A Court Steeped in Innovations & Firsts ‘Became a National Model’

“Ever-present concerns about overcrowded common pleas courts, fears about police and judicial corruption, and determinations that justices of the peace were ill-suited to handle complex urban problems led to the creation of a municipal court in Cleveland. A successful campaign resulted in legislation in 1911 and limits on justices of the peace in the state's 1912 constitutional convention. Cleveland's municipal court began operation in 1912 as the city's main criminal-law trial court, with jurisdiction over minor civil matters as well. The court became a national model. Its probation unit, one of the first in the nation, pioneered in the use of psychiatric testing. The court's most significant innovation came in 1913 with the creation of the country's first conciliation procedure. Clevelanders embroiled in minor civil disputes could dispense with attorneys and have a judge work out a voluntary compromise. The reform soon spread to other major cities. The municipal court proved such a success that its original five judges had expanded to 16 by 1924.”

--from The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (published by the Western Reserve Historical Society & Case Western Reserve University).



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