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Athens County Common Pleas Court - Athens, Ohio USA

Athens Common Pleas Court

Athens County Courthouse
1 S. Court Street, Athens, Ohio USA 45701

Judge George P. McCarthy                                                                               Judge Patrick L. Lang
      (740) 593-3591                                                                                              (740) 592-3236 
    Fax (740) 592-3020                                                                                     Fax (740) 592-3215

The following information is general in nature and is not to be relied upon for legal advice.  If you have a question about your legal rights you should contact an attorney.  The Court and its staff are not permitted to provide you legal advice.

The following information and comments are provided courtesy of Judge George P. McCarthy


The Athens County Commissioners established the following weather related policy concerning snow related closings. The Athens Common Pleas Court and Domestic Relations Court follow that policy which is:

Level 3 -  All County Offices will be closed.

Level 2 declared before 6:30 a.m. - County offices will open at 10:00 a.m. Employees are expected to report at that time unless otherwise instructed by their Supervisor or Appointing Authority.  Update at 8:30 a.m. if conditions merit further delay or closing.

Level 2 declared after 6:30 a.m.  - County offices will open at the usual time.  Employees need to use care and travel according to their abilities and road conditions.

Level 1 – Normal Operations. Employees need to use care and travel according to their abilities and road conditions.

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If you are scheduled to be in court on a day when the weather makes traveling difficult, you may contact your attorney to seek guidance on whether your court hearing has been rescheduled.  If you are not represented by an attorney you may contact the court to see if your case has been rescheduled.  

Judges Duties

The duties of the Judge include the overseeing & disposition of criminal and civil cases.

Civil Cases
Civil Cases include a wide variety of cases including personal injury (accident) cases, employment disputes, contract disputes, workers compensation appeals, and medical malpractice to name a few.

Each Judge sets guidelines for the attorneys to follow so that information may be exchanged between the parties and motions may be filed if necessary.  This helps the attorneys prepare for their respective cases as well as informs the opposing side the facts that support their position. This normally leads to a settlement and/or resolution to the case. If the parties cannot reach a resolution then the case may be scheduled for trial. At a trial, a jury of 8 persons or the Judge hears the case.  When the Judge hears the case it may be referred to as a “Trial to the Bench” or “Bench Trial.”  When a jury hears the case it is referred to as a “Jury Trial.”

Criminal Cases
Criminal Cases make up a majority of the cases the court hears each day.   

Felony Criminal Cases include any offense where the possible penalty is six months or more in prison. Breaking and Entering, Theft, Felonious Assault, Domestic Violence, Arson, Fraud, Armed Robbery, Murder and Drug Cases are just a few examples of such cases.

In a criminal case the prosecuting attorney and their office typically represent the State of Ohio or a government agency. The criminal defendant is represented by their own attorney.  If they cannot afford an attorney and qualify for a publicly appointed attorney, the Public Defender or another attorney selected by the Court may be appointed to represent them.

If a criminal case is not resolved, the case may be set for trial before a jury of 12 or before the judge.    A trial to a jury is referred to as a “Jury Trial.”   When the case is tried to the Judge it may be referred to as a “Trial to the Bench” or “Bench Trial.”

In criminal cases if the defendant is found guilty, the Judge is usually responsible for sentencing the defendant.   

Other Duties

The Judge also is responsible for the Grand Jury and its process.  The Judge turns the grand jury over to the Prosecuting Attorney who presents information of alleged criminal incidents for possible indictment.  If the grand jury returns a “true bill” and the person is indicted, the case is scheduled for arraignment. 

At arraignment, the person enters a plea to the charge (or charges) and a pre-trial date and a trial date are typically set.   

A pre-trial is where the parties meet to discuss possible settlement of the case.

A trial refers to the process where witness testimony and evidence is submitted to the judge or jury for consideration.

The Judges also hear & determine administrative appeals from various State and local agencies. These appeals, for example, come from decisions of the State Personnel Board of Review, Unemployment Relations Board, local zoning appeals and local governmental decisions.

Public Speaking Engagements, Field Trips, Mock Trials

It is generally anticipated that the judges do their best to educate the public as to the judicial process.  Judges are often invited to speak to school groups and service clubs. Field trips by local schools to the court are encouraged.

The Court supports the need for law-related education and welcomes the opportunity to speak at such functions and to students to help inform them about the duties and responsibility of the Judicial Branch.  This also helps to address any misperception people might have as to what really happens in a court room versus what they see on television or other media. 

The Court supports those who are contemplating service in the legal profession and towards that end also assists in high school and Ohio University mock trial events.

Jury Duty

Jury Duty is a civic obligation that our legal justice system holds dear.  By educating the public as to the duties & responsibilities of the court, the Judges believe that informed citizens will be more responsive to a call for "Jury Service.”  Jury duty is an inconvenience to some, but the jury system is the backbone of our justice system. 

In other countries, a judge may be the only one who determines guilt or innocence of a defendant charged with a crime, or the liability of a party involved in a civil dispute.  In the American Justice System, citizens directly participate in the system through the trial process. 

A vast number of cases are resolved by the parties instead of being tried to a jury.  For the very small percentage of cases that are not resolved by the parties, the case matter may proceed to trial to have a “jury of peers” decide the case.

Jury participation is something that our country and state founders found indispensable to the proper function of government.  It was so important that it was specifically provided for in the U.S. Constitution and Ohio Constitution. Citizen participation in the jury process is an important civic function and is one of the cornerstones of our system of justice.  

Most people who participate as jurors report it as a worthwhile experience.  Others report feeling that they have served their public duty by being a juror – and jurors have fulfilled that obligation.  Jurors have the thanks of the Court for participating.

Those serving as jurors are sincerely appreciated by the Court, the citizens of Athens County and the parties involved in the legal system. 

Athens County Common Pleas Court - Local Rules of Court - Counsel and litigants representing themselves are expected to be compliant with these rules.

Rev. 2/5/2018 GPM

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