Ghost Plague in Iowa
Former Judge Edward Jacobson has been exposed for at least 13 ghostwritten court decisions, while the judge admits to nearly 200.
The Author of This Post is FUAN Guest Contributor Chad Krastel. Learn more about Chad here.
Many argue that this is common practice, or that the decision of who won is already decided. What does it matter that he allows the winning lawyer to write the decision for him? The unethical judge himself felt there was nothing wrong with this practice, and countless lawyers also back him. So again, why does this matter?
On March 28th, 2018, the Honorable Judge Robert A Hutchison and the State Court Administrator (Ret.) David K. Boyd were tasked with investigating alleged Ex Parte communication linked to these “ghostwritten” court decisions.
On June 1st, 2018, they released their deeply disturbing findings that they discovered evidence of verbatim or near-verbatim to the proposed court rulings written by the winning attorney. Want to read it? Get their report here.
The court cases ranged from a kidnapping charge to custody hearings. These life-changing court cases deserve the time allotted to them. It is the duty of the judge hearing the case to form his own opinion and write that document for the court instead of lazily allowing an attorney involved in the case to write whatever he/she wants.
What is Ex Parte, you may ask?
Ex Parte Communications are communications between the court and one party of a contested and active court proceeding without notification to the other party. Iowa Code for Judicial Conduct Rule 51:2.9 states: EX PARTE COMMUNICATIONS (A) A judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties or their lawyers, concerning a pending matter or impending matter. There are of course exceptions to this, none of which were found to be used or viable in any of these cases in this investigation.
Imagine if you will, someone comes to court and requests that the courts hear a custody battle. Neither party obviously agrees with the other, so it is the task of an unbiased judge to decide the child(ren)’s fate. One parent (Parent A) is asking the court that Parent B be allowed no holidays with the child(ren), only every other weekend, and a couple of interrupted weeks in the summer. Conversely, Parent B seeks joint physical custody, holidays and both parents to receive equal uninterrupted time in the summer, so both families can enjoy a vacation. Neither parent is negligent, criminal, or abusive. Parent B is also a distinguished Army Veteran as well and self-representing in court.
A judge now listens to both sides of the case and decides that Joint Physical Custody is not warranted. What should the judge do? Should he find a reasonable compromise in the middle? Or even something as cookie cutter as every other weekend, every other holiday, and a few days during summer vacation? Or does a judge decide to grant the lowest possible visitation privileges? Or worse still, does the judge just have the attorney representing parent A write whatever his/her client wants, and be completely partial to the opposing party?
What Did Judge Jacobson Do?
Judge Jacobson did the most unethical thing a judge can do in these circumstances. He broke the Iowa Code and allowed the opposing attorney Michele Lewon to write the decree for him. This case is not a hypothetical. This is a real case that Judge Edward Jacobson had ghostwritten by attorney Michele Lewon of Sioux City, Iowa.
Imagine the frustration and now the lack of faith in the judicial system that now stems from such an unethical occurrence. Many attorneys are standing behind the judge. They are claiming this is standard practice. Even the judge said he had done this as an attorney in South Dakota. This unethical behavior is typical, and yet even the Iowa Supreme Court criticized this behavior. There needs to be a cleansing of the Judicial System.
Laws need to explicitly state what courts can and cannot do in such cases. No more should children be unfairly placed following custody cases due to the laziness of a judge. No more should the rights of a person be violated, because a judge’s workload is too great. Is this not precisely why these judges are paid by our tax dollars…to bear the responsibility of making decisions of cases that come before the court?
KMEG reached out to Jacobson’s attorneys, but they said they had no comment at this time.
If you believe your case was improperly conducted, click or tap here to fill out and submit the application for the Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board. If you have any other complaints, visit the Complaints Page at the Iowa Judicial Branch website. Please note: If you disagree with the outcome of a case, then an appeal is the way to proceed.
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