Why can’t I talk to the judge about my case?
Judges cannot hear anything about a case from just one side. Both sides need to be present when information is provided to the judge so that the proceeding is fair. If the parties in a case are represented by lawyers, then both lawyers must be present. When a lawyer wishes for the Court to take action in a case, the lawyer files a “Motion” or other pleading that spells out in writing the position for that side of the case. By law, this document must be served upon the other party. The requirements for service are set out in the Ohio Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure.
People sometimes send letters to the judge about a particular case. These letters are considered an ex parte communication. Ex parte is a Latin phrase that means “of or from one side of a party.” The rules of ethics strictly preclude a judge from considering ex parte communications. Letters to the judge from the public are not read. Letters from inmates about their cases are copied and sent to the lawyers on both sides. The reason behind this rule is to ensure fairness and equal treatment for all persons who come before the Court. Also, and just as important, is the idea that the public would not have confidence in our legal system if the judge could be influenced by “concerned citizen” letters, or by a particular lawyer or member of the community with an “inside track” to the court system. Judge Batchelor has often explained that the core business function of the Court is decision making, and that fairness is the foundation for judicial decision making. This is the hallmark of our system of justice, which can only be met by following the rules regarding communication with the judge.
Please understand that this explanation is very general in nature, and that Ohio law provides some exceptions to the rule against ex parte communications. These exceptions set forth by the Ohio General Assembly allow for victims of crime to provide written statements to the judge before a sentencing hearing, and for the judge to hear certain requests for temporary restraining orders ex parte, such as a the first hearing in a Petition for a Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order. This is not a complete list, and you should consult with a lawyer or the Ohio Revised Code before attempting to file any document ex parte.
What is Judicial Release?
Judicial release is a rehabilitation tool used by the judge to allow some felony offenders to serve part of their prison sentence and then be released from prison and placed on probation, with the remaining portion of their prison sentence available to be imposed if the offender violates a condition of their release sanctions. Judicial release was previously called “Shock Probation” under old law. The reason behind judicial release is that some offenders are “shocked” into becoming productive law abiding members of our community after hearing the clang of their prison cell door closing on them. Also, because of legal limitations on the length of prison sentences available, judicial release provides motivation for offenders to change their way of life rather than falling back into their old habits after completing an entire prison sentence.
Judicial release is granted on a limited basis, and only after a court hearing where victim input is considered. The judge also considers factors such as the seriousness of the crime, the time already served in prison, the offender’s criminal record, the ability of the offender to obtain employment, and the offender’s support system in the community. Judicial release sanctions often include special provisions such as remaining free from drugs and alcohol, random drug testing, maintaining full time employment, a curfew, and paying restitution. Judicial release is not available for certain offenses such as murder and rape. Other forms of release are available from the prison system directly. Low level felony offenders are sometimes allowed to take part in the Intensive Program Prison (Boot Camp). More serious offenders are sometimes granted Transitional Control after they have completed most of their prison sentence. Transitional Control occurs when the Ohio Department of Correction releases an offender to a half-way house and places the offender on post-release control sanctions (parole). None of these programs are perfect and the success rate ultimately depends on the desire of the offender to rehabilitate. The safety of the community is always at the forefront of any decision involving Judicial Release, IPP and Transitional Control.
What are community control sanctions?
Community control is what was previously called “probation.” It is often stated that when the Ohio General Assembly decides to change the law, it believes that two words are better than one. Thus, in 1996, the General Assembly enacted recommendations from the Ohio Sentencing Commission, and “community control” was born replacing its older brother “probation.” Community control and probation are virtually identical. When a felony offender is placed on community control sanctions the terms and conditions are read to the offender in Court, and the offender then signs the terms and conditions after reviewing them with his supervising officer. The judge also explains to the offender in court that if the offender violates any of the terms or conditions of community control, a specific prison sentence can be imposed. A violation usually results in the revocation of the community control sanctions, and the commencement of the prison term.
Why doesn’t every felony offender go to prison?
Recent changes in Ohio felony sentencing law require judges to sentence some felony offenders to community control instead of prison. This involves low level felony offenders who did not cause physical harm to the victim, who do not have a prior felony conviction, or who do not have a prior misdemeanor conviction involving physical harm. Common examples are low level felony offenses for theft, breaking and entering, passing bad checks, and failure to pay child support. Why did this happen? The explanation is complicated, and it involves the 1996 revisions of Ohio felony sentencing law, and several U.S. Supreme Court and Ohio Supreme Court decisions. Prison overcrowding in Ohio has been a problem for several decades, and the Ohio General Assembly has attempted to solve this problem by changing felony sentencing law. The basic idea was to make prison space available for dangerous offenders by keeping non-violent low level felony offenders out of prison. The burden for incarcerating the non-violent low level offenders was shifted to local jails. However, efforts at reforming felony sentencing law are never that simple. Between 2005 and 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ohio Supreme Court decided cases that culminated in parts of Ohio’s 1996 sentencing law being struck down. The result was something that no one anticipated. Judges were once again allowed to sentence any felony offender to prison, and Ohio’s prison population swelled at an alarming rate. Although one might exclaim that over 50,000 inmates in Ohio prisons is a “good start”, the reality of overcrowded prisons, and obvious financial constraints, caused the General Assembly to enact the most recent 2010 revisions to Ohio felony sentencing law. This is a general explanation of a very complicated issue. For a well written and detailed discussion on this topic, please read David Diroll’s, “Prison Crowding: The Long View, With Suggestions.” You can reach this report at the Ohio Supreme Court web site by clicking here. (http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Boards/Sentencing/resources/Publications/default.asp)
Why is a magistrate hearing my case and not the judge?
A Magistrate acts for the Judge in cases assigned to the Magistrate. The Judges has an experienced attorney to hear most domestic relations cases and to issue decisions. That process lets your case be heard more quickly because the Judge also hears criminal cases and other civil lawsuits. The Judges are elected and make the final decisions in all cases in the Court. The rules regarding magistrates, their decisions and orders, and the process of objection are all found in Rule 53 of the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure.
Where do I find information regarding a misdemeanor case or traffic violations?
Please contact the Coshocton Municipal Court at (740) 622-2871.
How do I obtain or renew my Notary Public Commission?
By local rule of Court, the Coshocton County Bar Association is required to have a committee to set standards for the administration of the notary examination. The committee has elected the law firm of Frase, Weir, Baker & McCoullough to administer the exam. To make an appointment to take the exam, please call (740) 622-6464. A $50.00 fee is required. $25.00 of the fee is reimbursed to the law firm for the use of their staff and facilities. The Court does not receive any money from the examination fee.
Where do I find information regarding a juvenile matter?
Please contact the Coshocton County Juvenile Court at (740) 622-8969.
Where do I find information regarding probate matters, such as a will, adoption or marriage license?
Please contact the Coshocton County Probate Court at (740) 622-1837.
Where do I find information regarding a pending case or court file?
You may search court records on this site by utilizing the Search Court Records, or you may contact the Clerk of Courts Office at (740) 622-1456.
Where do I find information regarding a Domestic Relations matter, such as a divorce, dissolution or child custody matter?
For more specific Domestic Relations information, please utilize the Domestic Relations button on this page. For further information, please contact (740) 622-1595.
Where do I find information on jury service?
For more information regarding your jury service, please utilize the Jury Service button on this page or contact the bailiff at (740) 622-1595.