Fairborn Municipal Court overloaded, hopes to add second judge

A second judgeship is being sought for Fairborn Municipal Court. FILE

Combined ShapeCaption
A second judgeship is being sought for Fairborn Municipal Court. FILE

The court had significantly more criminal, traffic and civil cases than other local municipal courts in recent years

FAIRBORN — A second judgeship is being proposed for Fairborn Municipal Court because of increasing caseloads.

Judge Beth Cappelli pointed to an Ohio Supreme Court analysis of rising cases in the past 10 years for the jurisdiction that includes Bath Twp., Beavercreek, Beavercreek Twp. and Fairborn.

The number of criminal, traffic and civil cases in the court last year was 17,099, a higher figure than Kettering Municipal Court, which has two judges, records show.

The caseload for Fairborn was 17,101 back in 2014, and it topped 18,000 each year from 2016-18, according to court records.

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“This isn’t just a blip on the radar,” Cappelli told Fairborn City Council last week. “This has been a consistent increase in our caseload that has been one-and-a-half to double what everybody else’s is. So I think it does show a need for at least the review of it.”

Kettering Municipal Court, which has two judges, had 11,231 criminal, traffic and civil cases last year, records show.

Other area one-judge courts include Vandalia (15,199 cases in 2021), Miamisburg (9,350) and Xenia (8,327), according to Fairborn Municipal Court data.

Similar requests have been made in the past, and one sticking point was a lack of facilities, Cappelli said. Since then, the court has moved from the city building to a site on Kauffman Avenue with more space.

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A second judge must be approved by the Ohio legislature, Fairborn City Manager Rob Anderson said in an email.

The Greene County Prosecutor’s Office, the county public defender’s office and the Greene County Bar Association all support the addition, Cappelli said.

Fairborn is the court’s primary funding authority and its city council also backs the effort.

On “the workload issue, there’s no question,” Fairborn Mayor Paul Keller said. “The funding part of it is something I think we will have to continue to look for options on how we address that.”

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The city is financially responsible for the court’s operation, and its general fund subsidized the court more than $859,000 last year. The budgeted amount for 2022 is $948,000, Anderson said.

Other jurisdictions are only required to pay the court the amount that is collected in fines and fees from the cases that are heard, he added.

Beavercreek reimbursed Fairborn municipal court expenses with $95,000 in 2021, according to records.

A second judge would include a full-time bailiff, Cappelli said. Fairborn’s cost for both positions would be slightly more than $166,000 a year, Anderson said.

Cappelli “has identified some offsets that she can contribute from her budget that will lessen the amount that will need to be covered by the city’s general fund,” he said.

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Fairborn would also need to hire a second prosecutor, which is estimated to cost about $120,000 a year, Anderson added.

If a second judgeship is created, it “would be a natural time” to hike court fees and fines, a $5 increase under Cappelli’s proposal.

If approved, the earliest a second judge’s position could be on the ballot would be next year, she said.

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