By Frank Lewis
Two Scioto County attorney’s have been named Fellows of the Ohio State Bar Foundation. Long time Portsmouth attorney and city official Franklin T. Gerlach and Scioto County Common Pleas Court Judge Howard H. Harcha, III, were inducted as Fellows at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in a ceremony presided over by Supreme Court of Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and OSBF President Stephen F. Tilson.
Gerlach, who is in law practice with his wife, Cynthia K. Gerlach and daughter, Valarie K. Gerlach, is best known in the city of Portsmouth as both a former Mayor and former Citry Manager in addition to having served on Portsmouth City Council. The other high profile side of his career is being an honorary Cold War Patriot dealing with cases involving workers exposed to radiation and toxins while serving their country during the Cold War. Gerlach, himself an Eagle Scout, gives extensively of his time to the Boy Scouts of America. He is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association and the Ohio Association for Justice. He is also a past president of the Scioto County Bar Association.
“I’m real thrilled to participate with a class of 44 other attorney’s from throughout Ohio who are undertaking donations of our time as well as some cash contributions to the Foundation in appreciation of all the things that the law profession has provided to me and to the members,” Gerlach told the Daily Times. “Our class will undertake a project of community service where we will be doing some pro bono work on a project that we’ve yet to select.”
Harcha, a member of the Ohio State Bar Association Board of Governors, in addition to presiding over the Scioto County court, serves as a trial judge for the Ohio Center for Law-related Education’s Mock Trail Program. He is president of the Ohio Common Pleas Judges Association and a member of the American Judges Association. In addition, Harcha is an active member of the Ohio Judicial Conference and serves as co-chairman of that organization’s Committee on Community Corrections and on its executive committee.
“I am very honored to receive it,” Harcha told the Daily Times. “And I believe it’s important to give back to the community education system and to use our skills and talents to help others. That’s a big part of what the Foundation stands for.”
Harcha said he enjoys working with the Mock Trial Program which the Foundation sponsors.
“They now allow members to do projects on their own, so one of my projects would be to speak to high school seniors about how the law affects them once they turn 18,” Harcha said. “I’ve been doing that for many years and I’ll continue to do that and implement some new thoughts and Ideas I’ve learned through the Foundation.”
Gerlach said it was a great experience to stand next to O’Connor and Supreme Court Justice Judith Lanzinger at the event in the Ohio Supreme Court building.
“If any of our citizens have never had the opportunity to stop by there they should,” Gerlach said. “They can give you a tour through the building. It’s full of history, a very beautiful building and you feel so impressed to be there in the halls of justice.”
The OSBF is the philanthropic arm of the Ohio State Bar Association and promotes the pursuit of justice and the public understanding of the rule of law. According to a news release - “By extending membership to those lawyers and judges who are committed to these high ideals, OSBF enlists their talents to further its mission.” The members volunteer their time for a year of service to outreach programs around Ohio that help the public better understand the law.
“The Foundation’s mission is essential to educating people, especially the young people in our state, about the profound impact justice has in their lives,” O’Connor said. “The work Fellows do as a class and as members over time does make a difference.”
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.