Pavan Parikh is Hamilton County’s new Clerk of Courts, appointed to fill the vacancy after Aftab Pureval became Cincinnati mayor in January. Parikh wore many hats before entering the field of public service, starting in college when he pivoted from pre-med to studying healthcare law at St. Louis University and then getting hooked on criminal law. After working as chief legal counsel for Ohio Senate Minority Caucus, joining the Army Reserve as a judge advocate in 2013, and most recently working for the Federal Home Loan Bank, he settled back in his hometown of Cincinnati with his wife and two children.
Parikh explains how a county clerk of courts also wears a multitude of hats.
What exactly does the Clerk of Courts do?
Everything. I say that slightly facetiously but realistically. Judges have all this authority but the clerk has to run the courthouse. The judge can issue an order, but that order doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t transmitted to the right people and if it isn’t filed appropriately.
Do you think most people understand that?
No. It’s a large operation, when you think about all the different types of papers and cases. If you want to file a lawsuit, you have to physically file that somewhere. Even if you do it electronically, it has to go into a central repository, where it’s then sent to the judge. You file everything through the clerk’s office.
What else happens at the Clerk of Courts office?
Our office is actually unique in the state of Ohio, because Hamilton County the only jurisdiction that has all of the courts as part of the same unified, countywide judiciary—our municipal court, our common pleas court, our domestic relations court, and our court of appeals. In other counties, the municipal court will be just the city municipal court and may not encompass all the other municipalities. Or the court of appeals will cover multiple counties, not just the one county. We’re the only one that has all of that in one unified court structure. One place to go for all of them. A one-stop shop.
What are you hoping to accomplish during your current term?
We are looking at redoing the website again, to look at how to make it a little bit more user-friendly. We’re working on technology solutions right now so that way it can be one unified system. It’s the hope that we can get one system that talks to all the courts, and so you can pull whatever information you need no matter who you are.
Why is the Clerk of Courts office important to voters?
It’s your front line. If you have to do anything in the justice system, chances are you have to come see the people in our office. If you’re seeking a protective order, you come to the clerk’s office to file before you go see the magistrate to get it adjudicated. We have our whole auto title division, so you need to go over there if you’re buying a car. If you need to get your passport renewed, which I would advise everyone to do now because there’s a backlog, we handle that. We coordinate having citizens serve jury duty. We’re the plumbing that holds the entire courthouse together.
You’re running in November’s election to fill the remainder of Pureval’s term after being appointed. What’s a platform passion point for you?
Research has been conducted in other cities for new, innovative programs we might be able to bring to the clerk’s office. One thing that we’re looking at is consolidating the whole system so there’s one point of contact that sends people routine reminders, so we have fewer people missing court dates. When they did a pilot program in New York City, they found that a combination of redesigning the summons—changing it so the consequences are clearer and it’s written in plain English—with a texting program reduced no-shows by 36 percent.
Anything else you think is important to share?
People should vote and should volunteer to be election officials. I think people need to take more of an interest in local government, because the president and congress get all the media, but 90 percent of the decisions that impact our daily lives are made at the statehouse, the courthouse, and city hall. People need to pay attention, because this is where all the governing that affects their lives actually happens.