A bill that would consolidate the Sandusky County Courts of Clyde and Woodville into a single municipal court has received committee approval and will go to the full Ohio House of Representatives for a vote.
State Representative Rex Damschroder (R- Fremont) introduced House Bill 433 in January.
“By consolidating the two part-time courts in Sandusky County into one single court, Sandusky County will save taxpayer dollars in their budget,” Damschroder said.
Warren Brown, county administrator, testified before the House Local Government Committee the consolidation is feasible.
Both courts, under consolidation, would continue in their locales, he said, but the two part-time judgeships would be combined into one full-time position.
“The caseload of the county courts is heavily weighted toward traffic offenses, as both courts have jurisdiction along the Ohio Turnpike,” Warren said. “The caseload is currently easily handled by the two part-time judges. Consolidation of the two positions into one full-time position makes sense. Even factoring in additional commute time, one judge can easily handle the caseload. In fact, the current probation department is shared by the courts with the two probation officers traveling between the courts on successive days. The court is already set up on non-conflicting days so the probation officers can cover both courts, which they easily accomplish.”
He estimated one full-time judge would result in a savings of about $20,000, depending on whether the judge carried family or single health insurance coverage.
This consolidation could lead to a future consolidation with the City of Fremont to form a county-wide municipal level court, Warren told the committee, adding city officials have expressed interest in the idea.
Sandusky County Court Judge John Kolesar submitted written testimony to the committee and said it would offer better service to residents.
“Part-time judge are permitted to retain a private legal practice, and most do,” he wrote. “Full-time judges are not permitted to practice law. From an ethical perspective, part-time judges are not in the best interest of litigants. Judges should be full-time, not dabbling in other pursuits.”
Jo Ellen Cline, government relations counsel to the Ohio Supreme Court, also testified in favor of the bill.