Fairfield Municipal Court Judge Joyce Campbell asked City Council for a new part-time magistrate due to a rising caseload. Council accommodated the request at its Oct. 28 meeting. Pictured is Campbell last month who wore a pink robe throughout the month in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Fairfield court to get new part-time magistrate to help with rising caseload

The new magistrate, when hired, will earn $35,000 per year and hear arraignments of prisoners on the weekends and holidays, assist Municipal Court Judge Joyce Campbell with minor misdemeanor traffic violations and serve in her absence.

The request was made by Campbell, said City Manager Mark Wendling.

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“The judge has asked that the position be created and appointed as soon as possible due to the current load of weekend arraignments and the upcoming holidays,” he said.

Campbell said the caseload has doubled from last year because of the new police officers hired by Fairfield. More than 9,200 traffic, criminal, civil and small claims cases were heard in Fairfield Municipal in 2018, which have been on the rise since 2015, according to court records.

”We do arraignments every day, including either Saturday or Sunday, so if I’m out of town or I’m tied up in Columbus for the committees I serve on for the Ohio Judicial Conference, I need to have a magistrate that can cover that,” she said.

Campbell said she has an acting judge who covers for her and a small claims magistrate who tries civil cases on Wednesday evenings and covers in the judge’s absence. But she said it’s not cost-efficient to have them cover for her.

Campbell also has dockets for a mental health court and a drug court that she says “take a lot of time.”

“This way, we can have the magistrate cover some things to cover some things without extending the docket,” she said. “I want the staff to be able to leave on time, and the amount of paperwork that comes out after a case is resolved, it’s not happening.”

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Campbell said she would run both courtrooms if needed, and doesn’t anticipate the courtroom caseload slowing “because we’ve got all these new police officers, and they’re going to add more … I ran the numbers, and it just made sense to do it this way.”

The court’s projected 2020 budget is $2.56 million, a 2.64 percent increase over 2019, according to the city finance department.

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