History of the Court

Probate Courts existed in the Northwest Territory prior to Ohio's statehood. They had authority in probate, testamentary, and guardianship cases, although the Probate Judge and two Common Pleas Judges issued all final judgments. In 1802, Ohio's first constitution abolished separate Probate Courts and transferred their authority to the Common Pleas Courts. Separate Probate Courts reappeared in 1851, when Ohio drafted a new constitution. This gave Probate Court the powers to grant marriage licenses and control land sales by appointed executors, administrators, and guardians. As a result of a 1912 constitutional amendment, county voters can decide by referendum whether or not to combine the Probate Court with the Court of Common Pleas. In 1969, the Probate Court became a division of the Court of Common Pleas.

The Probate Court has original jurisdiction in the settlement of estates. The Court held limited jurisdiction in minor criminal offenses from 1851 – 1932. The Probate Judge maintained a permanent record of births and deaths from 1867 to 1908. Since the 1850's, the Court has had jurisdiction over the appointment of guardians for minors and the mentally ill; the Judge can also commit the mentally ill to institutional care. The Probate Court exercised jurisdiction in naturalization proceedings in the last half of the nineteenth century until 1906, when the federal government assumed this power. The Probate Judge serves a six-year term and must be a licensed attorney who has practiced law for at least six years prior to election.

Miami County Probate Judges

Hon. Benjamin F. Powers1852 - 1856
Hon. Joseph Pearson1856 - 1861
Hon. Samuel S. Davis1861 - 1867
Hon. W. N. Foster1867 - 1873
Hon. A. S. McKinney1873 - 1879
Hon. William Johnston1879 - 1885
Hon. W. J. Clyde1885 - 1891
Hon. John C. Geyer1891 - 1897
Hon. William Freshour1897 - 1903
Hon. J. Harrison Smith1903 - 1906
Hon. E. W. Maier1906 - 1913
Hon. Lewis E. St. John1913 - 1921
Hon. E. M. Bell1921 - 1923
Hon. Raymond Kerr1923 - 1924
Hon. Harry Powell1924 - 1925
Hon. Raymond Kerr1925 - 1929
Hon. Harry Powell1929 - 1933
Hon. Guy O'Donnell1933 - 1941
Hon. Carl Felger1941 - 1949
Hon. Samuel Faust1949 - 1973
Hon. James R. O'Donnell1973 - 1974
Hon. Richard A. Goater1974 - 1996
Hon. Lynnita K. C. Wagner1997 - 2009
Hon. W. McGregor Dixon, Jr.2009 - 2018
Hon. Scott Altenburger2018 - Present