Input from members of our community is vitally important to the legislative process here at the Statehouse. In fact, the Senate recently approved legislation following the input from the Avon Lake community.

After hearing from the Avon Lake Municipal Court and the Supreme Court of Ohio about the increased caseload the Lorain County court has experienced over the last several years, I introduced Senate Bill 336 to transition the court’s judgeship from part-time to full-time to ensure our growing community is served as effectively as possible.

The municipal court plays a critical role in our Northeastern Ohio community, hearing cases ranging from traffic and criminal offenses to civil disputes and misdemeanor crimes with jurisdiction in Avon, Avon Lake, and the Sheffield Village. In a report recommending the transition, The Supreme Court of Ohio found that the court saw a ten-year high of 1,430 incoming traffic cases in 2013, an increase of 54 percent over the 927 filings in 2008. Also in 2013, the court reported 1,238 incoming criminal cases, an 81 percent increase over 2004.

This increase in the court’s docket over the last several years has required the court to schedule additional hearings for days on which the current part-time judge has not been scheduled in order to accommodate the volume of cases. Senate Bill 336, approved by the Senate (32 – 0) on May 28, seeks to alleviate this strain on the court brought by the increase in cases.

The Senate Standing Committee on Civil Justice heard testimony in support of S.B. 336 earlier this month from current Avon Lake Municipal Court Judge Darrel Bilancini. In his testimony, Judge Bilancini stated that the judgeship transition will allow the court to better support the citizens of the community it serves, as well as their local police agencies and the staff of the court. Similarly, the Supreme Court states in its recommendation that the transition “ensures that the goals of judicial efficiency and access to justice are maintained and not compromised.”

Working toward this goal, I am pleased to see this bill advance through the legislature. The provisions contained in Senate Bill 336 were also amended into House Bill 483, the Mid-Biennium Review (MBR) legislation. Senate Bill 336 will continue to progress until the MBR is signed by the Governor. With support from our community and The Supreme Court of Ohio, this transition will allow the court to work more effectively to meet its needs and those of the larger Northeast Ohio region.

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