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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2001

Decision expected in case citing judge


MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - A Municipal Court judge said he will rule by Monday whether to dismiss criminal charges filed against visiting Judge Stephen Yarbrough of Lucas County.

Two Knox County residents, Rubin Szerlip and Kelly Strayer, filed the charges on July 9 against Judge Yarbrough, who is presiding over litigation stemming from Mr. Szerlip's divorce in Domestic Relations Court.

In an affidavit, Ms. Strayer said on April 27, Judge Yarbrough called her into his chambers and offered not to jail Mr. Szerlip if he agreed to settle the divorce case.

William Smith, Mount Vernon's law director, told Municipal Court Judge Paul Spurgeon that Judge Yarbrough is protected by “judicial immunity, honored in English and American law for almost four centuries.”

Ms. Strayer said Judge Yarbrough may be immune from most civil lawsuits, but not for a criminal charge such as “coercion.”

“If one were to follow Mr. Smith's logic, Judge Yarbrough could not be charged with assault, as long as he is in his judicial robes,” she said.

Juge Yarbrough could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Szerlip and Ms. Strayer, who is Mr. Szerlip's fiancee, made a motion to disqualify Mr. Smith, because he is city law director and prosecutor.

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