Can an Ohio Judge Tell You How Fast You Must Try Your Case?

March 7, 2024

Your partner’s battle with cancer came to a tragic end, a struggle intensified by their persistent cigarette smoking. Despite your repeated pleas for them to quit, the addiction proved too strong. . A lawyer was consulted, and they agreed to take the case; your spouse had been addicted long before public warnings of the dangers. You believe there is a lot of background and information that needs to be presented to the trier of fact. But how much time will you get to present your case? In Ohio’s legal landscape, Rule of Evidence 611(a) may seem like legal jargon. However, it is a crucial guide that shapes courtroom proceedings, including how the trial unfolds and how the case is heard. Importantly, it determines the amount of time you will have to present your case.

The Importance of Courtroom Control

The above fact pattern is not pulled from thin air, it is from a recent landmark decision in Massachusetts where the state supreme court examined the issue of whether a judge or the litigants control the time to present a case at trial.  There, Joni Babaletos did not believe the trial judge gave her enough time to present her case. After a trial and appeal, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a trial judge does not abuse their discretion when setting reasonable trial time limits, provided the judge conducts an informed analysis of case specific requirements, and the judge provides the parties with flexibility to reassess their original schedule when necessary or upon a party’s request. Babaletos, like Rule 611(a) in Ohio, underscores the importance of courtroom control, a judge’s tool to control how much time you have to be heard.

This article seeks to demystify Rule 611(a), while providing insights on the scope of an Ohio state court judge’s authority to reasonably limit how much time you have to try a case. This authority granted to an Ohio state judge, through both case law and Rule 611(a), considers the fundamental aspects of due process and fair trial rights.

Ohio Rule of Evidence 611(a)

The rule is simple: it’s your case, but you are in the judge’s courtroom. The judge has a responsibility to reasonably conduct proceedings as they see fit. You will have your time, but it’s not unlimited. Rule 611(a) appears technical stating that:

“[t]he court shall exercise reasonable control over the mode and order of interrogating witnesses and presenting evidence […]”

However, this rule serves as more than just a navigational tool; it is also a safeguard. Through its application, a judge can uphold or violate the due process rights of a party by their allocation of the time a party has to present their case at trial. The rule is the anchor ensuring that courtroom proceedings unfold in a manner that uphold the principles of due process and fair trials.

The Judge’s Authority

In Ohio state courts, a judge can limit the time a party has to try its case. Like in Ohio, the recent Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling in Babaletos highlights the central role judges have to maintain control of how time is spent throughout a trial. In Babaletos, the court was faced with a widow wanting more time to present her case and to tell her husband’s story the way she thought necessary. The judge limited her time due to the already substantial length allotted for trial. This lesson holds true for Ohio cases as courts can control the time that a party has to present evidence; the length of trial rests with the judge’s discretion. In the context of due process and fair trials, the judge must act as an arbiter, ensuring that the trial has both fairness and efficiency.

Docket Management

Why does this discretion not lie with the parties?  Remember there’s a third party in the courtroom; not just a Plaintiff and a Defendant, but the judge. The judge must look not only at your case but at all the cases before them; all cases require time. In Ohio, Rule 611(a) serves as a strategic tool for judges to manage their dockets intelligently. A court is a planner, they must align deadlines, organize the arguments before them with precision, and ensure the overall proceedings stay on track. This discretion allows cases to progress smoothly, all aligning with the same principles underscored by Babaletos of affording parties an opportunity to be heard within the flexible framework the judge establishes. Notably, Ohio state courts recognize and have affirmed that a trial court has inherent authority to control its own docket and manage the cases before it, with the authority to govern the time-limit of a case.

Finding the Right Balance

In the pursuit of justice, Rule 611(a) becomes a call to recognize the delicate equilibrium required in trials. Babaletos reinforces this call, outlining guidance to trial judges for setting time limits for the effective presentation of evidence:

  1. Start with the parties’ requests.
  2. Limit their time based on the needs of the case and the relevance of the evidence being presented.
  3. Distribute time evenly amongst the parties.
  4. Stay flexible should any situation change during trial, and a party requests a change.

In Ohio state courts, the judge holds discretion over issues like the length of cross examination. This means that your counsel needs to work to effectively communicate your needs to the court, working to get not necessarily the time you may want, but the time you actually need. Understanding these principles is crucial to comprehend the legal process and present the most effective case.


As your legal advocates, we at KJK prepare for trials and hearings with a keen understanding of Ohio Rule of Evidence 611(a). We know the limitations a judge can impose and the potential implications of your due process and fair trial rights. We work with you to tell your story and get you the time you need. The recent developments in Babaletos serve as a reminder of the crucial interplay between procedural rules, judicial authority, and constitutional safeguards. Our commitment is not only to navigate hearings and trials effectively but also to ensure that every legal step we take is a stride towards upholding our client’s best interest within the legal landscape.

For further questions or clarifications regarding the content of this article, please contact KJK Litigation & Arbitration attorney Brett Krantz (BK@kjk.com; 216.736.7238).