Modernizing the Ohio Court of Claims

Earlier this month it was announced that live videos of some Ohio Court of Claims trials that may be of great public interest or of educational value would be available for public viewing online in a new pilot program launched Monday, September 9.  with the case of Darrell Houston v. State of Ohio  streamed live

Court of Claims Clerk Mark Reed was at that point quoted by the Supreme Court’s news service that viewing Court of Claims cases online will give the public a better understanding about what happens when someone sues the state. “There’s an idea out in the public that you can’t sue the state, that you can’t fight city hall,” he said. “But the Court of Claims exists to say, ‘yes, you can,’ and you can bring those cases to one court in the state of Ohio, so we are unique. You can only sue the state here, and that to me is what makes the Court of Claims so very interesting.”

Houston's three-day trial was recounted on September 11 with Reed's reporting that it was "the first wrongful imprisonment case to be processed for half the mandated judgment total within 60 days of the individual’s release from prison since the state statute was amended in the 128th General Assembly. Houston will receive the balance of his restitution after the Court of Claims renders judgment. A decision in the case is expected in about three months. Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor assigned retired Belmont County Common Pleas Court judge Jennifer L. Sargus to hear the case." [  Darrell Houston v. State of Ohio, Case No. 2012-08516 WI ]

Online video feeds aren’t the only innovation in the air for the Court of Claims, with state representatives James Butler and Michael Stinziano, ranking Democrat member of the House Judiciary Committee, that same week saying “As the court where civil disputes against the state of Ohio are heard, it’s time that the operations of the Court of Claims of Ohio be modernized,” in their introduction of HB 261.

Among its other points, HB 261 would include abolishing the office of Court of Claims commissioner, appointed by the Justices of the Supreme Court but adding a layer of unnecessary bureaucracy to the Court of Claims process, according to Stinziano. Cases would initially be handled by magistrates on staff at the Court of Claims in a more cost effective and efficient manner, a measure he says is supported by the Supreme Court of Ohio as well as the Court of Claims. (Press Release)

Court of Claims’ website
Text of HB 261