January 15, 2010
Update from the Common Pleas Committee
Judge Charles Schneider spoke with the Common Pleas Court Committee last week, reporting on various issues facing the Court and noting that 2010 will bring at least one new face to the Court with six current judges up for election and one retiring judge (Judge Beverly Pfeiffer).
With a general operating budget of more than $20 million, the Common Pleas Court employs over 240 full-time employees. Despite current economic conditions, there have been no lay-offs, but Court personnel did not receive a cost of living increase for 2010.
Budgeting issues are affecting a number of programs including the drug court and the foreclosure mediation. The drug court has lost over $37,000.00 in external funding. Efforts are being taken to address the shortfall, but without additional external funding that program may end.
Foreclosure Mediation Program
Judge Schneider reported that there were 9,000 foreclosure filings in 2009, with 1,900 going to the mediation program. As of January 7, 2010, 459 of the referred mediations were not only successfully mediated, but enabled the homeowners to remain in their homes. Nevertheless, the Foreclosure Mediation Program is expected to be as much as $120,000.00 over budget for the year. The Court is exploring ways to fill the funding gap and is considering a temporary increase in the filing fees for foreclosures. The increase would include a sunset provision to reduce the fee as the situation improves.
Judge Schneider reported that the commercial docket currently has 100 pending cases for each of the assigned judges (Frye and Bessey), which is considerably more than anticipated. The Court is considering two ideas to address the volume: allow the two commercial judges to reduce their criminal case load; or hire a new staff attorney to be shared by the two judges.
Columbus Law Library
The Library will have to move from its current location at 369 South High to the 6th floor of 375 South High while the Hall of Justice is being renovated. During that time it will not have all of its collection available. Eventually, the library will move back into 369, occupying the 3rd floor.
Judge Schneider also addressed the recent concerns over the Veterans Commission. The Court has requested that an "outside targeted review" be conducted of the commission, and the Court has removed itself from the investigation, because it is possible that the Court will ultimately hear the matter.
Courthouse Construction Update
According to the latest reports, courthouse construction was still on budget and on time for move-in. The Court is examining how best to provide adequate notice to parties that may be affected by the move and may consult logistics professionals to ensure a smooth transition.
The next meeting of the Common Pleas Court Committee is February 4. Three full-time court reporters from the Court will talk about issues relevant to getting a good record. They will also answer any of your questions concerning the valuable work that they do for the Court and your clients.