Common Pleas Court Judges
Judge John J. Russo
Kathleen M. Dunham
Private Practice for 12 years prior to election. Also admitted to practice in the United States Supreme Court; the Ohio Supreme Court; the United States Court of Appeals; and the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio.
Pursuant to the Ohio Supreme Court’s 03/27/2020 Administrative Actions Order, all time requirements for filing all pleadings (including answers, motions, responsive briefing, etc.) have been suspended and tolled as of 03/09/2020. (2020-Ohio-1166, https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2020/2020-Ohio-1166.pdf). The tolling period shall expire on the date the COVID-19 Emergency ends or 07/30/2020, whichever is sooner. At that time, the parties shall have the remaining time applicable under the Civil Rules in which to file their pleading. The Court notes that the tolling order does not apply to specific orders of this Court that were issued on or after 03/09/2020.
Motions/Responsive Briefing: The Court notes that any party may still elect to file a Motion and/or a Responsive Brief. If a party files a Motion and the opposing party responds, the Court shall make a ruling after the matter is fully briefed. However, if the opposing party does not respond in electing to have the matter tolled, then the Court shall hold the Motion in abeyance until the tolling period has expired and the opposing party’s response time has expired.
Answers/Motions for Default: For cases especially involving pro se Defendants, the Court notes that any Answer that was/is due after 03/09/2020 through the duration of the Order is tolled. If a Plaintiff proceeds forward in filing a Motion for Default Judgment in a case in which the Defendant’s Answer was due prior to 03/09/2020, the Court shall hold its ruling in abeyance pending any response to the Motion by Defendant or until the tolling period has expired and the Defendant’s response time has expired.
Due to the potential effects of COVID-19 regarding a party’s civil litigation, any party may request a Telephone Conference with the Court to discuss any issues and/or the current Case Management Schedule. To request the Telephone Conference, the party should call Judge Russo’s Staff Attorney Caitlin Carlin at (216) 443-8588.
Civil Docket Case Management
The Court expects to move its docket quickly and efficiently with the goal of disposing of all cases within one year of filing. Attorneys should be prepared to discuss settlement at the earliest opportunity.
Mediation and arbitration will be used in cases where it is appropriate. In cases that are appropriate for mediation, this Court will handle the matter unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties for a referral to Mediation.
With respect to cases filed on the Court's Civil Docket, the Court notes that any case identified as qualifying under Sup.R. 49.05 as a Commercial Docket Case “shall” be sua sponte referred to the Administrative Judge pursuant to Sup.R. 49.07. The Court finds that the uniform and consistent application of this rule dually serves both to reinforce the intent of the rules and to support the purpose of the Commercial Docket. The Court notes that Sup.R. 49.08 governs the review of a transfer to the Commercial Docket.
Judge Russo will attempt to handle all Pretrials. The Judge will use Telephone Conference at the Court's discretion. A Pretrial may be set in-person at the request of the parties. All attorneys should be prepared to discuss deadlines, motions, and settlement to help facilitate the resolve of a case.
Case Management Conferences
All CMCs are held by telephone, unless otherwise requested. Plaintiff's counsel is to initiate the telephone conference to Defendant's counsel and then to Judge Russo’s Staff Attorney at 216-443-8588. Requests for production of documents and interrogatories must be served prior to the Case Management Conference. The Court shall set a discovery schedule and Trial schedule during the CMCs. This Court follows the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association's endorsed Civil Case Management Order designed to provide civil litigants with timely rulings on motions, access to the Court for legal argument upon request, and the highest degree of Trial date certainty. For a printable copy of the Order, please click here: CLEVELAND METROPOLITAN BAR ASSOCIATION ENDORSED CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER
Judge Russo will attempt to handle all Final Pretrials. Clients or individuals with full settlement authority are required to be present at Final Pretrials. Attorneys for all parties shall converse prior to the Final Pretrial regarding the case status. Judge Russo utilizes the settlement process outlined in the following link: SETTLEMENT PROCESS
Attorneys are to make all reasonable efforts to settle discovery disputes amongst the parties. Prior to any party filing any Discovery Motion, the parties shall contact Judge Russo’s Staff Attorney to set an Attorney Conference either via telephone or in-person with the Court as soon as possible.
Settlement Conferences are set at the CMC at the earliest point in the Trial schedule or at the request of the parties if the parties believe a resolve may be possible. Judge Russo will attempt to handle all Settlement Conferences. Parties are required to be present if the attorneys believe there is a possibility that the Court may be able to resolve the case. Parties may be available by phone if all attorneys agree that the case is not ripe for settlement negotiations. Attorneys for all parties shall converse prior to the Settlement Conference regarding case status so that all parties have the same expectations for the Settlement Conference. If the parties believe settlement is not possible prior to the Settlement Conference, please contact Judge Russo’s Staff Attorney to cancel the Settlement Conference instead of coming to Court. Judge Russo utilizes the settlement process outlined in the following link: SETTLEMENT PROCESS Please review this process prior to attending a Settlement Conference with Judge Russo.
Calendaring and Continuances
Continuances of discovery deadlines or court events without Court consent shall be permitted as long as (1) all the parties agree and (2) the extension does not interfere with the Trial date.
In accordance with Civ.R. 6, the Court orders that any Motion in Limine is to be filed at least 28 days before Trial. Any Brief in Opposition is due 14 days thereafter. No Reply shall be permitted.
The Court additionally orders that at least 14 days prior to Trial, the parties are to file the following: (1) Trial Briefs, (2) Witness Lists, (3) Exhibit Lists, (4) Joint Jury Instructions, Jury Interrogatories, and /or Jury Verdict Forms if applicable, (5) Stipulations, and (6) an agreed upon State of the Case to be read to the Jury.
Jury Instructions, Interrogatories, Verdict Forms = With respect to Jury Instructions, Jury Interrogatories, and Jury Verdict Forms, the Parties are to provide the Court with one consolidated set of Instructions/Interrogatories/Verdict Forms that includes all the Instructions/Interrogatories/Verdict Forms to which the Parties agree and that identifies all the Instructions/Interrogatories/Verdict Forms to which the Parties disagree. A courtesy copy of the Parties’ Instructions/Interrogatories/Verdict Forms in a Word format should be emailed to the Court’s Staff Attorney.
Please review the Court’s preferences and practices regarding the following Motions.
In accordance with the Court’s Discovery practices, the parties are to contact Judge Russo’s Staff Attorney prior to the filing of any Discovery Motion to set the matter for an Attorney Conference either via telephone or in-person with the Court as soon as possible.
Motions for Default Judgment
When provided by Civ.R. 55, the Plaintiff may file a Motion for Default Judgment and provide to the Court the following documents: (1) the contract(s), assignment(s), account statement(s), or written instrument(s) upon which Plaintiff seeks judgment; (2) an affidavit of service of the Complaint; (3) an affidavit of damages; (4) a military affidavit; and (5) a proposed judgment entry. Evidence of damages, such as bills or account statements, must be included in the file before default judgment can be rendered. If all the required documents are provided to the Court, the Court shall rule on the Motion without setting the matter for a hearing. If damages are unliquidated, the case may be set for a hearing in which to assess damages.
Motions for Summary Judgment
Pursuant to Civ.R. 6, a Brief in Opposition is due 28 days after the filing of a Motion for Summary Judgment. A Reply Brief is due 7 days after the filing of a Brief in Opposition. An oral hearing on the Motion is available upon request. The Court shall make all attempts to issue a ruling on the Motion prior to the Final Pretrial. The ruling will be made on the docket unless other arrangements have been made by the parties with the Court.
Motions in Limine
Pursuant to Civ.R. 6, the Court orders that any Motion in Limine is to be filed at least 28 days before Trial. Any Brief in Opposition is due 14 days thereafter. No Reply shall be permitted.
Any Motions other than a Motion for Summary Judgment or a Motion in Limine
Pursuant to Civ.R. 6, a Brief in Opposition is due 14 days after the filing of a Motion. A Reply Brief is due 7 days after the filing of a Brief in Opposition.
Foreclosures, Quiet Titles, and Partitions
Cases to quiet title, for partition and for foreclosure are referred to magistrate pursuant to Civ.R. 53. A case management conference will be conducted by assigned magistrate in foreclosure cases filed by non-regular attorneys, cases to quiet title and partition cases. No case management conference will be conducted in foreclosure cases filed by regular foreclosure attorneys unless requested by parties upon written motion. Pre-trials will be conducted by assigned magistrate on contested cases. Hearings will be conducted by assigned magistrate on all motions for default judgment. Plaintiffs to perfect service of process in compliance with Civ. R. 4(E) and properly commence cases pursuant to Civ. R. 3. Plaintiffs to file title work in compliance with Local Rule 24. If, at any time during the proceedings, the parties believe that a resolution may be possible, upon written motion, the Court may set the case for either a settlement conference or refer the case to mediation. All motions, pleadings, and filings are to be filed, docketed and taken to Magistrate's Department.