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Ohio Legal Research

Ohio Court Structure

The Constitution of Ohio separates our state government into three branches, each with distinct areas of responsibility — the executive, the legislative and the judicial.

The primary function of the judicial branch is to fairly and impartially settle disputes according to the law. To do this, a number of courts have been established in the state by the Constitution and by acts of the General Assembly.

Further, in addition to its place in the court structure as the court of last resort, the Supreme Court, in particular the Chief Justice, is responsible for the administration of the judicial branch in Ohio.

For more information about the Judicial System Structure in Ohio, click here

Citation Rules

Ohio Supreme Court:
Effective June 17, 2024, see the Supreme Court of Ohio Writing Manual. Although judges and lawyers are not required to conform to the Writing Guide, they are strongly encouraged to use it in writing opinions and briefs.
Citation, T1
Public Domain Citation Format:
Ohio has adopted a public domain citation format for cases decided after April 30, 2002.               
State v. Lynch, 98 Ohio St. 3d 514, 2003-Ohio-2284, 787 N.E. 2d 1185
Supreme Court (Ohio)
Cite to N.E. or N.E. 2d, if therein.
Court of Appeals (Ohio Ct. App.)
Cite to N.E. or N.E. 2d, if therein.
Other law courts
Cite to Ohio Misc. or Ohio Misc. 2d, if therein.

Updating Your Case

Case law, like statues and regulations, is dynamic.  Therefore it's essential to determine whether or not your case is still good law.  In order to ascertain that fact, you will need to make use of a Citator. 

A Citator is a legal reference tool that helps you determine what has happened to your case after it was released.  Basically it takes the document and lists other documents that cite that document. 

The two major legal citators are Shepards on Lexis Advance, and KeyCite on Westlaw.  When using a Citator, you’ll want to pay special attention to the “signal” given for your document.  In KeyCite, the signals are often flags, while in Shepards, the signals are often geometric shapes.  A red signal in both means that your document is in trouble and you need to find out why and how it affects your issue.

How do I find a case in Ohio

If you are looking for cases pertaining specifically to Ohio, there are three basic search strategies.

I. Do you have a legal citation? If not, go to section II.

If you have a legal citation, you will need to correctly identify each component to determine which reporter published you case.  Each citation is typically broken down into three basic components: the volume number; the reporter series; the page number. 

For example:         89 Ohio St. 93

89 → Volume # 83

Ohio St.→ Ohio State Reports

93 → Page # 93

Once you have deciphered the citation, you can use various resources to locate your case. 

  • Court Websites
  • Fee Databases:  Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg Law, Casemaker
  • UC Law Library's Print Collection
  • Google Scholoar
  • Public Library of Law

II. Do you have a case name? If not, go to section III.

If you have a case name (names of parties involved), there are several sources available that will enable you to locate the case.

  • Fee services, such as Lexis and Westlaw,  allow you to search for cases by party name. 
  • If you do not have access to online resources, you can use various print resources at the Law Library.  West’s Ohio Digest (KFO 57.W4) and Ohio Jurisprudence (KFO65 .O35) both provide a TABLE OF CASES section at the end of each set.  The TABLE OF CASES lists alphabetically the title of each case, by both Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s names and the volume and page of the reporter in which each is published. Once you have that info, you can plug it into a legal database, google, or look it up in the books. 

III. Finding A Case By Topic/Key Words

Locating cases on a particular topic can be a daunting task, especially if you are unfamilar with the area of law.  Here are a few suggestions to help out:

  • Use Secondary Sources to find cases on a particular subject.
  • Try a keyword search on a free Internet databases, such as Google Scholar or Findlaw.
  • Try a keyword or terms & connector search on Lexis or Westlaw.
  • If you are researching a statute or court rule, you can consult the print version of the statutes.  You can also research statutes and rules using Lexis or Westlaw.

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