Columbus City Councilman Michael Stinziano and officials with the city's Department of Neighborhoods are sponsoring an event intended to help demystify the workings of Franklin County Municipal Court and better connect citizens with the services it offers.
Courthouse to the Community is scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14, at the Gillie Senior Recreation Center, 2100 Morse Road.
Representatives of the various judges, the clerk of courts office, the county public defender's office, Community Mediation Services of Central Ohio, Legal Aid, refugee and immigration case workers and several specialty courts are scheduled to attend.
Stinziano said last week he decided to organize the event at the urging of Judge Eileen Y. Paley, a former member of Columbus City Council.
"Apparently, she had done it a couple of years ago," he said.
The first was held at a south Columbus recreation center, Paley said.
"It was good," she said. "What was kind of neat about it was most of the neighborhood community leaders were there. They were getting information to bring back to their communities. I don't think it was very well attended by the general public, but I think the information got out."
Most residents are not aware of the workings of Franklin County Municipal Court or of the programs designed to help people in need, Stinziano said.
"I think almost every aspect of our judiciary is a mystery," he said.
"I think the courthouse is a scary place for most people, and they don't realize the resources that are available here," she said.
For example, Paley said, both specialty drug courts, one for adults and the other for juveniles, will have representatives at Courthouse to the Community.
"With the drug epidemic we're having now, families are looking for ways to get help," she said.
Court officials were more than willing to participate, Stinziano said.
"Everyone's been very receptive," he said. "There's been a lot of enthusiasm."
Stinziano estimated that 30 representatives of the courts and the programs operated through them will attend.
Ten to 15 tables will be set up at the Gillie Center, Paley said.
"People don't even realize there are 10 to 15 departments," she said.
The Northland site was chosen for several reasons, Stinziano said.
"We know there's a large population center up there and it is a good location in terms of accessibility," he said.
Also, in working with Department of Neighborhoods personnel, Stinziano identified a need for more outreach to the immigrant and refugee population in Northland to assure them that they "need not be afraid to interact with the court system or look for help," he said.
Stinziano said he hopes to organize another Courthouse to the Community event in the fall in a different part of Columbus.