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Athens Common Pleas Court Press Releases

These notices and press releases appear in reverse chronological order.  They are issued from and on behalf of the Athens County Ohio Common Pleas Court and Domestic Relations Court. 

NOTICE - COURT CLOSED 5/25/2020 for Memorial Day 

  • Please note that the Athens County Courthouse, including the Athens Common Pleas Court, Domestic Relations Court and Athens Common Pleas Clerk's Office will be closed on May 25, 2020 for Memorial Day.
  • Full list of holiday closures are here. 

NOTICE - COURT REDUCED HOURS OF OPERATION EXTENDED TO 5/1/2020

3/31/20 - Please note that the Athens Common Pleas Court, Athens Common Pleas Clerk's Office, Domestic Relations Court and Juvenile Court  have extended reduced  hours of operation due to the COVID-19 virus quarantine until May 1, 2020.  We will  be open from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm Monday through Friday until further notice.

3/31/20 PUBLIC NOTICE HERE

PRESS RELEASE: COURT RECEIVES GRANT AND IMPLEMENTS VIDEO ARRAIGNMENTS 

3/30/20 - The Court has been informed by the Ohio Supreme Court that its application for an $18,000 grant to cover the costs of the installation of videoconferencing equipment has been approved! Thanks to Kathy Wickmann for getting that submitted so quickly!

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor had announced the availability of the technology grants two weeks ago to promote videoconferencing for arraignment purposes to help avoid unnecessary transportation of individuals to and from court.

Derek Shoemaker installed the equipment over the weekend to make videoconferencing possible. So the Athens Common Pleas Court is now capable of holding arraignments by video with the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail! Judge Lang had been in contact with Derek previously arranging for the installment of the equipment. Thanks to Derek for getting it done so quickly!

- Judge McCarthy

PRESS RELEASE: ATHENS COMMON PLEAS COURT APPLIES FOR VIDEO CONFERENCING GRANT

3-24-2020 - The Athens Common Pleas Court made application for another technology grant through the Ohio Supreme Court. 

"This grant would offset $18,000 in costs to install computers and equipment that would allow the court to hold video arraignments and bond hearings with the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail. Judge Todd Grace in Athens Municipal Court currently holds similar video arraignments," Judge McCarthy said. It would also add videoconferencing capabilities giving attorneys and parties access to the court remotely.

“Although the court has contemplated adding video arraignments before, cost has been a factor,” Judge McCarthy said. “Because of the coronavirus Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor announced last week that the Ohio Supreme Court will make grants available specifically for this purpose,” he said.

“As part of the application we have also asked to have the Domestic Relations Court add videoconferencing as well, McCarthy said.

NOTICE RE: COURT ORDERED DOMESTIC RELATIONS COURT - CHILD VISITATION AND QUARANTINE

3/23/20 - Regarding parenting time orders. People are calling and filing wanting to use this pandemic as a basis for denying parenting time. I would like people to be aware that, in the absence of an agreement between the parties or illness in the non-residential parent's home, it is the court's expectation that parenting time orders are honored. We understand this is a unique situation and these are trying times, but we need parties to talk and work together.

Here is a press release from the Southeastern Ohio Legal Services on the issue. 

SEOLS Press Release Re: Child Visitation

Thank you for your cooperation. 

- Magistrate Melinda Bradford

NOTICE RE: COURT ACCESS AS OF MARCH 23, 2020 

3/19/20 - Please see the attached Public Notice concerning entry to the Athens County, Ohio Courthouse beginning Monday, March 23, 2020. Also below is a second Notice concerning those who were to report to court next week for their cases.

Thank you for your cooperation during this unusual time. Working together we will get through to the other side of this event successfully!

- Judge McCarthy

RE:  OHIO SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE MAUREEN O'CONNOR RECOMMENDATIONS 3/19/20

3/19/20 - Ohio Governor Mike Dewine, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O'Connor and other state officials held a press conference 3/19/20 regarding the coronavirus. I thought it warranted a brief statement here.

As far as it applies to court operations here in Athens County, Ohio you should know that many of the recommendations made by the Chief Justice O'Connor have already been implemented by the Athens Common Pleas Court and the Athens County Clerk of Courts taking into consideration the public and employees' safety balanced with the rights of individuals involved in the civil and criminal justice system.

The goal is not only to avoid people contracting the virus and becoming sick, but also limiting contact so that people do not inadvertently pass the virus onto a loved one or someone else who is at higher risk of becoming seriously ill due to age, preexisting conditions or other factors.

First, we remain and plan on remaining open unless we get a directive to close. We are operating with essential personnel only but remain accessible for filing of emergency orders as may be necessary as well as bond hearings. It is important for courts in general to remain accessible to the public for a variety of reasons. Among the most important include that a person can have access the courts to protect and assert their rights and address grievances, especially in times of potential crisis.

Among the measures taken and with the cooperation of the Athens County Prosecutor's Office and Athens Branch of the Public Defender's Office we have continued many cases to avoid having people come into court which limits the need for person-to-person contact they may have and avoiding possible transmission of any viruses.

Online filing of legal documents has recently become available and we encourage attorneys to take advantage of that which helps limit contact and possible transmission of any illness.

The public and attorneys can now make payments on cases online which helps limit contact.
Additionally, you can view cases online now from your home or office which helps limit contact.

Jury trials have been continued for the time being which will avoid having to bring in large groups of people which will reduce the possibility of coronavirus transmission.

Judge Lang, Judge Stewart and I continue to monitor events and are in communication with state and local resources.  we are  constantly evaluating the situation in order to make informed decisions on how to best proceed as we move forward.

I must say when I have been out and about I've been glad to see that everyone has been very civil and courteous to one another and even seem to go out of their way a bit to be accommodating for others. It is nice to see that under these stressful circumstances that people are being so nice to one another. Just another reflection on why it's such a nice area to live!

For the time being, we ask for your help in limiting contact and possible transmission of the virus by not coming to the Athens County Court House unless you have a hearing or other specific reason to be there.
Your cooperation will help everyone here in Athens County!

Stay healthy all!

- Judge George McCarthy


COURT NOTICE REGARDING CORONAVIRUS VIRUS AND COURT OPERATIONS 3/12/20

3/12/20 - This notice is being issued to address operations of the Athens County Common Pleas Court in light of the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, as declared by Gov. DeWine.
“The Court will remain in operation during normal business hours throughout the duration of the emergency, as will the Clerk of Court’s Office… However, efforts are being taken to minimize the necessity of persons to visit the courthouse during this emergency. Effective immediately, the following Temporary Orders will remain in effect until at least April 1, 2020:

1) The Athens County Grand Jury is suspended until further Order of the Court. Grand jurors are not to report for the previously scheduled session on March 23. Grand jurors will be contacted directly by the Court in the event that they need to appear at a later date.

2) No jurors will be summoned to Court, nor will any jury trials be held.

3) All scheduled in-person hearings in the General and Domestic Relations Divisions will be CONTINUED. Persons with court dates prior to April 1 should not report to Court. Hearings will be rescheduled. Some hearings may be held telephonically, to be arranged on a case-by-case basis. Those persons represented by counsel should call their attorneys.

4) Persons summoned to appear for Arraignments on Wednesday, March 25, should not report to Court. Instead, plan to appear on Wednesday, April 1, unless otherwise advised by the Court or counsel. In addition, any persons with business before the Court who are represented by counsel should contact their attorneys for further guidance regarding scheduling. Prior to April 1, 2020, the Court will issue further guidance regarding whether these Temporary Orders will be extended, modified or allowed to expire." 

ALL CIVIL FILINGS NOW READY TO BE MADE ONLINE
3/9/20 - All civil filings can be made electronically as of today March 9, 2020!   This is a result of a grant Judge McCarthy obtained from the Ohio Supreme Court. 
 
Electronic filing includes Civil Complaints, Domestic Relations cases, Tax Foreclosure cases and Board of Revision cases. This is particularly significant for Tax Foreclosure and Board of Revision cases as they tend to be lengthy, have multiple parties that service needs to be accomplished upon. This is also significant for Domestic Relations cases where there are voluminous filings and lengthy documents such as affidavits with exhibits. The processing of these cases to scan such cases into the clerks system is time consuming and can result in delays in docketing such items in the clerk of courts office.  
 
With electronic filing of these cases, every case filed electronically will be docketed that much quicker and service should be able to be accomplished more easily.  You are encouraged to start utilizing this system as the intent is to "go green" and ultimately require electronic filing thereby reducing the amount of paper going into the clerk's office and reducing or eliminating paper service which can be accomplished electronically. 
 
Electronic filing requires payment upon filing.  It has been problematic in the past that parties have not paid their share of court costs especially after filing multiple or  lengthy documents (over 25 pages in length).  Even though they are assessed court costs sometimes those costs go unpaid at the end of the case.  Paying as you go should help compensate the clerk's office in docketing such filings since the more paper filed has resulted in an additional hiring or additional hours to help manage the volume.  It will also help with the efficiency of the clerk's office. 
 
 

CHANGES IN NOTARY LAW EFFECTIVE SEPTEMBER 20, 2019

8/1/19 - NOTARIES! CHANGE IN LAW! PLEASE READ! NEW NOTARY COMMISSION APPLICATION PROCESS STARTS SEPTEMBER 20, 2019!

APPLICATIONS NEED TO BE SUBMITTED TO THE CLERK OF COURTS BY SEPTEMBER 10, 2019!

The Notary Modernization Act takes effect on September 20, 2019. Under the new law, all applications for notary commissions, renewals, online authorizations and updates to contact information must submit an application electronically to the secretary of state. COST OF APPLICATIONS ARE GOING UP AND A BACKGROUND CHECK WILL BE REQUIRED.

ATHENS COUNTY CLERK WILL ACCEPT NEW APPLICATIONS AND RENEWAL APPLICATIONS FOR COMMISSIONS EXPIRING IN 2020 UNTIL 9/10/2019! After that no new or renewal applications will be expected.

An Ohio resident or a nonresident attorney who is licensed to practice law in Ohio and has a principal office in Ohio, who is at least 18 years old may apply to be commissioned as a notary public by completing the following steps.

First, obtain a criminal record check, current within six months of application. If the report shows no disqualifying offenses, then the applicant may proceed to the next step. (Note: Attorney applicants licensed to practice law in Ohio are exempt from this requirement).

Contact an authorized education and testing provider for a three-hour class and pass a test. (Note: Attorney applicants licensed to practice law in Ohio are exempt from the test, but must complete the education requirement).

Select File Online to submit your application to our office. Your application will require you to provide your email address, phone number, mailing address, date of birth (must be 18 years old to be commissioned as a notary public), and then you must upload a copy of your criminal record check, certificates from the education and testing provider to show successful completion of the program and test, and an image of your signature. Attachments must be uploaded as PDFs. The fee to submit is $15.00.

RENEWAL APPLICATIONS
A non-attorney notary public’s commission expires five years from the date of issuance without the successful submission of a renewal application. The renewal application may be submitted within the three month period prior to the date of expiration. To renew, you must complete the following steps.

An applicant must first obtain a criminal record check, current within six months of the renewal application. If the report shows no disqualifying offenses, then the applicant may proceed to the next step.

Contact an authorized education and testing provider for a one-hour class.

Select File Online to submit your application to our office. You must upload a copy of your criminal record check and a certificate from the education provider to show successful completion of the class. Attachments must be uploaded as PDFs. The fee to submit is $15.00.

IF YOUR NOTARY COMMISSION EXPIRES IN 2020, YOU CAN RENEW NOW. YOUR RENEWAL MUST BE SUBMITTED TO THE ATHENS COUNTY CLERK OF COURTS NO LATER THAN SEPTEMBER 10, 2019.

The earlier the better. The State will not approve notary application submissions not RECEIVED BY 9/19/19.

IF your commission expires in 2020, the State has announced that it will allow you to renew it right now.

Go to http's://www.ohiosos.gov/notary/#gref for more info.

- Judge George McCarthy

ATHENS COMMON PLEAS COURT ADDS ONLINE PAYMENT CAPABILITY

03/10/2020 - Judge George McCarthy announced that criminal and civil court costs, fines, and restitution can now all be paid electronically online!  Accepting electronic payments was made possible through a technology improvement grant Judge McCarthy obtained from the Ohio Supreme Court.

“So many people make payments online now and through their phone, I wanted to bring that capability to the court system.  However, like most improvements it is a matter of cost to be able to implement a technology change like that and we have very limited resources here for the court.  It was really only possible because the Ohio Supreme Court made funds available through the grant that we were able to add electronic payments,” McCarthy said.

“So now you don’t have to struggle to find a parking spot downtown, go through security and possibly wait in line at the clerk’s office to make a payment. You can go online like you would with most other places today and pay all or some of what is owed at your convenience.  That will automatically be applied to the case number selected which will free up the clerks to attend to other duties as a result. It helps free up their time from having to take payments manually from people at the clerk’s office and inputting the numbers in to credit the account.   It also should help by reconciling the accounts automatically,” he said.

An additional bonus is that from a state wide perspective having e-payments available typically increases the amount of payments made owed on court cases based on the convenience of being able to do it online.  If you have paid a parking ticket or speeding ticket online it will be in a somewhat similar format.

“My goal all along has been to help increase the efficiency of the clerk of court’s office and their service to the public by making such technology improvements.  Last year we added the ability for the public to look at cases online from home.  And recently we completed the last phase that makes it possible to file legal documents online as well,” McCarthy said.

“The Athens County Clerk of Court’s office holds all of the court’s cases.  We work with them closely every day so whatever we can do to support them helps us and in turn benefits the public with better service overall.  Athens Common Pleas Clerk of Courts Candy Russell and her staff have worked closely with the court along with Kathy Wickmann from Domestic Relations Court implementing these changes over the past two years,” he said.

“Kathy Wickmann and the Clerk of Courts Candy Russell both deserve a lot of credit for helping getting this all done.  Wickmann has been tracking this grant for me for two years now and she and Clerk of Courts Russell have both been working with the vendor relentlessly working out issues and helping to train staff,”   McCarthy said. I can’t say it’s been easy, but the two of them helped tremendously getting the improvements completed in addition to the craziness of their day to day activities.  So I want to publicly thank them for that as they helped made it happen,” McCarthy said.

“I also thank Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor who listened to the Ohio Judicial Conference’s judge’s concerns and made funds available for these improvements through the technology grants. Chief Justice O’Connor has been very supportive over the years with improving public accessibility and transparency with the justice system and helping smaller jurisdictions who have limited means.  This is another example of doing that and moving in the right direction,” McCarthy said.


ELECTRONIC FILING NOW ONLINE
 FOR ATHENS COMMON PLEAS COURT FOR ALL CIVIL CASES
11/20/19 - - Judge George McCarthy announced that all civil filings through the Athens County Clerk of Courts can now be made electronically! McCarthy stated that this is a result of a technology improvement grant he obtained from the Ohio Supreme Court.

Electronic filing includes Civil Complaints, Domestic Relations cases, Tax Foreclosure cases and Board of Revision cases as well as others. This is particularly significant for cases that have lengthy complaints and/or have multiple parties that service needs to be accomplished upon.

This is also significant for Domestic Relations cases where there are voluminous filings and lengthy documents that include items such as affidavits and exhibits. The processing of these cases to scan such documents into the clerk’s system is time consuming and can result in delays in docketing such items by the clerk of courts’ office. This will streamline and improve that process.

With electronic filing of these cases, every case filed electronically will be docketed that much quicker and service should be able to be accomplished more easily. Attorneys and the public are encouraged to start utilizing this system as the intent is to "go green" and ultimately require electronic filing by the end of the year. For right now electronic filing will be optional.

Electronic filing requires payment upon filing. It has been problematic in the past that parties have sometimes filed lengthy documents (over 25 pages in length) and are assessed court costs for the filing.  However, sometimes court costs go unpaid at the end of the case. This will help resolve that issue.  Mandatory payment as part of filing will begin January 1, 2020. 

Additionally, the clerk’s office and court has seen an increase in lengthy documents being filed in domestic relations cases, including those with proposed exhibits and affidavits. Paying as you go should help compensate the clerk’s office in docketing such filings since the more paper that is filed has resulted in an additional hiring or additional staff hours to help manage the volume.  Not only does the clerk have to journalize the papers filed with the court.  Every page needs to be scanned into the system and each page also needs to be placed microfiche. 

Judge McCarthy hopes that moving towards requiring electronic filing will cut down on the massive amounts of paper flowing through the clerk's office and between attorneys and should improve efficiency for attorneys, staff and the general public.

“This also brings us up to par with larger jurisdictions which have implemented mandatory electronic filing systems. As everything becomes more technologically advanced I think it’s important to keep pace as much as we can,” McCarthy said. We are able to do so much with our phones today, this is a step in the right direction in taking advantage of the technology available today,” he said. It is also in line with Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor’s vision of increasing public accessibility and streamlining interactions within the Ohio justice system,” McCarthy said.

In 2019 Attorney Sierra Meek and Attorney K. Robert Toy voluntarily helped the court test the system by making electronic filings in domestic relations cases. "Now that the system is fully tested we expanded filing to all civil cases as of 1/1/2020."   We are also in the process of adding the ability for the public to pay any fines, court costs, and filing fees online.  Previously only attorneys could pay filing fees as they e-filed. 

McCarthy also was able to implement on line viewing of criminal and civil cases online last year as part of the same technology improvement grant he obtained from the Ohio Supreme Court. 



Athens Domestic Relations Court Receives Technology Grant Award 

01/07/2020 - Judge George McCarthy announced that the Athens County Domestic Relations Court received a technology grant award recently from the Ohio Supreme Court. “This grant will help us to install a kiosk or similar computer system in the Athens County Courthouse Law Library for public use,” he said.

“We have a lot of people that cannot afford an attorney who file legal documents on their own.  Preparing legal documents can obviously be complicated. The $2092 grant award will help us install a kiosk/computer system that will help walk people through a question and answer format to help them prepare simple legal documents. At the end of the question and answer session, the system will print out the paperwork for signing and filing with the clerk of court for domestic relations and juvenile court cases,” McCarthy said.

“We’ve been working on ways to improve service to the public through Magistrate Bradford’s Domestic Relations Court as has Judge Robert Stewart with his Juvenile Court.  In brainstorming for what would have the biggest impact we thought that a kiosk system would be a worthwhile addition to the library to help people who file documents on their own”, McCarthy said.  “Kathy Wickmann from Domestic Relations Court was instrumental in getting the application together for the grant award so a lot of the credit goes to her,” he said.  “This award will help the joint project between the domestic relations court and juvenile court to benefit the public,” he said.

“With the kiosk system, the public should be able to better provide all the information that the court needs to consider their cases.  The domestic and juvenile courts receive a lot of self-filed (pro se) documents for cases including child custody and child support matters.  The system should also support completing paperwork for simple dissolution and divorce cases.  

The kiosk system will help people who are filing these documents on their own. And the domestic relations court, the juvenile court and the clerks’ offices should benefit by having more fully completed forms filed by the public that include required information,” he said.

Judge McCarthy stressed that a lawyer is still recommended when going through the court system.  “I do want people to know that navigating the legal system and being in court is tough and it is helpful having an attorney represent you. So although I suggest people obtain an attorney whenever possible, those who cannot afford it should appreciate having this kiosk system in place.”

“Having the ability to purchase the kiosk system is only half of the project,” McCarthy said. “We also need the software the drives the question and answer part and prints out the documents,” he said.

“Attorney David Mott from Mollica, Gall, Sloan & Sillery Co., LPA, a law firm in town, is working with the courts on obtaining the software needed to use with the kiosk system,” he said. We are hopeful that we can partner with Ohio Legal Services to use their software that they have developed and is being used in other locations in Ohio to run similar kiosk systems,” McCarthy said.



Walking Across America Veteran Jeremy Miller meets with Judge George McCarthy 

11/20/2019 - Jeremy Miller is in Athens, Ohio today.  Jeremy is an Army Veteran who is walking across America to help raise awareness for veteran suicides which occur at an estimated 22 service members a day. He will be stopping on his way to Arlington, Virginia.  He started his trek in California.

Miller will meet with Judge George McCarthy at noon.  Judge McCarthy started the idea of a veterans treatment court in 2014.  He started that court, in part, due to seeing the  same statistic.  “I thought that number is a tough number to deal with,” McCarthy said.  It’s tough to see anyone take their life. And it bothered me that so many veterans take their lives. So I decided that if I could help those that found their way into the court system then I wanted to help,” McCarthy said.

“Seems to me that Jeremy has the same mission in mind.  To reach out to veterans to let them know that there is help and to seek that help.  There is hope.  You don’t have to be a statistic.  It sounds like Jeremy was at a low point himself and he was able to pull himself out of it and he’s looking to spread the word that others can too.  I think it’s a great idea and an amazing mission he is accomplishing, McCarthy said.

We wish him the best of luck and safe travels as he continues east.  I think it’s a great cause and he’s connecting to a bunch of people along the way which is great,” McCarthy said.  “We wish safe a safe journey,”  McCarthy said.  “He’s doing a great job of delivering a message of hope.”


RE:    Veterans Treatment Court Receives Recertification

8/3/18 - Athens Common Pleas Court Judge George McCarthy announced that the Veterans Treatment Court has received its initial recertification.  The Ohio Supreme Court is in charge of certified specialized dockets such as veteran treatment courts across the state.  Judge McCarthy received his initial certification in 2016.  Its term is set to expire at the end of 2018. 

McCarthy’s Veterans Court Treatment Program was about the sixth certified common pleas veterans court program in Ohio at the time in 2016.  Now there are eleven common pleas veteran court programs across the state.  There are about ten additional municipal veteran treatment courts for a total of twenty three such courts in Ohio.  Judge McCarthy joins two other common pleas courts in southern Ohio including Montgomery and Hamilton Counties.   Judge McCarthy has the only Veterans Treatment Court in Southeastern Ohio.

“Our certification is good until the end of this 2018 so we have been working on the recertification process since early this year,” McCarthy said.  That has resulted in some modifications to our participation agreement and program handbook to keep it current with developing trends in testing and changes in the law. I submitted those over the last two months and now have received our initial recertification of the program going forward. So I feel confident we will be recertified for the upcoming term.
We recently graduated another member last month. We just graduated our fourth participant from the program.  We have seven others currently in the program at this time. I think I can say that the entire treatment team is encouraged when we have another participant graduate. “It’s a new start and a step in the right direction for them,” he said.

It’s a group effort and the graduates from the program have told us time and time again that it made a big difference having so many people encouraging them along and working with them to successfully get them through the program and to help them get their life back on track.

It takes the cooperation of a lot of people to make it work including the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, the Athens Branch of the Ohio Public Defender’s Office, Health Recovery Services, Hopewell Health Center, the Chillicothe Veterans Administration, the Appalachian Behavioral Health Center, the VA-Athens Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), the Treatment Alternatives to Street Crimes Office (TASC), Ohio University’s Veterans and Military Students Service Center, Ohio Jobs and Family Services, the Athens Adult Parole Authority as well as the veterans mentors and my staff. 
 
It’s been rewarding to me to see them graduate and I think to everyone who has been in the program.  It’s nice to see a participant get through the program and feel good about not just about graduating.  “It’s an accomplishment,” McCarthy said.  “And I can tell you they all left being in a better place personally compared to when they came in.  And that’s what we are hoping for with each one of them.”

 

Judge McCarthy Applies for Drug Testing Machine

11/30/2018 - Athens Common Pleas Court Judge George McCarthy announced that he has submitted an application for a grant through the Ohio Supreme Court for the operation of a drug testing machine.  “There are people that are being supervised by the court that are drug dependent.  We also have people who are in our Veterans Treatment Court program who are struggling with drugs. The probation department and the prosecutor’s office also monitor defendants for sobriety,”  he said.

The judges regularly order people to drug treatment and for screening for participation in a  Vivitrol program (Vivitrol is a drug that has been used successfully as part of a medically assisted treatment program for people using heroin or abusing other opiates). Having a machine that allows us to perform random drug screens would help encourage these folks to maintain their sobriety,” McCarthy said.  “And that’s what we want to encourage.”

Additionally, “The court would make that machine available to the adult parole authority who supervises defendants as well as other agencies in the county who may benefit from such testing ability such as municipal court, the prosecutor’s office, juvenile court and children services,”  McCarthy said. 

“We have been in discussion with the Athens adult parole authority (APA) and STAR East (formerly known as SEPTA), who are interested is using the device for their population,” he said. “So there is interest in having such a device.  We have been talking to various agencies throughout the year to explore their level of interest,”  McCarthy said. “Since the beginning of exploring the idea, the APA has been interested in pursuing the grant to help with the supervision of their probationers.”

“The new testing machine would also allow testing through salvia in addition to analyzing urine which is the traditional method used to detect someone abusing drugs,” he said. That makes it more convenient to test people and less intrusive to the person being tested.  Collecting saliva would be preferable in a majority of cases.  It’s less of an intrusion on someone’s privacy and I’m told just as accurate as urine results we are currently receiving,” he said.  

The hope is with increased monitoring, we can encourage people to reduce and eliminate their drug usage.   Offenders are already ordered to treatment and are typically screened for sobriety through their counseling agency.  This machine would be an additional component that would allow the court to test people on its own in addition to what is being done already.  “Sobriety is reportedly increased the more a person is held accountable for illegally using drugs.” Testing helps identify those continuing to abuse drugs which results in alterations to their treatment plans and may result in additional sanctions.”

With the increase in drug abuse the courts and other agencies are trying to be responsive to impacting and reducing drug abuse.  Drug abuse is one of those areas that sometimes results in additional criminal charges being filed or is at the root of drug abuse of so many of our cases. If we can get someone sober and turned around then they have a decent chance to stay out of the criminal justice system.   And one of our goals is to keep people from recommitting crimes. Hopefully this will allow us to have a greater impact if awarded the grant.

The grant is a technology grant administered through the Ohio Supreme Court.  Judge McCarthy has made previous submissions for grants through the Ohio Supreme Court.  His last successful application allowed for an upgrade to the clerk’s computer system which is currently being installed.


Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Conner to Award Court Grants

5/8/18 - Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Conner will be present on May 9, 2018 to award Athens Common Pleas Court Judge George McCarthy two grants.  Both are being awarded to the Athens Common Pleas Court with just over $130,000 in grants which will allow viewing of court documents and add the availability of electronic filing as well as electronic payment through the

Athens County Clerk of Court’s office.  “Chief Justice O’Conner will be making a similar grant award to Judge Todd Grace and the Athens Municipal Court at the same time,” McCarthy said.

“We are excited that Chief Justice O’Conner would take time out to personally hand us our grant awards for both courts,” he said.  “Chief Justice O’Conner has always been in favor of increasing public access to the justice system and has been a driving force in increasing efficiency of the justice system,” McCarthy said. “We are benefiting from that commitment in receiving these grants.”

According to the Ohio Supreme Court website, “Chief Justice O’Connor led efforts to assist local courts with their technology needs by implementing the Ohio Courts Technology Initiative in 2015. More than $5 million in grants have been awarded to local courts to upgrade technology that ensures the efficient and effective administration of justice.”

“For common pleas court, the upgrades will allow electronic filing of legal documents, electronic access to cases online, and the ability to accept court payment online as well as installation of new software to allow the viewing of documents online by the public,” McCarthy said.   

McCarthy made application for the grants in 2017 and has applied previously for technology driven grants. “I spoke with Athens Clerk of Court Ann Trout a number of times about how we could improve services in the clerk’s office which benefits the court. The public will greatly benefit from the grant award as we should see a big improvement to court services we provide to the public,” McCarthy said. 

“We thank the Ohio Supreme Court for making the grants available to us.  We would not be in a position to make these improvements otherwise,” McCarthy said.


Judge McCarthy Receives Two Technology Grant Awards

5/2/18 - Judge George P. McCarthy announced that he has received two grant awards from the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of the Athens Common Pleas Court.  

According to McCarthy, one of the grants is for $72,086 to update the Athens County Clerk of Courts computer system to allow eFiling (electronic filing of legal documents), eAccess (electronic access to cases online), and ePay (the ability to accept court payment online). He also received a second grant in the amount of $61,654 to update the Athens County Clerk of Courts computer system for software to be installed to allow viewing of the clerk’s documents online. 

“I have been working with Athens County Clerk of Court Ann Trout over a couple of years to identify places we can improve technology in the clerk’s office to help better serve the attorneys, parties, and the public in general,” McCarthy said. “I think this is the second or third time I’ve applied for a technology grant with the supreme court so the determination finally paid off this time.” 

“We were under a tight deadline with this application and Kathy Wickmann, the assignment commissioner from Athens County Domestic Relations Court, helped us pull the application together and get it submitted on time.   So her help and Ann Trout’s cooperation in looking at several options were big factors in getting the award,” he said.

I approached the Athens County Commissioners at a meeting last year about making application for the grant and they were supportive,” McCarthy said.  Since it is projected to lead to an increase in cost to the current maintenance agreement to the computer system, I wanted to make sure the commissioners were in agreement with the proposal.  We notified the commissioners Tuesday that we received the award and they passed a resolution to approve the acceptance of the grant.

It is projected that the upgrade will cost approximately $4000 more a year to maintain the clerk’s computer system.  However, we are working with the vendor to see if that cost can be absorbed into the maintenance agreement we are currently paying. 

“It will take a few months to get the components in place and for training of staff to happen.  Once in place we anticipate that attorneys, the parties, and the public will be able to view documents online. That should free up the clerks from answering calls seeking information on cases so they can attend to more filing matters,” he said. 

“Filing legal documents on line should also streamline the filing process.  And the ability to take payments is a new convenience to the public that we anticipate will be well received.  Folks will be able to make payments online instead of having to come in,” McCarthy said. 

“That should all result in better service to the public and more productivity for the clerks.  So it’s a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned,”  McCarthy said.

VETERANS COURT HAS FIRST GRADUATE
2/7/17 - Judge George McCarthy said, "We are holding our first veterans court graduation today February 7, 2017.  The veterans name is Clarence Perry.  He entered the program last year and has successfully made it through the program."

"Mr. Perry has remained drug free while participating in the program and he is currently employed full time.  He also obtained stable housing which is a requirement of the program.  He was also required to complete 100 hours of community service as part  of the program.  He actually went over and above and completed 171.5 hours.  He has remained law abiding during his entire time with us and did not reoffend." 

"Additionally, the Court requires the veteran to complete a project where he/she gives back to the community.  He chose to volunteer his time and work all day at the Athens County Stand Down event held in the fall of 2016.  The event helped get needed goods and services to veterans, homeless and at risk homeless in Athens County and the surrounding area.   Mr. Perry helped the entire day and was able to give back to his fellow veterans and the at risk homeless in the process."

"We are happy to have Mr. Perry graduate from the program," Judge McCarthy said. He did a good job getting through all the requirements and we had absolutely no problems with him.  We are proud of him that he is graduating and getting on with his life and wish him good luck."

We will check on him throughout the year to make sure he is still doing well. If he needs any assistance we will try to steer him towards any additional services that might be available.  But right now he is on the right track and standing on his own two feet.  He has an open invitation to come back and visit and even talk to the other veterans in the program if he is interested. We don’t anticipate that he will need any additional services from us but if he does we will be here.  With that, we wish him well.

RE:   JUDGE McCARTHY'S VETERANS COURT APPROVED BY SUPREME COURT

10/30/15 - Judge George P. McCarthy announced that the Athens County Veterans Court has received its initial certification from the Ohio Supreme Court.  “The Athens County Common Pleas Court can now officially start accepting cases for this newly formed specialized court,” McCarthy said.

According to McCarthy, the “Veteran’s Court”, refers to a portion of the judge’s cases that involve criminal defendants who are veterans.  Veterans are screened for substance abuse and other issues.  If found to be eligible, candidates are accepted into the veterans court program.  Participants complete intensive programming and supervision geared to their individual issues which centers around substance abuse treatment,” McCarthy said.  

Their incentive to complete the program is that they can avoid or reduce their jail or prison sentence, McCarthy said.  In other cases their charges may be reduced or dismissed under certain circumstances.  In order to “graduate” they must remain free from drugs of abuse and not commit any criminal acts. 

They are intensively supervised for compliance, McCarthy said.  If they do relapse along the way there are sanctions such as serving jail time or community service before they are allowed to continue in the program.  The program typically will last one to two years on average according to McCarthy. If they fail to complete the program their case is returned to the regular court docket where it is handled normally. 

Judge McCarthy began looking at establishing a veterans’ court docket back in 2013.  In 2014, McCarthy formed a committee to bring together community agencies wanting to be part of the project.  He submitted an application on behalf of the Athens Common Pleas Court to establish the veteran’s specialized docket back in May of 2015. 

“We are happy to finally get started,” McCarthy said. “I’m excited that we’ve reached this point.  This allows us to begin accepting veterans and get them into treatment,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s a big step to help those veterans with substance abuse issues who may have mental health issues as well.  Many times it’s those types of issues that lead to drug abuse or other criminal activity.”   

“The goal is to get veterans to manage substance abuse and mental health issues so they can avoid getting in trouble with the law.  Veterans in the criminal system often have post traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues that are coupled with substance abuse issues which makes them more at risk for causing harm to themselves or committing additional criminal acts,” he said.  “According to a Department of Veteran Affairs report, around 22 veterans commit suicide each day,” McCarthy said. 

I think it’s important to try to help those who served this country and are on a path of self- destruction.” “I think it benefits them and our community as a whole to get them turned around if we can,” McCarthy said.  

 “To get to this point has taken a lot of effort and cooperation among many organizations within the community,” McCarthy said. “It takes a bunch of people working together to get something like this off the ground.  We are lucky to have that kind of support here in Athens County.  There has been a lot of support from various agencies for which I am grateful,” he added.

“I think we are really going to make an impact,”  McCarthy said.

COURT FILES APPLICATION FOR VETERANS COURT WITH OHIO SUPREME COURT

5/19/15 - Judge George P. McCarthy announced that he submitted his application to the Ohio Supreme Court to establish the County’s first Veteran’s Court.  The application is about 89 pages long and sets forth the “nuts and bolts” of the program,” according to McCarthy.

“I am fortunate to have broad community support for the project including support from the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, Health Recovery Services, Hopewell Health Centers, T.A.S.C., Adult Parole Authority, the Athens Police Department, the Ohio University Police Department, the Athens County Sheriff’s Office, the Veterans Service Office, the Athens County Work Station, as well as many others,” he said. 

“We have had a lot of meetings to reach this point of completing and submitting the application,” he said.   “There were a lot of requirements to meet and it took a few revisions to get where we are now.” “I’ve given it to the Ohio Supreme Court for their review.” “The Ohio Supreme Court will complete their own review and decide whether to certify the program.”  “There is really no timetable for it, but we all want to get it up and running as soon as possible,”   McCarthy said.

“This is a collaborative effort and we are lucky in Athens County to have so many agencies and people willing to work together for the benefit of others.”  “I appreciate that more and more after attending statewide meetings on Veterans’ Courts,” he said.    Other jurisdictions do not necessarily work together as well as we do here.”   As a result I think we will be starting the program sooner that I originally thought,” McCarthy said.

JUDGE McCARTHY HOLDS FIRST VETERANS COURT MEETING

2/20/15 - Judge George P. McCarthy announced that he held his first Veterans Court meeting Thursday.  McCarthy has been working towards establishing the county’s first Veterans Court since last year. “Thursday we had our first organizational meeting.  Those who attended included Health Recovery Services, Hopewell Health Centers, T.A.S.C., the Athens Police Department, the Ohio University Police Department, the Veterans Service Office, the Athens County Work Station, the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office and the Athens Branch of the State of Ohio Public Defenders Office, as well as others who attended”  he said. 

“The meeting went very well and there was a lot of enthusiasm for the project.  There is a lot of support for moving forward,” he added. “I was happy that we had such a big turnout with the unbelievably cold weather that we had this week.  I think that’s a good sign that we are heading in the right direction,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy says he intends on having regularly meetings to work on completing the treatment program as the final version needs to go to the Ohio Supreme Court once completed. “We are working on finalizing our treatment plan which must be submitted in order for the Ohio Supreme Court to certify us.  To run a Veterans Court takes the cooperation and collaboration of a wide variety of community participants,” he said. 

This is a collaborative effort on the part of several agencies that are willing to come together to be part of this project.   “I appreciate that there are so many agencies here in Athens County that work so well together.  We really are luck here when it comes to cooperation here in Athens County.  It certainly helps when putting together a comprehensive project like this,” he said.  I’m looking forward to getting it started and off the ground as soon as possible,” McCarthy said.