Login | June 17, 2019

Public gets an up-close look at new 9th district home

On Nov. 27, 2018, judges at the 9th District Court of Appeals held an open house and courtroom dedication, giving members of the public a chance to view the court's new home at 121 S. Main St. Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor was on hand for the courtroom dedication, speaking to those in attendance. Pictured here at the dedication from the left are Judge Julie Schafer, Judge Jennifer Hensal, Judge Donna Carr, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Judge Thomas Teodosio and Judge Lynne Callahan. (Photo courtesy of the 9th District Court of Appeals).

Legal News Reporter

Published: January 4, 2019

It was standing room only at a recent open house and courtroom dedication, which gave members of the public a chance to tour the new home of the 9th Ohio District Court of Appeals.

Judges and staff moved out of the Oliver R. Ocasek building and into the second floor of 121 S. Main St. in Akron last September.

Ninth District Court of Appeals Judge Julie Schafer said a few minor adjustments needed to be made to the new space before it could be unveiled to the public in late November.

“For example, the bench in the courtroom was six inches taller than it was supposed to be so you could only see the tops of our heads,” said Judge Schafer. “A fix was made and now it’s fine.”

During the Nov. 27 event, judges formally dedicated the courtroom and chambers.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor was on hand for the courtroom dedication, speaking to those in attendance. Chief Justice O’Connor presented the judges with new Ohio and U.S. flags to display in the courtroom. The flags were first flown in the Ohio Supreme Court last summer.

“We were honored that Chief Justice O’Connor participated in our event,” said 9th District Court of Appeals Judge Jennifer Hensal. “The flags, which now fly in our courtroom, will serve as a reminder of the court’s new start at Main Place.”

Members of the public were invited inside the new courtroom.

“The event was very well attended,” said Judge Schafer. “We probably had 150 people. I think people were excited to go behind the scenes at the court.”

The new space is almost 16,000 square feet and includes 25 offices for judges and staff, three offices for externs and possible future expansion, a library, a storage room and a file room.

“We have about the same square footage as we did before, but we are using the space more effectively,” said Judge Hensal. “Our library area is no longer as large as it used to be because so much of what we do is now online.

“Security in the new facility is much better, which was the main reason we moved out of the Ocasek building. Our security officer, who we hired full time before the move, now has cameras to monitor the comings and goings of everyone.

“We have Wi-Fi throughout the space,” said Judge Hensal. “The court also offers free guest Wi-Fi for attorneys and parties to use while at the court.”

“It’s a great facility,” said Judge Schafer. “We occupy almost the entire second floor of the building. Our attorneys now have their own offices and we have a mediation department.

“In the Ocasek building we did not have any space for mediation,” Judge Schafer said. “We did a lot of our mediation via phone and online. In-person mediations were done in the Ocasek building’s lactation room.”

The conference rooms in Lorain, Medina and Wayne counties now serve as mediation rooms and the Summit County Conference Room provides a meeting space for the judges and a place to conduct training programs.

In addition, there are two workrooms. One of the rooms has a copier and the other is used to store files and exhibits.

The court of appeals had been located inside the Ocasek building since the mid-1980s.

“We decided to move because of concerns over security and ongoing repair problems,” said 9th District Court of Appeals Court Administrator C. Michael Walsh.

Judge Schafer said the search for the new location began in April 2017.

“We initially looked at the Sojourner Truth Building but things did not work out,” said Judge Schafer. “We then began looking at our current space, which most recently housed offices for a White Hat charter school.

“The space was in very good shape and was centrally located,” said Judge Schafer. “The most time consuming part was recreating the central courtroom.”

In December 2017, the Summit County Council passed a resolution authorizing the county executive to enter into a lease agreement with Akron Main Place Development.

The Supreme Court security manager also reviewed the building plan, determining that it complied with established security protocols.

“Before we committed to the lease, we invited the county commissioners from the other three counties so we could get their input on the new space,” said Judge Schafer.

A 20-year lease was signed in February 2018.

“We believe our new location will result in improved services to the public,” said Judge Hensal.