General Litigation

Courthouse Security

Courthouse security has been increased since events such as the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal court building and the tragedy of September 11, 2001, which destroyed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The goal of enhanced security is twofold: to assure the safety of people and property in the courthouse and to preserve the integrity of the judicial process. Reasonably safe courthouses must be provided, measures have to be taken to safeguard court records, and a plan must be adopted that would permit the court system to function after an emergency.

Criminal Cases

A criminal case begins when the prosecutor files criminal charges against a person, a person is arrested, or the grand jury returns an indictment against a person. Criminal offenses are either misdemeanors or felonies. A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by jail time of up to one year. A felony is a more serious crime, which is punishable by prison time of more than one year.

Expedited State Appellate Procedures

Most state appellate courts experience gridlock in processing appeals. The courts are having difficulty keeping pace with the increasing volume of appealed cases. As a result, there are significant delays in finalizing an appeal. In some cases, it can take more than two years between entry of the final judgment in the trial court and a final decision in the appellate court. The courts have been pursuing efficiency promoting methods. This article discusses procedures that are being adopted by state appellate courts to reduce the backlog of cases and speed up the appeal process.

Personal Representatives

When a person dies, state law establishes legal procedures for settling the deceased person’s estate. This process is called probate. If the person has a will, he/she may name someone to serve as personal representative. A personal representative is the executor or administrator of a deceased person’s estate. In some states, the terms executor and administrator are used in place of personal representative. If no personal representative is specified by will or if the person dies intestate (without a will), the probate court will appoint someone to serve as personal representative.

Probate Courts

A probate court is a specialized court that handles the probate of wills, administers the estate (property) of a deceased person, appoints guardians for minors and incapacitated adults, and orders the involuntary hospitalization of persons in need of medical treatment. In some states, the probate court also deals with such issues as terminating parental rights and approving adoptions. Some probate courts also issue marriage licenses and grant name changes. The probate court in New York, as well as in some other states, is called the surrogate’s court. Ohio has a probate division in the common pleas court, which is the trial level court in Ohio.