Ohio Supreme Court recommends expanding Lebanon Municipal judge role to full-time

Lebanon Municipal’s criminal caseload, with part-time judge, was found to be equivalent to the average full-time municipal court statewide

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

A recent review of data by the Ohio Supreme Court has led to a recommendation to transition the Lebanon Municipal Court judgeship from a part-time to a full-time position.

In a response to Judge Martin E. Hubbell’s letters sent Sept. 9, 2023 and Feb. 9, 2024, Robert W. Horner III, administrative director for the Supreme Court, reviewed the sole part-time judgeship and caseload of the Lebanon court and compared it with the statewide metrics of full-time judgeships to provide a foundation for understanding the judicial resource needs.

Horner said, “It is noteworthy that, when the criminal caseload of Lebanon Municipal Court is compared to all full-time municipal judgeships across the state, it ranks at the 50th percentile.”

He also said Hubbell’s proposal to convert the judgeship into a full-time position, “facilitates an expansion of services including adding another arraignment docket, implementing specialized dockets to reduce recidivism, and the creation of a driver’s license intervention program to assist people in regaining their driver’s license following suspension. This would ensure the goals of judicial efficiency and access to justice are maintained and not compromised.”

In addition to recommending converting the part-time judgeship to full-time, Horner said the court will stand ready to assist the Lebanon court and its justice partners with further assistance as the proposal goes through the legislative process.

State Rep. Adam Mathews, R-Lebanon, said he supports the proposal, which will need to be approved by the Ohio General Assembly, but he did not have a timeframe on when it would happen.

Hubbell’s request has the support of Mark Yurick, Lebanon city attorney; Mitchell Allen, president of the Warren County Bar Association; Lebanon City Council; and the Warren County commissioners.

In a September presentation to Lebanon City Council, Hubbell said on average, there are five to 12 people arrested from the end of court on Thursday until court resumes on Monday. The Lebanon court’s criminal/traffic court docket is on Monday and Thursday afternoons.

He said going forward, there will be probable cause hearings scheduled throughout the week and on weekends and holidays. Hubbell also said in the recent 2024 paperwork for insurance, the question was asked about a 48-hour requirement.

The process to transition the position to full-time status requires the approval of the city, Warren County, the Warren County Bar Association, and the Ohio Supreme Court. The local cost would increase $26,250 a year, with the city paying $15,750 and the county paying $10,500. The Ohio Supreme Court would pick up the balance of the costs, Hubbell wrote. He said these costs would remain constant through 2028 by state statute.

There are four municipal/county courts in Warren County that are courts of record. They include Franklin Municipal, Lebanon Municipal, Mason Municipal, and Warren County Court.

In 2022, the Lebanon court handled 1,129 felony and misdemeanor cases; 2,849 traffic cases; and 591 regular civil and small claims cases, according to the court’s annual report issued in March 2023.

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