Q: What is a clerk of courts?
A: In Ohio, the clerk of courts is the official record-keeper and agent for each court in each county. Many clerks of court manage millions of records. As agent of the county, the clerk manages the court’s bailiffs, courthouse security, subpoenas, transportation of prisoners, and evictions within the county. The clerk is also responsible for keeping records of titles for automobiles and other vehicles and airplanes. In some counties the clerk of courts handles birth and death records and titles to land.
Q: Who are the clerks of court?
A: Each court has a clerk of court. Most clerks are elected for four-year terms, and most are sponsored by one of the two major political parties. A municipal court clerk also may be appointed to serve a county court if the county has a small population. Juvenile judges act as the clerks of the juvenile courts, though the common pleas clerks do the actual record-keeping. The clerk of the common pleas court also acts as the clerk of the appellate court, and in multiple-county appeals courts, each common pleas court generally handles appeals from that county’s courts. Each clerk may appoint deputies to help handle the workload, but it is the clerk who is responsible for seeing that all of the duties are properly performed.
Q: What, exactly, does a clerk of courts do?
A: A clerk of courts handles all of the paperwork for the court – accepting documents for filing, entering the orders of judges, administering oaths, taking affidavits, and issuing executions. The clerk keeps four “books,” which are increasingly kept as computer files rather than as actual physical documents: 1) an appearance docket with the names of all parties to actions before the court; 2) a trial docket with the schedule of the judges; 3) a journal with all of the judges’ orders; and 4) an execution docket with information about actions by judgment creditors against judgment debtors. In some counties the clerk is responsible for the transportation of prisoners between the jail and the court.
Q: When might I have business with a clerk of courts?
A: If you have to pay a fine for a traffic ticket for a moving violation or transfer the title to an automobile or other vehicle, you will do business with a clerk of courts. If you are arrested and have to post bail, you must make the bail payment to the office of the clerk of courts. If you sue someone, those papers (and payment for costs) go to the clerk, who enters them into the books, accepts your payment, and schedules court appearances. If you are subpoenaed to appear in court, it is the clerk who processes the paperwork. The municipal clerk also handles evictions.
Q: Is the clerk of courts responsible for handling jury duty?
A: No; jury duty is not handled by the clerks of courts but by a separate organization, the commissioners of jurors.
Q: Where are the clerks of courts located?
A: You can find contact information for most Ohio county common pleas clerks at www.occaohio.com (click on “contact info”) and most Ohio municipal clerks at www.oamccc.org (click on “links”).
This "Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky attorney Paul Croushore, an author for Moore's Federal Practice.