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Jacob F. Burket

Jacob F. Burket had an eclectic career before settling on the law, including work as a carpenter and a school teacher. He was born in Somerset, Ohio on March 25, 1837 to Solomon and Mary Brehm Burket. He read law with Judge John M. Palmer and other local solicitors. Burket passed the bar on July 1, 1861, and the following year entered into practice with Henry Brown. In 1869, the partnership was dissolved and Burket practiced alone, until he was joined by his son, Harlan F. Burket, in 1888.

Burket was elected to the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1892 for a five-year term. He took his place there Feb. 9, 1893. He was the last Justice elected to a five-year term under the five-member bench. At the time he took office, there was neither a desk, nor a hat rack for him. He was re-elected, this time for a six-year term, and served until his retirement on Feb. 9, 1904. His opinions are contained in volumes 50 through 69 of the Ohio State Reports. He served as Chief Justice from 1897 to 1898, 1902 to 1903 and from 1903 to 1904.

One notable case during Burket’s term on the Supreme Court was State ex rel. v. Archibald, Sheriff in 1894. An 1894 law enacted by the Ohio General Assembly established courts of insolvency that had original jurisdiction over the administration of trusts and concurrent jurisdiction with probate courts over other matters. A voter challenged the law, saying it was unconstitutional because the law encroached on the exclusive jurisdiction of probate courts according to the Ohio Constitution. The court disagreed. In writing the opinion for the court, Burket noted that, “Even granting that there may be a latent mistake in the act, yet, in case of so much doubt, it would make a dangerous precedent for the judiciary to undertake its correction. It is safer to endure temporary inconvenience, than to lay the foundation for future judicial usurpation.”

After retiring from the bench, Burket returned to private practice with two of his sons, but he was in poor health and never returned to active practice. During his long legal career, Burket was active in the Findlay community, serving in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows as Master of Ohio and as a representative in the Grand Lodge of Ohio. He was a director of the First Bank of Findlay and organized the American National Bank of Findlay.

Burket married Pamelia Delight Walters on Aug. 5, 1859, in Lenawee, Mich. They had six children. Burket died in Findlay on Oct. 9, 1906 after suffering for years with Bright’s disease. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery in Findlay.

William Howard Taft

b. March 25, 1837

d. Oct. 9, 1906

68th Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio

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