Franklin Municipal Court judge: Stats show busy court needs to go full-time

Judge Ronald Ruppert’s court handled more cases in 2023 than all other Ohio municipal courts with a part-time judge, and more than some full-time courts

A local part-time municipal court judge says it’s time his role moves to full-time, to keep up with a growing caseload, to ensure the rights of defendants and victims are protected, and to create the opportunity for new programs.

Franklin Municipal Court Judge Ronald Ruppert told Franklin City Council that recent constitutional and statutory law changes as well as other judicial rule change have increased the demands on the judge in administering the local court. He is seeking support of council before submitting a proposal to the Ohio Supreme Court to begin the process.

Ruppert said the court has an expanded and significant role with Marsy’s Law, which gives crime victims meaningful and enforceable constitutional rights equal to the rights of the accused. He also said a full-time judge would be available all of the time and could create programs and dockets, such as to help people re-acquire driver licenses.

The increased availability of the judge would allow him to address changes in traffic laws that have provisions to vacate fines and points from driver records, such as the texting-while-driving law, according to Ruppert. It also would enable quicker arraignments of people accused of offenses, plus probable cause hearings for search warrants in criminal and code violation cases.

He said it would also reduce the need for calling in a visiting judge because of possible conflict-of-interest issues due to the fact that Ruppert is a practicing attorney, which is permissible for part-time judges. However, if the judgeship becomes full-time, he would would have to give up practicing law.

“Everything about the court would stay the same,” Ruppert said. “The only thing that would change is me.”

One change would be in the salary of the judge, which is set by state law. The local share would increase from $35,500 to $61,750. The city is responsible for 60% of the salary and the county is responsible for 40% of the local share. The remainder of the judge’s salary is paid by the state.

Franklin Municipal Court is one of 11 municipal courts in Ohio with a part-time judge. One of those, Lebanon Municipal Court, has received approval from the Ohio Supreme Court to have a full-time judge. The process took Lebanon several months to complete and had the support of key county officials and Lebanon council. The request has to be approved by the Ohio General Assembly before it can go into effect.

According to the Ohio Supreme Court statistics, of those 11 courts with a part-time judge, Franklin’s court is the busiest, as it processed 9,815 cases in 2023. The next highest municipal court is Lebanon Municipal Court with 5,735 cases processed, followed by Lawrence County Municipal Court that processed 3,872 cases in 2023.

Franklin Municipal is also the busiest municipal court in Warren County. Of the four municipal courts in Warren County, only Franklin and Warren County Court have part-time judges, while Mason and soon Lebanon will have full-time judges. The court’s jurisdiction is all of Franklin Twp. and the cities of Franklin and Carlisle.

In 2023, Mason Municipal processed 7,724 cases, while Warren County Court processed 5,708 cases, according to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Ruppert told council there would be no additional judicial or court staff; no additional funding for staff, no additional security personnel and no additional prosecutor involvement.

Council members did not comment on the proposal at the meeting.

Ruppert said once there is support to move forward, he will prepare a proposal for the Ohio Supreme Court to consider.

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