What Court Staff Can/Cannot Do

The Court, including the Clerk’s Office staff, the judge(s), the judge’s staff and the magistrate must remain impartial at all times. This basic rule protects everyone coming to court from unfairness and injustice.

This means that no person connected with the court can take sides in any matter before the court. Court employees will give the same types of limited information to people on both sides of a case, but they cannot provide legal advice to any party. Please note that parties or witnesses that provide information to court staff is not confidential.

The lists below explain what the court can and cannot provide you with:

What Court Staff CAN DO

• Provide you with the telephone number of local lawyer referral services such as Legal Aid of Western Ohio and Ohio Legal Help.  Visit our Links/Resources section for more information.

• Explain and answer questions about how the court works. This is limited to basic facts such as court hours of operation, hearing schedules and the type of proceedings on the daily docket.

• Provide you general information about court rules, procedures and practices. You may read the Local Rules of the court for more information.

• Provide you information from your case file, including information as to when your next court hearing is, the charge(s) against you, or the degree of the charge(s).

• Review your papers for completeness by checking for signatures, notarization, correct county name, correct case number, and contact information.

• Provide a blank piece of paper for your use for court papers.

What Court Staff CANNOT DO

• Provide legal advice, interpretations, or recommendations about what to do. A lawyer can give you legal advice because he/she is legally trained. Staff can answer questions that call for factual information—questions such as “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” or “how.” They cannot answer questions that ask for an opinion or guidance about what you should do—questions like “should,” or “whether.” For example, court staff can explain court rules and procedures, but they cannot suggest which of the available procedures you should follow. Court staff might be able to define a legal word or phrase that you are unfamiliar with, but they cannot tell you what steps to take.

• Advise you whether or not you should bring your case to court or what steps to take while in court, or give you an opinion about what will happen after you present your case to the court.

• Advise you what to say in court, other than simple matters of courtesy such as “You should address the Court as ‘Your Honor’.” Visit our Courtroom Etiquette section for more information.

• Let you talk to the judge outside the courtroom. They also cannot talk to the judge on your behalf about your case.

• Fill out a form for you, or tell you what words to use in your court papers.

• Sign an order or change an order signed by the judge. We cannot explain the legal meaning or effect of a court order to you.

• Give out confidential information, such as a full social security number, even if it is for your own person.