Fairborn to get second judge; local courts’ caseloads very different

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

Fairborn Municipal Court is in line to get a second full-time judge after an Ohio study showed the number of filings in one recent year as the largest caseload per judge in the state.

The additional Fairborn judge is included in House Bill 518, overwhelmingly approved by the Ohio General Assembly, after an Ohio Supreme Court analysis endorsed the move. The bill awaits Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature.

Fairborn has the highest caseload of all municipal courts responding to a recent Dayton Daily News’ survey in Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Warren counties except Dayton, which has five full-time judges.

The legislation calls for the position — which Fairborn Judge Beth Cappelli requested earlier this year — to be filled in January 2024. The state would fund nearly 60% of the costs, records show.

The Fairborn court’s filings two years ago ranked it “as having the highest caseload per judge in Ohio,” the Supreme Court analysis states.

“The addition of a judgeship will likely be a boon to the court’s operations and increase the court’s effectiveness,” the study said.

A second judge “would likely help the court continue to demonstrate success in the timely management of its caseload,” according to the Supreme Court.

The court’s jurisdiction includes Bath Twp., Beavercreek, Beavercreek Twp. and Fairborn.

Cappelli told Fairborn officials in April that the court’s caseload “isn’t just a blip on the radar,” calling it “a consistent increase” over the years.

Attempts to reach Cappelli on Monday were unsuccessful.

Comparing caseloads

Ohio municipal courts commonly handle misdemeanor traffic and criminal cases. They also hear civil cases of up to $15,000 and have authority to hold preliminary hearings in felonies, state records show.

Fairborn has had the second highest caseload the past three years combined of any area municipal court responding to the DDN survey. It was surpassed only by Dayton.

Miami County, which has two judges, was third in caseload in that time, Miamisburg (one judge) fourth, followed closely by Kettering (two) and Xenia (one), the survey found.

The Miami County court’s area includes Covington, Piqua, Tipp City, Troy, West Milton and communities in the sheriff’s office jurisdiction. Miamisburg’s court covers Germantown, German Twp., Miami Twp. and West Carrollton.

Kettering’s jurisdiction includes Centerville, Moraine and Washington Twp. in addition to the home city. Xenia’s has Bellbrook, Yellow Springs, Cedarville, Xenia and about a dozen other villages and townships.

Fairborn’s smallest caseload since 2011 was recorded that year when it had 16,746 cases, the Supreme Court found. During that time, its caseload peaked in at 22,143 in 2017 and exceeded 21,000 through 2019, according to the high court.

“The overall incoming caseload for the court is mostly defined by the variability in the amount of traffic cases,” according to the state court analysis.

Traffic cases, funding

In the past three years combined, Fairborn had 41,632 traffic cases, followed by Miami County (26,256), Xenia (18,588) and Kettering (18,090), DDN survey results show.

In 2020, the median caseload for “all case types combined across all municipal courts with full-time judgeships” was 6,722, according to the state court analysis. That year, Fairborn had 18,058, records show.

Cappelli has told city officials “the need has been there for some time, but she has only asked for the second judge this year,” Fairborn City Manager Rob Anderson said in an email.

Before HB 518′s approval, the second judge was endorsed by the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office, the county public defender’s office and the Greene County Bar Association, Cappelli has said.

Fairborn city officials this spring didn’t question the need for the addition, but said funding would be an issue.

Compensation and some benefits are split between the state, the county and the city, according to Ohio statute. Ohio would cover the majority of the costs, which would range from $151,378 to $156,722 annually from 2024-26, records show.

The remainder of the cost would come from Fairborn (60%) and the county (40%) in that time frame, according to the state.

Fairborn’s court is also expecting a need to hire another prosecutor at the end of 2023, a job costing nearly $120,000 a year plus additional benefits and payroll-related costs, Ohio records state.

Both the city’s portion for the judge and the expense for the prosecutor would come from its general fund, Anderson said.

Staff Writers London Bishop, Nancy Bowman, Cornelius Frolik, Ed Richter and Eric Schwartzberg contributed to this report.

Municipal Court caseloads

COURT 201920202021
Dayton 32,13524,09229,236
Fairborn 21,24218,05817,099
Franklin 8,9876,2647,003
Kettering 11,8817,68110,482
Lebanon 6,5104,7205,499
Miami County 17,76313,14614,838
Miamisburg 12,1999,3109,350
Oakwood 2,0421,1781,427
Warren County 6,3284,3774,553
Xenia 12,2068,5078,937

Note: Dayton has five full-time judges. Kettering and Miami County each have two full-time judges. Warren County has two part-time judges. Franklin has a part-time judge.
Source: Local courts, Ohio Supreme Court

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