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Published: Monday, 1/10/2005

Toledo Municipal Court lifts some costs

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The cost of filing civil claims, evictions, driver's license suspension appeals, and garnishments in Toledo Municipal Court has risen to make Toledo's costs comparable with other jurisdictions, the current presiding judge said.

Judge Gene Zmuda announced the new civil fee structure in a presentation on the municipal court's budget to Toledo City Council Thursday. The fees took effect Jan. 3.

The cost of a money-only or damages complaint was increased from $58 to $81. Such cases cover claims from $3,000 up to $15,000 and account for half of all new civil cases.

The judges raised the cost for filing a small-claims complaint, for claims below $3,000, from $25 to $46; garnishment of wages, from $14 to $40; nonwage garnishments, such as on bank accounts, from $15 to $30; appeal of a driver's license suspension, from $50 to $86; and request for an eviction order, from $65 to $86.

The costs include the filing fee as well as costs for legal publication, computerization, and certified mail delivery.

Judge Zmuda said a study by the University of Toledo's Urban Affairs Center in April recommended the increases. He said the filing fees were last raised in 1990 and the hikes bring Toledo's civil court costs in line with most other jurisdictions.

According to the survey, filing a money-only complaint would cost $86 in Akron; $90 in Dayton; $80 in Oregon; $63 in Maumee; $60 in Perrysburg, and $58 in Sylvania.

A wage garnishment, according to the survey, was $60 in Akron; $50 in Cleveland; $40 in Oregon and Perrysburg; $30 in Sylvania, and $25 in Maumee.

The higher fees are expected to boost revenue from the municipal court to the city's general fund by $307,550, from $635,450 in 2004 to $943,000 in 2005.

The additional revenue has already been budgeted, city Finance Director Tom Crothers said.

Activity in the courts increased sharply in 2004 after slight rises in 2002 and 2003. Total new cases, including civil, criminal, and traffic, increased from 96,794 in 2001 to 103,862 in 2003, and jumped to 117,753 in 2004.

The fee increases were approved by the judges Dec. 10 and took effect Jan. 3. Judge Zmuda apologized for the late public notice of the fee increases. He said a news release should have been sent out in December.

Notice of the changes was published in the Toledo Legal News on Jan. 5, but the City Council did not hear of the increase in fees until a public hearing Jan. 6.

The publication is considered by the court to be a newspaper of general circulation and is available to the public at at least two local bookstores, said the newspaper's vice president for operations, Virginia Seitz.

She said more than 1,000 copies are printed weekly.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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