By Linda Dillman
If you get caught going a little (or a lot) too fast in Canal Winchester or violate city code, be prepared to appear in mayor’s court, a form of law only found in two places—Ohio and Louisiana.
Mayor’s courts handle misdemeanor and traffic violations and can be found throughout the state. While it is called Mayor’s Court, Canal Winchester Mayor Mike Ebert said the Ohio Revised Code authorizes him to appoint a magistrate—a lawyer with three or more years’ experience—to serve in his place.
Ebert said, “Any type of misdemeanor, with the exception of OVI’s or Domestic Violence” is heard locally. “Parking and zoning violations are also heard in mayor’s court.”
Court is held on the first and third Thursdays of the month at 1 p.m. in Town Hall and presided over by Magistrate Eric Nordman. Defendants, seen on a first-come, first-served basis, sign a basic rights form when they arrive and are given the opportunity to speak with the city prosecutor prior to appearing before the magistrate.
“Any offense that carries possible jail time can be transferred to the county municipal court in the county where the offense occurred at the defendant’s request,” said Ebert. “Mayor’s court hears cases that are violations of our codified ordinances. It allows us to have a say in how those cases are handled and ensures that funds are directed back to the city.”
In 2017, there were 906 new cases in Canal Winchester for a total of 1,090 offenses, according to Ebert. Total revenue last year was $137,435. Of this, $102,819 was retained by the city. The remainder was distributed to the state and Franklin/Fairfield county municipal courts. City expenditures in 2017 for mayor’s court were $112,003.
According to the Ohio State Bar Association, judgments entered and sentences imposed by a mayor’s court magistrate do not have to be reviewed or approved by the mayor and have the same force and effect as if they had been entered or imposed by the mayor.
When asked if Canal Winchester is compelled to hold mayor’s court or free to pursue other options, Ebert said mayor’s court could be dissolved and all cases would be heard at the municipal court level.
“This is not something the city has explored recently,” said Ebert.