Making Democracy Work

Know Hamilton County

Table of Contents

County Structure
Special Districts
County Finances
    Administration of Justice
Health & Human Services
Safety Services
Development & Housing
    Environment & Infrasturcture
Regional Affiliations

Administration of Justice

Law Enforcement

The Sheriff, Prosecuting Attorney, and Coroner are elected to office by the voters of Hamilton County for four-year terms.


The County Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in the county. The Sheriff's office provides full police protection to the unincorporated areas of the county and maintains police jurisdiction in all municipalities, townships and villages. In addition, the Sheriff provides services to common pleas and is in charge of the county jail and corrections on a countywide basis.
Sheriff's Office website

Public Defender Office

The Public Defenders Office provides legal representation for indigent persons in both felony and misdemeanor criminal cases in Hamilton County.
Public Defender's website

County Prosecuting Attorney

The Prosecuting Attorney (PA) performs both a criminal and civil law function.
County Prosecuting Attorney website

County Coroner / Crime Lab

The County Coroner investigates the cause, mode and manner of sudden and unexpected deaths, particularly those due to violence or otherwise suspicious or unexplained.
County Coroner website

Detention and Corrections

The Sheriff's Court and Jail Services Division is responsible for the operation of all adult county detention and corrections facilities. Juvenile offenders not bound over to Adult Court are sent to the Youth Center. The Youth Center is under the jurisdiction of Juvenile Court. Juvenile felons may be assigned to a state facility.
Corrections Division website
Juvenile Youth Center website

Court Systems

All courts sitting in Hamilton County belong to either the Federal system or the state system.

Federal Courts

Two federal courts sit in Cincinnati
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division serves 10 Ohio counties and tries most cases involving federal laws.
Ohio Southern District Court website

U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit has appellate jurisdiction for Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.
Court of Appeals website

State Courts

Ohio Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and 6 justices. It has final judicial review authority in the state level. Justices serve six-year staggered terms and are elected by voters of Ohio.
Ohio Supreme Court website
State of Ohio Court Structure

Ohio First District Court of Appeals (First appellate district of Ohio) is primarily a court of judicial review. Judges serve six-year staggered terms. Six judges are elected by voters of Hamilton County. Appeals Court website

Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judges are elected county wide by Hamilton County voters and serve six-year staggered terms. The Common Pleas Court has 4 divisions:

  • General Division-jurisdiction in civil cases involving claims and in criminal cases involving felonies committed in Hamilton County; has appellate jurisdiction over lower courts decisions and over Board of County Commissioners; supervises the Jury Commission and the Grand Jury. There are 16 Judges including the Drug Court and one magistrate. The Drug Court component of the Court of Common Pleas handles fourth and fifth degree drug and drug related cases. Common Pleas website
  • Domestic Relations Division-deals with family issues: divorce, dissolution of marriage, enforcing spousal support, child support and custody. There are 3 judges elected to six-year staggered terms. Domestic Relations website
  • Juvenile Court Division-jurisdiction over juvenile (under 18) related matters, including traffic offenders, delinquency, dependency, abuse, neglect allegations and custody matters. There are 2 judges elected to six-year staggered terms. Juvenile Court website
  • Probate Court Division-deals with wills, estates, adoption, guardianship, marriage licenses, name changes and commitment to mental institutions. There is one judge elected to a six-year term. Probate Court website

Hamilton County Municipal Court Judges serve six-year staggered terms and are elected by district. Although there are 2 judges elected from each of the 7 Hamilton county districts, they serve together as a single court. The court has jurisdiction in civil cases involving claims of $15,000 and under and in criminal cases involving misdemeanors committed in Hamilton County. Holds traffic court and holds preliminary hearings in felony cases.
Municipal Court website
Municipal Court District Map

Small Claims Court - jurisdiction in civil cases involving claims of less than $3,000. Usually handled by a magistrate.
Small Claims Guide

Mayor's Courts - jurisdiction over moving traffic violations and limited criminal jurisdiction in municipal ordinance cases.
Mayors Court Guide


Hamilton County voters elect all judges sitting in the Ohio First District Court of Appeals, the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas and the Hamilton County Municipal Court. Judges are elected on a non-partisan ballot. Nomination is usually partisan. If a vacancy occurs during a term, the Governor appoints a new judge who serves until the next scheduled judicial election.
Hamilton County website by department and court

Clerk of Courts

In Hamilton County the Clerk of Courts is elected by the voters of Hamilton County for a four-year term. The Clerk is responsible for maintaining the records of the Court of Common Pleas and various other courts that have appellate jurisdiction at the county level. By statute, the Clerk is required to maintain a record of certain civil and criminal cases. Its personnel have responsibilities in the Municipal Courts, both criminal and civil. Their duties include arrest, transportation of prisoners, subpoenas, evictions and courtroom security. The Clerk's office has the following 3 divisions.
  • The Traffic Division processes traffic tickets and executes arrest warrants.
  • The Civil Division handles civil suits and evictions.
  • The Auto Title Division issues Certificates of Title for cars, trucks, motorcycles, trailers, mobile homes, and boats.
    Clerk of Courts website


Prospective jury members in Hamilton County are chosen by lot from lists of registered voters. Jury lists so chosen are drawn upon, also by lot, when needed. A grand jury (9 members) hears criminal cases to determine whether an accused person should be held for trial. A trial or petit jury (number varies) hears both criminal and civil cases. In Federal Courts, juries are chosen by a combined list of registered voters and people with drivers licenses in the judicial district.