1901 – 1910: Around the turn of the Century, Newton D. Baker, prominent attorney, and later Secretary of War under President Wilson, in his position as Cleveland's Solicitor was appalled at the condition of young child offenders in city jail cells in the company of adult criminals. Leaders of the Cleveland YMCA shared his concerns and began serving as volunteer probation officers. The court was established largely through their efforts in May 1902, and held its first session on June 4th in the then existing Court of Insolvency. It was presided over by Judge Thomas E. Gallaghan who was also a member of the founding group of YMCA leaders. Legislation that established the first Juvenile Court in Chicago in 1899 was adapted to local conditions to set up the Cuyahoga County Court.
Midway through the decade authority was given to deal with adults contributing to the delinquency and neglect of children. Toward the end of the decade, the jurisdictional age was raised to 17 from the original age of 16. Volunteer probation officers were gradually replaced by paid staff, and the first female probation officer was authorized by legislation.
1911 – 1920:
Psychological testing and mental examinations were made mandatory for children committed to institutional care. The administration of the Widow's Pension Act, a precursor of the Social Security Act, was placed in the Court. In the later part of the decade, the first county-funded detention facility was opened. Prior to that time, various specially designated police station areas were set aside for juveniles, and some charitable agencies offered shelter care prior to Court hearings. During the First World War years, delinquency increased to nearly 6,000 cases, or twice as many as the 3,000 cases the decade started with. Record keeping improvements were made, and a family index system was started at the end of the decade that allowed for the centralization of all court action by individual family groups. That system indicates that the Court has dealt with approximately 300,000 different families in the county since its inception.
1921 – 1930: The Cleveland Foundation funded a study of the Criminal Justice System of Cleveland. Recommendations concerning the Juvenile Court called for the upgrading of staff, and improvement of physical facilities, including a separate court, apart from the Insolvency Court, and a detention facility that was not removed from the Court. At that time the Court was located near the downtown public square and the Detention Home was on Franklin Ave. Community reaction to the study lead to the passage of a bond issue in 1929 for the construction of the current Court Complex on East 22nd Street.
1931 – 1940: The newly constructed complex consisting of the Court, detention facilities and child welfare services opened in December, 1931, and soon became a national and international model of court services for children. Newly elected Judge Harry L. Eastman who oversaw the construction of the complex also began to implement the recommendations of the Criminal Justice survey. Intake procedures were centralized; the staff received professional training from the School of Applied Social Sciences of (Case) Western Reserve University. A Child Support Department was established to collect and disburse support payments for dependent and neglected children, and a Research and Statistics Department was created to maintain Court demographics and to evaluate court programs. A clinic for psychiatric diagnoses was established, and payment for such service was authorized through legislation. In 1934, the Court of Insolvency was dissolved, and the Court became an independent Juvenile Court.
1941 – 1950: The Court had only one judicial office until 1947, when a second judgeship was legislated. While delinquency cases increased somewhat during World War II, this decade had the lowest case volume in its history with 31,273 cases recorded. Juvenile traffic offenses became more noticeable, and Court research projected increased caseloads to come from studies indicating an in-migrating population, representing 13% of the county population accounting for nearly two-thirds of all Court referrals. These findings contributed to the development of city and countywide preventive programs.
1951 – 1960: The Court observed its 50th Anniversary in 1952 with a public luncheon attended by 900 community leaders and friends of the Court. Kenneth D. Johnson, Dean of the New York School of Social Work, Columbia University was the principal speaker at the event. Delinquency cases began to increase toward the end of the decade, doubling from 2,800 cases in 1951 to 4,602 cases in 1960. In 1957, juveniles cited for traffic violations were no longer classified as "delinquents" and were cited as "Juvenile Traffic Offenders." Cases to establish paternity jumped from 3,524 cases in the previous decade to 9,109 in this decade. All other cases in the Court's jurisdiction, including neglected and dependent children's cases also began to increase as a third judicial office was authorized for 1959 to deal with the increasing dockets. As veteran staff retired early in this decade, two-thirds of the probation staff had been with the Court for less than one year.
1961 – 1970: Projected caseloads materialize, resulting in 71,855 delinquency cases, nearly twice the 37,485 cases of the previous decade. A fourth judgeship is authorized for 1962 as the total docket, including all cases in its jurisdiction increased to 180,201 from 104,992 cases of the previous decade. The Court observed its 60th Anniversary in 1962 by hosting the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges, and by honoring its founder and first president, Judge Harry L. Eastman. In 1966, the Detention Home Annex was opened to help relieve overcrowding in the original center. The Citizens' Advisory Board was appointed in 1966. In 1968 substance abuse, including "inhaling glue fumes" and drug use began to be statistically noted, with a modest 378 cases, which in the next thirty years would increase to nearly 23,000 cases. The Court opened two "Branch Offices" to decentralize services as well as to relieve overcrowding at the main court building. In 1969, non-criminal juvenile behavior such as incorrigibility and truancy was removed from the delinquency category, and the behavior was re-classified as "Unruly."
1971 – 1980: Reflecting the national increase in delinquency, the Court's dockets continued to be strained throughout the decade, ending with a ten-year total of 103,043 delinquency cases which was approximately 6,000 cases less than the 109,341 the Court dealt with in the previous twenty years, 1951 through 1970. All cases in the Court's jurisdiction amounted to slightly more than 225,000 for this period. Additional "Branch" offices were opened to continue decentralizing of services, and minimizing congestion at the main Court. Adding to the increased caseload burden were Supreme Court rulings and new State Juvenile Court rules that introduced more legal requirements into proceedings. Legislative changes regarding support matters and the monitoring of the status of children placed in custody by the Court caused increased hearing activity in these matters. During this time, the Court was faced not only with an extraordinary volume increase but also with the preceding legislative and rule changes that added considerable hearing time and docket backlogs. A fifth judge was authorized for 1977. The Court became a division of the Court of Common Pleas in 1972. Electronic data processing began to be implemented at the court toward the end of the decade.
1981 – 1990: Continued overcrowding in the Detention Center, and changes in juvenile law lead to the development of alternative care, such as Home Detention and wider use of shelter care. In 1990, the Detention Center population averaged 62% overage in capacity throughout the year. The Court continued to advocate for a new detention facility, since not only was the space insufficient, the facility was becoming more and more outmoded. The monitoring of children in custody was further enhanced by requiring a review of the status within 60 days of the Court's granting of custody. The collection and disbursement of money for the support of minor children was removed from the Court's administration in 1982 and transferred to an enforcement agency. From the Court's very early days through 1982, slightly more than 87 million dollars was collected and disbursed for the care of neglected and dependent children. Intake for all kinds of cases amounted to 272,412 cases for the decade, and a sixth judge was authorized for 1987. The judicial complement remains at six, and magistrates' positions have been increased. Legislative changes prohibited the commitment of misdemeanant offenders to the Ohio Youth Commission (now Ohio Department of Youth Services), and monetary incentives were provided for their alternative treatment within the community.
1991 – 2000: The volume of delinquency cases in this decade was the greatest in the Court's history. From 1991 through 2000, a total of 166,108 cases were referred to it; and in this ten-year period the case volume was the virtual equivalent of the 169,000 cases referred in the first 42 years of record keeping, 1909 through 1950. Person offenses in that 42-year period represented 5.5% of all delinquency cases; in this last decade they represented 22% of all delinquency cases. The increase in person offenses, such as assault, robbery and homicides, resulted in reactive legislation that, among other provisions, reduced the age for juveniles to be tried as adults from fifteen to fourteen, and made transfers to the Criminal Division mandatory under certain circumstances. State funds were made available to provide for alternative community treatment services in lieu of commitments to the Department of Youth Services. Volunteer magistrates were enlisted by the Court to hear minor offenses in their local communities obviating formal proceedings. The Clerk's Office was re-organized to provide central legal file services. A new in-house information system, JIMS, was installed toward the end of the decade, and plans were finalized for the Court's new Detention Intervention Center. The Court continued to implement the recommendations made for improved operations made by the State Auditor's Office. The decade closed with the greatest volume of total intake of cases of all kinds, including delinquency, unruliness, traffic, neglect, dependency, abuse, parent-child relationship, non-support, custody and other matters, at 396,328 cases. In its 100 years, the Court has heard nearly one and one-half million matters.
Richard A. Gallitto, Research Associate