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Ohio Primary Law Legal Research Guide: Courts & Cases

Guide based on Cleveland-Marshall's Ohio Primary Law Research Guide. Covers Ohio cases, statutes, legislative history, regulations, and administrative decisions.

Ohio Official Reports

Cases are considered reported if they are in the Ohio Official Reports.  See reported v. unreported cases, below, to see what this distinction means.

The Ohio Supreme Court designated the Supreme Court website as the Ohio Official Reports for opinions of the courts of appeals and the Court of Claims as of July 1, 2012.  See Rules for Reporting Opinions, Rule 3.2  . 

Before July 1, 2012, the Ohio Official Reports referred to official print publications of Ohio cases.  All Ohio Supreme Court decisions are included in these. The Reporter of Decisions selected certain appellate and municipal cases to publish in the Ohio Official Reports. See Rules for Reporting Opinions The most recent series of the Official Reports are:

Reported v. Unreported Ohio Decisions

If a decision appears in an official reporter (Ohio Official Reporter or Ohio Reports), it is a "reported" decision. Generally, all Ohio Supreme Court decisions are "reported". The Reporter of Decisions decides which appellate and municipal cases appear in the Ohio Official Reports. See Rules for Reporting Opinions.

In the past, reported decisions were controlling authority in the district, and "unreported" opinions were merely "persuasive", meaning they are controlling only as to the parties. Prior versions of the Supreme Court Rules for Reporting opinions stated that unreported opinions "may be" cited in limited circumstances.

As of May 1, 2002, the Supreme Court abolished the distinction between "controlling" and "persuasive" opinions, based merely upon whether a case appears in the Official Reporter. Opinions for all cases decided on and after May 1, 2002 may be cited as legal authority and "weighted as deemed appropriate by the courts" See Rules for Reporting Opinions, Rule 3.4 .  The Supreme Court designated the Supreme Court website as the Ohio Official Reports for opinions of the courts of appeals and the Court of Claims as of July 1, 2012.  See Rules for Reporting Opinions, Rule 3.2  . 

(Some interpret this as all appellate opinions since May 1, 2002 are now controlling because all are published on the web and because the comments to Rules for Reporting Opinions, Rule 4 say "The Committee recognized the concern that with the designations abolished, and all appellate opinions are "controlling," there is some burden on the practitioner to sift through the large number of opinions to find those that are the best precendent". However, Rule 4 itself says "All court of appeals opinions issued after the effective date of these rules may be cited as legal authority and weighted as deemed appropriate by the courts. "  In 2012, Rule 4 was amended and renumbered Rule 3.4, and also says "weighted as deemed appropriate by the courts."  )

Ohio Revised Code 2503.20 still states that, "All such cases shall be reported in accordance with this section before they are recognized by and receive the official sanction of any court." Despite this code section, attorneys and judges frequently cite to cases that are not officially reported. See Ervin H.Pollack and J. Russell Leach, Ohio's Reported Decisions -- An Integrated Survey , 11 Ohio State Law Journal 413 (1950).

Also Covered in this Guide

Ohio's Court System

An "Ohio case" can be one heard in the State Court System or the Federal Court System.

For an explanation of the hierachy of the Ohio State Court System, look at the Structure of the Ohio Judicial System Chart.  To learn about the structure of the Federal Court System, check out the U.S. Courts page on the Structure of the U.S. Courts.

Another video, besides the one below is Going to Court by the Ohio State Bar Association.

New Ohio Cases

Ohio Unofficial Reporters

There are lots of unofficial reporters, many of which are no longer published. Take a look at How to Read a Legal Citation, for a list of common Ohio case reporters and their abbreviations. You can type the name of the case reporter into Scholar to find the call number of the print reporter.

For a list of unofficial reporters, see Ohio Case Law: Where to Find It by the Ohio Supreme Court Law Library. The following articles discuss some of these unofficial case reporters: Ervin H.Pollack and J. Russell Leach, Ohio's Reported Decisions -- An Integrated Survey , 11 Ohio State Law Journal 413 (1950) and Paul Richert, An Update on Judicial Reporting , 41 Ohio State Law Journal 675 (1980).

One unofficial reporter that is still published currently is North Eastern Reporter, now in its second series,KF135.N6 N62 [Second Level Library]. It includes Ohio Supreme Court and appellate decisions for Ohio and other northeast states. Volumes include West headnotes, which can help find more cases dealing with the same legal issue.

The library has some special databases of unreported cases: Ohio Appellate Decisions on Fiche KFO48.O5(Law Library Microform Consortium, 1982- 92) and Anderson's Unreported Ohio Appellate Cases KFO48.A5 (Anderson Publishing Co., 1990).

Reporter Abbreviations

OHIO REPORTER NAME ABBREVIATION
Ohio State Reports  Ohio St.
Ohio State Reports, Second Series  Ohio St. 2d
Ohio State Reports, Third Series*  Ohio St. 3d
Ohio Appellate Reports  Ohio App.
Ohio Appellate Reports, Second Series  Ohio App. 2d
Ohio Appellate Reports, Third Series*  Ohio App. 3d
Ohio Miscellaneous  Ohio Misc.
Ohio Miscellaneous, Second Series*  Ohio Misc. 2d
Ohio Bar Reports  Ohio B.
Ohio Opinions  Ohio Op.
Ohio Opinions, Second Series  Ohio Op. 2d
Ohio Opinions, Third Series  Ohio Op. 3d
Ohio Nisi Prius Reports  Ohio N.P.
Ohio Nisi Prius Reports, New Series Ohio N.P. (n.s.)
Ohio Decisions Ohio Dec.
Ohio Decisions, Reprint  Ohio Dec. Reprint
Ohio Circuit Court Decisions  Ohio C.C. Dec.
Ohio Circuit Reports (Jahn)  Ohio C.C.
Ohio Circuit Decisions  Ohio Cir. Dec.
Ohio Circuit Court Reports, New Series  Ohio C.C. (n.s.)
Unreported Ohio Appellate Cases Ohio App. Unrep.