to pay fines or costs.
While tweaks will be made in the present, eyes are already on the future. The convention center's use is part of a gradual reopening for the entire municipal court. The next stop on the unchartered journey is preparing for when traffic cases return to the Franklin County Government Center on Sept. 1.
"When people have to come back to the court, I want them to have a sense of confidence that we're doing everything we can to keep them safe," Judge Barrows said.