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Have Questions About Cleveland Elections? We Have Answers

We cover everything from evolving voting laws to navigating our court system.

What kind of cases do elected judges handle? Can people vote if they have a felony? How do arraignments work? We answer some common questions about how the local courts work in Cuyahoga County.

A Quick Guide to the Cuyahoga County Court System

The Cuyahoga County Court system oversees legal matters within the county. Judges elected to each court handle different types of cases, including civil disputes and criminal offenses.

Photo illustration of three Cleveland-area courthouses within green, purple and beige circles.

From left to right: The Cuyahoga County Courthouse on Lakeside Ave., the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court and the Cuyahoga County Justice Center, site of the Common Pleas Court.

Municipal Courts

Judges in 13 municipal courts across the county hear cases involving traffic tickets, misdemeanors, and small civil claims, including evictions. Cleveland has the largest municipal court in the county. It has a separate housing division to handle evictions and code violations.

Common Pleas Courts

Common pleas judges are spread over four divisions: General, Domestic Relations, Juvenile, and Probate.

General Division

The 34 General Division judges handle felony and civil lawsuits involving more than $15,000. The court also has special dockets for people accused of crimes who have drug addictions, mental health issues or are veterans.

Domestic Relations

The five Domestic Relations judges handle divorce and custody cases. The court also handles child support and issues civil protection orders in domestic violence cases.

Probate Court

The two Probate Court judges handle wills and estates, issue marriage licenses, and request legal guardians if a person is not competent to handle their own affairs. The head probate court judge also appoints members to the Cleveland Metroparks Board of Park Commissioners.

Juvenile Court

The six Juvenile Court judges handle cases where children are accused of crimes or being unruly. The judges also handle cases involving allegations of child abuse and neglect, as well as private custody cases if parents are not married. A judge may transfer a child’s case to adult court — a process called bindover — where a child is tried as an adult. Bindovers can be required by state law in some cases. In other, judges have the discretion to make the decision to treat the child as an adult.

Appellate Court

Cuyahoga County is home to the 8th District Court of Appeals, whose 12 judges decide appeals from the county’s lower courts.

Ohio Supreme Court

The highest court in the state system, its seven justices decide cases appealed from lower courts and cases that raise constitutional questions, and death penalty appeals.

I Have a Felony Conviction. Can I Vote in Ohio?

In Ohio, a felony conviction does not prevent a person from voting. As long as you are not currently serving a sentence in a jail or prison, you can cast a ballot.

A collage illustration of light blue stickers that read “Ohio voted” within the outline of Ohio state.

You can vote if:

A photograph of more than 10 people lining up outside a gray building with a sign reading “Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.”

Voters line up outside of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to cast their ballots in Nov. 2023.

How Do I Know if I Am Registered to Vote?

If you were incarcerated, you’ll likely need to register to vote again. Look up whether you have a current voter registration.

If you’re not registered, you can fill out the form online.

You have to include a permanent address when you register. If you move, you’ll have to update your address. If you use a temporary address, such as a shelter or halfway house, use that location for your registration.

Need an ID to vote?

To vote, you’ll need current identification with your name and photo.

You can get a free Ohio ID card at any Bureau of Motor Vehicles location. You can also use an unexpired driver’s license, passport, or military ID.

Shielding an address

Survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking and stalking can hide their voter registration address from the public. Go to: for instructions.

Elected Judges and Candidates Have to Disclose Financial Ties. Here’s Why.

Judges have a lot of different responsibilities that require them to remain fair and impartial. This is one reason why elected judges and magistrates must disclose — or share — their financial ties outside of the courtroom.

Judges can receive gifts, serve on boards and buy stocks in companies. Some judges are even landlords. Judges cannot, however, mix their professional and financial commitments. That would be a conflict of interest.

To prevent these conflicts, the law requires elected judges and candidates for a seat on the bench to detail certain financial information. Each year, they must submit this information to the Ohio Board of Professional Standards. These documents can be requested by the public.

What financial information are judges and candidates required to share?

Here is a copy of the form that must be submitted each year.

As long as the judge reports their financial ties, there typically aren’t any problems. Things get sticky when the judge fails to report the information.

For example, a Lorain County judge was convicted in 2015 for crimes related to his failure to disclose the ownership of a building in downtown Lorain on his annual disclosure statements. In a 2019 opinion suspending his law license for one year, the Ohio Supreme Court noted that his failure to disclose the building was one thing, but he also rented space and assigned cases to lawyers who appeared in his courtroom.

These are the types of situations that financial disclosures are designed to prevent. People who fail to submit financial disclosures risk criminal charges and further discipline from the Ohio Supreme Court.

Judges and magistrates must submit their financial disclosures each year. Judicial candidates typically must submit their financial disclosures within 30 days before a primary election.

Anyone can request a copy of financial disclosure forms by contacting the Board of Professional Standards at or 614.387.9370.

Want to learn more about Cleveland judges? Explore our [Cleveland judge guide](

Want to learn more about Cleveland judges? Explore our Cleveland judge guide.

What Qualifications Does Someone Need To Run For Judge?

Ohio’s Constitution and state laws lay out rules for judicial candidates.

Common Pleas judges serve six-year terms. Candidates elected in 2024 would earn $163,792 in 2025. Common Pleas candidates run in primary races where they declare a political party affiliation, if they have one. The general election race is nonpartisan, and no political party is listed on the ballot.

To run for the bench in the general or juvenile division of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, candidates must:

In addition, judicial candidates have campaign requirements and restrictions other political candidates do not. For example:



Brittany Hailer
Dakotah Kennedy, Signal Cleveland
Doug Livingston


Rachel Dissell
Phil Trexler