MOUNT VERNON — When the public’s attention is drawn to the Courthouse on East High Street, the focus is usually on Common Pleas Court Judge Otho Eyster’s second-floor courtroom. But on the first floor is a Common Pleas-level court that sees a lot of business: Probate and juvenile court, presided over by Judge James M. Ronk.
There’s also a magistrate, Jeffrey Williams, who hears cases when Ronk is away and as assigned by the judge.
Ronk said he does not plan to run for re-election to the post he has held since 1990. When voters elect a probate/juvenile judge, as they will in 2014, “they need to elect a juvenile judge,” Ronk said. That’s because the job is overwhelmingly tilted to the juvenile justice side.
Ronk said he spends a couple hours each Monday working on probate cases; the rest of the week is taken up with juvenile court. Like any court, the number of cases each day varies with as many as 12 scheduled in one day.
Some are pretrial hearings which don’t last long, but abuse, neglect and dependency cases might be more involved and take two or three days.
Disputes over child custody and child support cases take the lions share of the magistrate’s time, along with drug programs.
Court Administrator Diane Randall explained that schedule usually determines whether a case winds up before the judge or magistrate, but as a general rule the magistrate handles about 99 percent of the child support, custody and visitation cases plus many of the drug and alcohol program cases. The judge will handle delinquency, adults charged with contributing, traffic and probate cases.
The magistrate sees many of the juveniles in drug programs once a week. They also have appointments at The Freedom Center and with probation officers.
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