COLUMBUS – The Champaign County Court of Common Pleas received this year’s Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) Judicial Administration and Legal Reform Committee Innovative Court Practices Award.
The award is for the court’s Managing Jail Population and Overages Project.
The Innovative Court Practices Award is to bring greater visibility to exemplary programs in Ohio’s courts and facilitate the transfer of those programs to other courts in the state, according to the OSBA.
OSBA President John D. Holschuh Jr. presented this year’s award at the annual meeting of the Ohio Judicial Conference in Columbus. Judge Nick Selvaggio accepted the award on behalf of the Champaign County Court of Common Pleas. The project has reduced Champaign County’s exposure to jail overages by monitoring and reducing the number of days between the filing of a sentencing journal entry and the transport of a defendant to an institution.
When Selvaggio began his service on the bench in 2013, he set out to administer the court more efficiently and to manage the jail population. Having the cost of jail overages totaling more than $3 million in prior years, Selvaggio sought a standard to measure the court and court staff’s performance. His project began with the review and collection of data from sentencing entries for the immediate two prior years. In reviewing those entries, the court noted that, in 2011, there were 317 sentencings, and it took an average of 8.06 days for a journal entry to be filed after sentencing. In 2012, there were 319 sentencings, with an average of 7.36 days between the date of sentencing and the output of the journal entry. The review revealed the county’s potential exposure to housing costs for those inmates while waiting for the court’s order totaled more than $328,000.
Selvaggio set out to reduce the county’s exposure to these costs through streamlining the processes within his office for the output of his entries. His changes revealed a drop in 2013 to 1.88 days and in 2014, to 0.58 days from sentencing to the output of the sentencing entry. With 330 sentencings in 2013 and 336 sentencing in 2014, Selvaggio reduced the county’s potential exposure to jail costs to just over $54,000 for two years.
“We needed a solution to the jail overage problem, so I assembled a new staff, modified office practices to reduce the time it takes to process offenders, instituted the daily evaluation of why an offender is in jail and made greater use of electronic ankle monitors,” he said. “I credit the detention and sentencing practices of Municipal Court Judge Gil S. Weithman for sharing my vision in reforming the way our jail is utilized in Champaign County, as well as our local jail officials for modifying their transport policies.”
Holschuh added, “The Champaign County Common Pleas Court’s impressive accomplishment is a credit to Judge Selvaggio’s willingness to be proactive in measuring performance, and, with support from his able staff, to act quickly and decisively to improve the system. It’s a fine example of creative problem-solving that truly serves the administration of justice.”
Last year, Judge Beth Smith accepted the Innovative Court Programs and Practices Award on behalf of the Mahoning County Domestic Relations Court for its “CPO card” program, the first of its kind in Ohio, which provides domestic violence victims with a plastic, wallet-sized card resembling a credit card containing essential data of civil protection orders issued by the domestic relations court.
Award submissions are evaluated on criteria including creativity, the newness of the program and its effectiveness, as well as the transferability of the concept to other courts and whether the program addresses significant issues that are regional in scope.
The Ohio State Bar Association, founded in 1880, is a voluntary association representing approximately 23,000 members of the bench and bar of Ohio as well as nearly 4,000 legal assistants and law students. Through its activities and the activities of its related organizations, the OSBA serves both its members and the public by promoting the highest standards in the practice of law and the administration of justice.