Last updated: September 27, 2013
Whether you think of it as the Forest City or as The Rock and Roll Capital of the World, the Cleveland offers something for everyone. It is home to the prominent Case Western Reserve University as well as Fortune 500 companies such as KeyBank and Sherwin-Williams. With nearly 400,000 residents, Cleveland has a robust court system to serve its citizens. Here is a useful guide to the key state and federal courthouses in Cleveland.
The Municipal Court handles Small Claims ($3000 or less) and General Civil Claims ($15,000 or less). (Larger dollar value claims are filed in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court – see below). This court also processes misdemeanor Criminal/Traffic Claims, but transfers felony cases to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. The Municipal Court is also home to the Housing Court, which hears civil cases involving landlord/tenant issues and criminal cases involving code violations. The jurisdiction of the Municipal Court is limited to the boundaries of the City of Cleveland and the Village of Bratenal.
The Juvenile Court was established in 1902 and has handled “cases of all kinds including delinquency, unruliness, traffic, neglect, dependency, abuse, parent-child relationship, non-support, custody and other matters.”
This court handles the administration of deceased individuals’ estates. In addition, it issues marriage licenses, and handles adoptions, guardianship proceedings, land appropriation matters, and involuntarily commitment of the mentally ill.
This court handles separations and divorces, child and spousal support and domestic violence petitions.
Judges in the General Division of the Common Pleas Court have general jurisdiction to hear civil matters (with unlimited total damages) and all felonies as well as certain additional criminal offenses. The Common Pleas Court also has specific divisions including: the Re-Entry Court (a specialized docket “to address the needs of offenders transitioning from prison back to the community”), the Drug Court (with a goal of breaking “the cycle of recidivism by addressing an offender’s drug dependency”), and the Mental Health Developmental Disability Court (designed to “promote early identification of defendants with severe mental health/developmental disabilities”). Jury duty at this Court is either on a Petit Jury (normally one week) or a Grand Jury (2 days a week for 4 weeks). Your jury summons will specify whether you are being called in for Grand Jury selection. Jurors are paid $20 per day and there is free Wi-Fi available.
The Ohio Court of Appeals is an intermediate level appellate court that hears appeals from the common pleas, municipal and county courts. Ohio is broken up into 12 appellate districts, and the 8th Appellate District has jurisdiction over Cuyahoga County. A three-judge panel hears and determines each case brought before the Ohio Court of Appeals. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are oral argument days, with each side allowed 15 minutes for its presentation. Opinions are generally issued on Thursdays. If you wish to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeals, you proceed to the Ohio Supreme Court in Columbus. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about filing an action in this court can be found on the court’s website.
The U.S. District Court handles only federal law matters. Appeals from decisions by this court should be directed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati. The Eastern Division has three locations: Akron, Cleveland and Youngstown. You may be summoned for jury duty at this court for either a Petit Jury (expect to be “on call” for up to 30 days) or a Grand Jury (expect to serve 1-3 days every month for 18 months). The Cleveland location is also one of the sites for naturalization ceremonies (becoming a U.S. citizen). Ceremonies are usually held the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month.
This federal court handles only bankruptcy proceedings. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District has locations in Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Toledo and Youngstown. Should you wish to file documents yourself (without an attorney), the website has some helpful Self-Help Filing Information. For basic information about bankruptcy, see here.