LE MARS, Iowa — Investigators have found at least 13 cases in which an Iowa judge improperly used language proposed by winning attorneys as his final court orders without telling attorneys on the other sides.
Retired Judge Edward Jacobson told investigators in a report released Friday that he thought his actions were common practice among other Iowa district judges and in South Dakota, where he'd practiced law before moving to Iowa. Investigators said that wasn't the case.
The Iowa Code of Judicial Conduct bars what in legal terms is called "ex parte communications" between a judge and one side's attorney.
Jacobson shocked Iowa's legal community in November when he acknowledged during a deposition in a divorce case that he often requested attorneys for the winning sides of cases to write up proposed language and email it to him. He said he'd made such requests at least 200 times in his 16 years on the bench, estimating he'd overseen about 2,000 cases.
Iowa State Court Administrator Todd Nuccio launched an investigation in March, after the deposition was brought to regulators' attention. He appointed Judge Robert Hutchison and former State Court Administrator David Boyd to review Jacobson's processes and to "document any questionable and/or improper practices found."
Jacobson told the investigators that neither side gained advantage in his rulings because he asked attorneys for proposed language only after he'd decided cases. He said he solicited proposed language in 200 cases but didn't get or use the language in all of his final orders.
The investigators said that allowing only one side's lawyers to propose language denied changes for the other side's attorneys to be heard. The investigators also noted that appeals courts would "have no reason to scrutinize the findings and conclusions of the trial court more carefully."
Hutchison and Boyd were not asked to determine whether Jacobson violated any laws or rules. It's unclear what the next step might be for Nuccio and his office. He didn't immediately return a call Monday from The Associated Press.
Chad Krastel's divorce case was among the 13 cases cited by the investigators. Krastel said in an email to the AP that "the judge 'wrote' the decree completely" in his ex-wife's favor. His lawyer, Roseanne Plante, said the report could bolster her plans to seek a modification of Krastel's child custody arrangement to gain him more time with his child,
Plante also said she is encouraging Krastel and other people to file complaints to have Jacobson's law license lifted.