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April 11, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

BG Courts good places to learn system

For freshman Mackenzie McRoberts, the draw is history and architecture. Senior Brian Warga visits to further his career through an internship. And little Caden Sheely went to become adopted. But despite the myriad of services and attractions they offer to the community, many students never make a visit to the local courts.

Both the modern Bowling Green Municipal Court and its 110-year old grandfather the Wood County Court of Common Pleas are great places to learn about the justice system, according to Student Legal Services Attorney Rodney Fleming, who encourages students to visit.

“I would like to see people understand the system. I think it is the best in the world and I don’t think a lot of people understand that,” he said.

But for Wood County Clerk of Courts Rebecca Bhaer, who is in charge of managing records for trials held in Common Pleas, the most important reason to visit is the historic, beautiful architecture of the recently renovated courthouse located two blocks from campus.

“We have a very beautiful courthouse, everyone should visit once,” she said.

Standing on its grand staircase, surrounded in marble more than a century old, many are drawn above: The high ceiling is lined with an array of stained glass filtering the invading noonday sun.

Unexpected attractions in a building where murderers are convicted, marriages are terminated and civil cases are settled through massive financial awards.

According to the book “Wood County Courthouse Historical Highlights 1894-1994” by Paul Willis Jones, construction of the courthouse began in 1893, took three years and required the delivery of 750 train carloads of material.

At the time, the clock tower that dominates the city’s skies was notable for its large, metal dials, which were the second largest in the country at 16 feet in length. The tower rises 195 feet above ground level.

The modernized H. H. Richardson Romanesque architecture features not only marble, which is found throughout the structure in various places, but also sandstone, granite and limestone.

However, most come to Common Pleas for business.

Access to records for genealogical, historical and criminal research is handled through Bhaer’s office. Passports can also be applied for and notaries filed. The office is located on the second floor.

“We are always very open to showing people around. Very Friendly,” she said, adding that while most tours are handled by court security, all the elected officials are happy to show citizens around as well.

The Common Pleas handles felony criminal cases and civil cases involving more than $15,000. Nearly all are open to the public.

Citizens also visit Common Pleas for civil protection cases such as mental health cases, wrongful death cases, minor settlement cases, protection orders, wills, estates, name changes and adoptions.

For a look at smaller cases, such as those involving misdemeanors where fines are no greater than $1000 and sentences are no greater than six months, one should turn to the Municipal Court located on Dunbridge Rd. near the Copper Beech Town Homes apartment complex.

Both courts keep the same hours, Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except legal holidays and the first and third Wednesday of the month, when the Municipal closes at 6 p.m.

The Municipal Court also handles small claims civil cases, such as security deposit disputes and trouble with contractors such as painters or mechanics.

Small claims cases are those often featured on daytime court television shows, but for a first hand experience one should check the court’s Web site,, for a schedule of upcoming cases.

Citizens may also contact the Municipal Clerk of Courts office at 419-352-5263, which may help them plan an effective visit.

Cases are heard by Judge Mark B. Reddin and Magistrate Thomas J. McDermott.

According to Reddin, by visiting hearings citizens can get a better idea of how the law works and how the legal process takes place.

“I think it is important from a civic standpoint. Seeing the court system in action personally dispels misconceptions about what may take place in a court,” he said.

According to Reddin, Wednesday afternoons are the best for traffic and criminal cases, but the court also hears cases on Monday and Friday mornings.

“It’s not that we don’t hold court on other days but Wednesdays are our most animated,” he said.

One of the more interesting attractions to be seen at the Municipal Court is a video arraignment, Reddin said. During such proceedings, accused individuals enter a plea from their cells at the Wood County Justice Center.

The Municipal Court also holds preliminary hearings on felonies to determine if they should be sent to Common Pleas for trial.

Overall, the court heard 17,111 cases in 2005 or about 47 cases a day. The Municipal Court has a staff of 24 and operates on approximately $1.4 million a year. Its judge is elected for six year terms.

Approximately $1 million of the court’s budget is supplied by the City of Bowling Green, and an examination of the use of those tax dollars may be another reason to visit the court.

Reddin encourages those deciding to visit to dress appropriately.

“And what appropriately means for some of us is that they do not have T-shirts with slogans that are obnoxious or disrespectful,” he said, adding that most parties in a lawsuit wear “business-like attire” out of respect for the law, not necessarily the judge.

And after etiquette is observed, a case is selected for viewing and an individual makes it through court security, they will find their reward, which, according to Fleming, is an understanding of a system that affects us all.

“If you see it when you’re not a part of it sometimes it gives you a perspective and maybe you gain a comfort level with the court system that everybody should have,” he said. “They shouldn’t be intimidated by it, they should understand its function in a certain number of ways.”

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