Ohio Court Says It Can’t Afford Any More Paper

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Things are tough all over, including in the nation's courthouses.  A court in Ohio is so strapped for cash that it has announced that it will not accept new case filings starting today (March 16) because it only has enough paper left to cover pending cases, and can't afford to buy any more.  Judge Lee McClelland of the court in Morrow County, Ohio, was quoted as saying that unless litigants "want to provide paper, we can't process anything."

I guess this is one way to cut down on paperwork.  Hey, maybe it's also a good strategy to reduce the number of frivolous cases.  If the amount of the demand multiplied by the chance of recovery is sufficiently low, plaintiff should have to pay for all of the paper required for the case.  Just a thought.  Some lawsuits actually are not worth the paper they're printed on, so maybe this would deter some of those.  I suppose, to be fair, if plaintiff did win, then defendant might have to pay for the paper.

Staple and ink costs would be split between the parties.

Judge McClelland explained in a memo to local officials that the county still had not paid the bill for basic supplies that the court ordered in November.  Purchase orders for more supplies were returned because no funds were available to pay them.  He said there was no choice but to decline new cases unless people wanted to bring their own paper along.

Reportedly, several agencies had agreed to bring the court some paper, at least enough to process their own filings.  (Too bad for the opponent, I guess — get your own!)  That did not appear to include the Sheriff's Department, though.  County Sheriff Steven Brenneman said he didn't understand how the court could just refuse to take cases.  "[I]f we make arrests or issue citations," he said, "we're taking them to the court.  Whether the court accepts them, I guess that's something they're going to have to deal with."  Sounds like somebody is hoarding citation paper that they ought to be sharing with others.

Judge McClelland said the court would also be changing to a four-day workweek to save money.

Link: Dana Wilson, "Paperless court is motionless," Columbus Dispatch (Mar. 14, 2009).