CH judge provides municipal court annual report highlights
At the end of March of each year, Ohio’s municipal courts must submit to their city and county governments a report of their operations, including a statement of receipts and expenditures. The full 2021 Annual Report for the Cleveland Heights Municipal Court, along with reports from years past, can be found on the court’s website at www.clevelandheightscourt.com.
Transparency in the judiciary promotes confidence in the system, upholds the fair administration of justice, and leads to increased efficiency and effectiveness. It is worthwhile to highlight [here] some of the work performed by the court, and the improvements and community collaborations it has undertaken.
Our court continues to make technology improvements, and, as in years past, this year’s upgrades were paid from sources outside of the general fund. Ours is one of the first courts in the area to upgrade its online docket so that everyone has access to electronic images of the actual filings. Now, when someone goes to our court’s online docket, rather than simply seeing that a motion was filed on a case, one can see the actual motion itself. This upgrade is designed to aid litigants and provide greater transparency on the cases we handle.
Our court also implemented a texting module that enables individualized text reminder messages to be sent automatically based on the specifics of a case. The court has seen a marked reduction in criminal warrants being issued for failures to appear now that we have fully implemented those text reminders.
The court was awarded a grant in 2021 to enable it to accept electronic traffic citations. Collaborating with the Cleveland Heights Police, Law, and IT departments, we are hopeful that this system will be implemented in the second quarter of this year.
This focus on technology was why I was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Commission on Technology and the Courts this past year. In addition to serving on that and other commissions, I was actively engaged in educational outreach programs, such as membership on the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District Strategic Planning Committee, reading and visiting with elementary school students at our schools, and participating in a discussion panel concerning virtual court hearings.
The CH Municipal Court remains one of the busiest in the area. After adjusting incoming cases to a per judge caseload, this court had the second-highest number of cases compared to the other 12 general division municipal courts in Cuyahoga County. CH Municipal Court heard 35 percent more cases than the average number of cases heard per judge in Cuyahoga County, and 41 percent more cases than the average number of cases heard per municipal court judge in Ohio.
While the court is absolutely not a revenue center—our mission is to administer justice—we once again remitted revenue to the city of Cleveland Heights in excess of our expenses. Even with an increase in services provided, and raises for court employees, our general fund expenses this past year were less than one-quarter of a percent increase over the 2020 general fund expenses.
None of this is possible without the hard work of the incredibly capable, diverse, and dedicated court staff. We look forward to continuing to serve our vital purpose of administering justice impartially, without denial or delay.
J.J. Costello is a lifelong Cleveland Heights resident and judge of the Cleveland Heights Municipal Court.