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Court News Ohio

Convicted for Solicitation, Former Municipal Court Judge Suspended from Practice of Law

The Ohio Supreme Court today suspended a former Bedford Municipal Court judge who was convicted of soliciting prostitution and falsifying a court record.

In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court suspended former Judge Harry J. Jacob II from the practice of law for two years with one year stayed. Jacob resigned as judge in October 2014 after a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court convicted him of five misdemeanors. He was sentenced and served 60 days in jail, served six months of home monitoring after being released, and was fined $2,500 and placed on two years’ probation.

The Ohio State Bar Association filed a complaint against Jacob for judicial and professional misconduct based on the activities that led to his criminal conviction, and the association did not object to the Board of Professional Conduct’s recommended sanction, which the Supreme Court accepted.

Judge Pays Prostitutes
Jacob, who began serving on the Bedford Municipal Court bench in 2010, unsuccessfully appealed his conviction to the Eighth District Court of Appeals, which noted there was “substantial evidence that Jacob solicited at least three women to engage in sexual activity for hire.” Prosecutors charged he first responded to an advertisement in which a woman offered massages, and when they met in person, the encounter evolved into sex for money. He continued to request that the woman meet him at various hotels across the state. He also began to solicit two other women for sex.

Judge Reduces Charges Unilaterally
In an unrelated case, David Holt made an unscheduled appearance before Jacob with a request to plead guilty to a pending domestic violence charge. Jacob explained to Holt that a domestic violence conviction would prevent him from owning a firearm and would have other consequences. Jacob then reduced the domestic-violence charge to disorderly conduct and found him guilty of the amended charge.

Jacob never read Holt his rights, asked if he had consulted an attorney, or heard from the alleged victim. He amended the charge without the consent of the city prosecutor, and signed the court entry that falsely indicated the prosecutor authorized the amended charge. In his appeal, Jacob acknowledged signing an inaccurate journal entry, but claimed that a paperwork error led him to sign the wrong form. The Eighth District rejected the claim, finding he knew the entry was false because he was the one that changed it.

Disciplinary Charges Follow Conviction
At a disciplinary hearing, Jacob admitted to the crimes and was charged with violating five rules governing the behavior of Ohio judges and lawyers, including a requirement that judges “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.”

The Court majority opinion  stated that when considering a sanction for judicial and professional misconduct, the Court considers several factors including aggravating circumstances  and mitigating factors as well as sanctions imposed in similar cases.

The board found Jacob’s sexual gratification was a selfish motive, that he engaged in a pattern of misconduct, committed multiple offenses, and refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of some of his conduct. In contrast, the board found Jacob had no prior disciplinary history, resigned from his judgeship, cooperated with disciplinary authorities, demonstrated good character and reputation, and fully complied with his criminal sentence. The Court noted he also sought the assistance of the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program and a psychiatrist.

The opinion stated that judges have a greater duty to obey the law than others and breaching that obligation will result in the Court using its “full measure” of disciplinary authority.

“By engaging in the criminal activity in this case, Jacob failed to uphold the integrity of the judiciary, and he diminished public confidence in our branch of government,” the Court stated. “Considering that Jacob continued to deny making misrepresentations in the journal entry, the board concluded that his ‘egregious conduct, both inside and outside the courtroom,’ warrants a two-year suspension, with one year stayed.”

The Court ruled the second year is stayed on the condition that Jacob commit no further misconduct, and if he does, the stay will be lifted. It also charged him $1,306 for the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.

Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Sharon L. Kennedy, William M. O’Neill and R. Patrick DeWine joined the majority opinion.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Judith L. French dissented and stated they would suspend Jacob for two years without suspending any portion of the sanction.

Justice Patrick F. Fischer did not participate in the case.

2016-1488. Ohio State Bar Assn. v. Jacob, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-2733.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

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