The Ottawa County Common Pleas Court utilizes programs and services to save costs, time, and serve the unique needs of the community. These services include Specialized Docket Programs and Court mediation.
Specialized Docket Court
Specialized dockets are particular sessions of Court used by the Ottawa County Common Pleas Court that utilize an alternative approach to providing court supervision to Defendants with mental illness and substance abuse issues. These dockets focus on treatment and judicial intervention to reduce recidivism and create productive citizens. Specialized Dockets are certified by the Ohio Supreme Court and meet all current requirements, standards, and best practices. These dockets were created in Ottawa County as a response to the rising opiate epidemic, gaps in services in the community, and high rates of recidivism.
The Ottawa County Common Pleas Specialized Docket Court operates the Mental Health Court that targets Defendants with mental health issues and the DATA (Drug Addiction Treatment Alliance) Program that targets Defendants with substance abuse issues. Placement on either docket is determined by a treatment team and legal and clinical eligibility must be met in order to participate in the programs. The application to specialized docket court is available here. In addition, referrals can be accepted from the Adult Probation Department, defense attorneys, Defendants, Judges, and treatment and resource providers in the community. Defendants can apply at any time, and all applications are processed post-conviction. All programs are voluntary and program eligibility does not guarantee a right to participate. Each section of the Specialized Docket has eligibility criteria that can be found below.
Judge Bruce Winters serves as the Judge for both Specialized Dockets.
Mental Health Court
The Mental Health Court was created in summer of 2016 and is a voluntary program focused on providing treatment oriented options for offenders with identified mental health concerns. It is designed to target nonviolent, mentally ill offenders who are in need of structured treatment, supervision and personal accountability. The Mental Health Court Docket is intended to divert mentally ill offenders from future recidivism and possible local or state incarceration by providing an opportunity for early intervention and a meaningful alternative to incarceration.
The benefits of the Mental Health Court are reducing negative interactions with the criminal justice system and peers, learning how to enjoy a productive lifestyle, improved familial and social relationships, better coping skills, and overall healthier lifestyle. By participating in this Court, a variety of resources can be accessed, including a range of treatment services, case management services, medication services, support groups, employment, educational or vocational opportunities, benefits assistance, etc. In addition, incentives for compliance are provided and positive relationships with the Mental Health Court Treatment Team members, including the Judge, program coordinator, probation officers, and treatment providers are fostered.
A Defendant must meet the following legal and clinical criteria in order to be referred to the Mental Health Court Program:
- Current charge is community control sanction (probation) eligible.
- Offender is charged with a felony offense of the 3rd, 4th , or 5th degree.
- Offender is capable of participating in and completing the program.
- Offender demonstrates an interest in and willingness to participate in the treatment program.
- Offender would benefit from mental health treatment.
- Offender must have an established Ottawa County residence.
- Offender is charged with an offense that is not defined as a sex-related offense (per ORC) and there is no history of sex related offenses (to be determined on a case by case basis).
- The Defendant must be diagnosed with a severe mental health disorder by a licensed treatment provider. This assessment can be completed as part of the application.
The Program is designed to be approximately twelve (12) months in duration, yet due to the individualized nature of needs-based programming, the term of participation may be longer or shorter in duration. The Mental Health Court treatment team and participants meet on a weekly basis in order to review performance, progress, and treatment needs. The following is a list of basic requirements that are expected of participants in the program:
- Attend status review hearings
- Abstain from alcohol and drug use
- Submit to frequent and random alcohol and drug screens (if applicable)
- Attend appointments with treatment providers and other recommended service providers
- Comply with all medication requirements
- Attend appointments with probation department and Mental Health Court Coordinator
- Comply with program requirements, conditions, and treatment plans
- Comply with sanctions for infractions
- Engage in a mental health support community
- No further violations of the law
The DATA (Drug Addiction Treatment Alliance) Program was created in November 2013 with a mission to improve the overall quality of life in our community by providing a court-supervised program for substance dependent offenders to enhance public safety, reduce crime, hold offenders accountable, reduce cost to the community and provide an opportunity for offenders to transform into positive, contributing community members.
The following criteria must be met in order to qualify for the program:
- Any case that is post-conviction where alcohol and/or drug use was directly or indirectly related to the offense
- The Defendant must be a resident of Ottawa County
- The Defendant must be assessed and diagnosed with a substance use disorder by an approved alcohol and drug treatment provider, which can be done as part of application
- The Defendant is determined to be moderate to high risk utilizing the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS), which can be done as part of application
The Defendant must be mentally competent and have the developmental capacity to adhere to the participation requirements
- The Defendant is not charged with an offense for which a prison term is mandatory
- The Defendant cannot be actively working as a police informant
- The Defendant cannot be mentally incompetent and/or have a mental health disorder, which would prevent or interfere with successful completion of the program
- The Defendant is not an integral part of a distribution or manufacturing network or actively engaged in crimes to benefit a gang
The DATA Program is broken into 4 different phases, each of which has a different focus and requirements. Participation is individualized and is a minimum of 18 months. Participants are expected to comply with all DATA requirements, along with all conditions of community control, which can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Meetings with Probation Officer and DATA Program Coordinator
- Group recovery meetings
- Appointments with treatment providers and other recommended service providers
- Submit to frequent and random alcohol and drug screens
- Status Review Hearings before the Judge
- Comply with structured hour requirements
- Participate in organized activities in the community
The Ottawa County Common Pleas Court uses trained mediators in a variety of civil cases. These mediators work with the parties to help them develop an agreement on the disputed issues in their case. This process is a time and cost effective alternative in which parties are encouraged to resolve issues and come to agreements that are beneficial to all the parties. This is done in an informal environment utilizing problem solving and creating alternative solutions that might otherwise not have been generated.
How to Apply for Mediation Services
The Court can refer domestic relations and foreclosure cases to mediation, as well as civil matters. You are your attorney can also request the Court for a referral as well.
What to Expect in the Mediation Process
Once a case is referred to mediation, the mediator will research the information and details about your case. The mediator may be in telephone contact with you and may request additional documentation.
During your first mediation, you and your attorney will have a joint meeting with the opposing side and the mediator. You will also have a private conference room available. Information shared with the mediator is confidential.
You should be prepared for long periods of waiting, as the mediator will work to communicate with both sides. The mediator will convey any settlement offers to both sides as well.
You may have additional sessions in order to resolve your case. If you are able to reach a settlement, an agreement will be drafted and signed. If not, the case will proceed with Court.
You may contact the Clerk of Courts if you would like an audio recording or written transcript of any Court proceeding. The Clerk of Courts will provide you with a form, where you can indicate how you would like your request processed. The cost for an audio recording is $7.00 and the cost for written transcripts is determined by the Court Reporter. The Clerk of Courts can be contacted at 419-734-6755 and is located at 315 Madison Street, Room 106 B, Port Clinton, Ohio 43452.