Franklin County family court judges say there’s a shortage on the bench

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — History is being made by judges in Franklin County’s domestic and juvenile courts, but it’s not the kind of history they want to make.

They are the busiest judges in the state.

Chances are if you have contact with a judge or a magistrate, it’s going to be in domestic or juvenile court. They deal with life’s problems–divorce, child custody, juvenile delinquency, domestic abuse, neglected children–issues that often need immediate attention.

But, you might have to get in a long line, because tens of thousands of people are waiting to see a handful of judges.

Franklin County judges Kim Browne, left, and Elizabeth Gill.

“It bothers me every day because I know that the snippet that I can spend with each case does nothing to help these folks who are living day to day trying to figure out whatever their family situation is,” said Elizabeth Gill, a judge with Franklin County domestic and juvenile courts.

Domestic court judges in the county start each day with a stacked docket–an average of 30 cases.

“And that’s 30 cases every morning for us, but for you that’s your only case,” says judge Kim Browne. “You want me to give you my attention, you want me to give you justice, you want me to be fast about dealing with your legal matter. And you want me to just put my heart into your case.”

So do a lot of people. The numbers are startling: The judges in Franklin County handle more than 43,000 cases a year, far outpacing Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties.

In Cuyahoga County, each judge handles about 2,100 cases annually, but a judge in Franklin County is slammed with 8,600 cases a year.

Even though Franklin County has the highest population in the state, it only has 5 domestic court judges. Cuyahoga County has 12.

Adding to the backlog, 60 percent of the people who file complaints don’t have lawyers. And because of its diverse foreign-born population, Franklin County has a significant number of cases that require interpreters.

Now, judges and attorneys are backing a house bill that would add two judges to the bench in Franklin County. They are pushing hard for House Bill 174, and they want citizens to tell local lawmakers to support it.

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