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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

Judge Term
Hon. Benjamin F. Powers 1852 - 1856
Hon. Joseph Pearson 1856 - 1861
Hon. Samuel S. Davis  1861 - 1867
Hon. W. N. Foster  1867 - 1873
Hon. A. S. McKinney  1873 - 1879
Hon. William Johnston 1879 - 1885
Hon. W. J. Clyde  1885 - 1891
Hon. John C. Geyer 1891 - 1897
Hon. William Freshour 1897 - 1903
Hon. J. Harrison Smith  1903 - 1906
Hon. E. W. Maier 1906 - 1913
Hon. Lewis E. St. John 1913 - 1921
Hon. E. M. Bell  1921 - 1923
Hon. Raymond Kerr  1923 - 1924
Hon. Harry Powell 1924 - 1925
Hon. Raymond Kerr 1925 - 1929
Hon. Harry Powell 1929 - 1933
Hon. Guy O’Donnell 1933 - 1941
Hon. Carl Felger  1941 - 1949
Hon. Samuel Faust  1949 - 1973
Hon. James R. O’Donnell 1973 - 1974
Hon. Richard A. Goater  1974 - 1996
Hon. Lynnita K. C. Wagner 1997 - 2009
Hon. W. McGregor Dixon, Jr. 2009 - Present