In his 10th year as Hardin County Municipal Court prosecutor, Jason Miller says helping make a difference and fighting for what’s right are what keep him coming in each day.
As the municipal court prosecutor, it’s Miller’s responsibility to prosecute all the misdemeanors county-wide, including from the Kenton, Ada and Forest police departments and the Hardin County Sheriff’s office.
A Chillicothe native, Miller, now a Kenton resident, said the whole legal process of standing up and making an argument for what’s right is what drives him.
“I like to stand up and make an argument. I like to stand up and advocate for someone or advocate for the right thing. I do feel very passionate about doing the right thing, so it’s easier for me to stand up and say those things because I really do mean those words,” he said. “I really like doing what I’m doing, and I’ll probably do it as long as they’ll let me.”
It’s seeing those he’s helped and seeing the right thing is done that makes him truly enjoy what he does.
“I like to try to make sure that people, even the defendants that come into this court, know that they’re being treated fairly and I really do share a common goal with the judges and the other attorneys that I work with, and that’s just seeing that the right thing is done. I feel good about that,” Miller said. “I like to be able to get up in the morning and feel like I’m making a difference somehow.”
But there are those times when he feels he’s not able to make a difference that make the job challenging. After seeing some of the same people in the courtroom over and over and feeling like his message isn’t getting through, it can be “disheartening,” he said.
“Breaking the cycle of crime is an impossible thing. Some people preach that very heavily, that they want to stop crime. We all know that nobody’s ever going to stop crime, but when you feel like you’ve made a difference and later found that you haven’t, that can be hard,” Miller said.
But giving up on repeat offenders isn’t a philosophy Miller subscribes to. In his mind, everyone always deserves another try.
“I don’t ever feel like I’ve given up on anyone, really, even the guy I’ve seen 20 times in court, and there are people like that. But I don’t ever feel like that guy’s not worth trying for again,” the prosecutor said.
When not in the courtroom, Miller is also busy handling legal affairs of the villages of Ridgeway and Forest where he holds the position of village solicitor.
Having represented villages in Hardin County for eight of his 10 years, he is in his third year with Ridgeway and Forest. He previously held the position in Alger.
With the role of village solicitor, Miller said it’s exciting because “you get to solve actual problems, things people care about.
“People care about potholes and manhole covers, and they care about junk properties,” Miller said. “Truly, when you get into a village council meeting as a village solicitor, you don’t talk in terms of rhetoric, you talk in terms of what’s going to happen next Tuesday – for real, what’s going to happen. So many times, you listen to people who are lawmakers on TV and the radio and they’re saying a lot of not too much. You don’t have that in local politics. You really are doing some things that people care about.”
Miller said he’s always been on the fringe of municipal law because the his immediate boss, Kenton Law Director John Schwemer, does it for the city. He would occasionally fill in for the law director when they needed help, so he gained knowledge over time in the subject matter. Eventually, he decided to put that knowledge to good use.
“I really just sort of took advantage when the solicitor for both of those villages (John Neville) retired. He recommended me and I ended up taking both those spots,” Miller said. “I just felt like it was a good way to further what I felt like I was already doing.”
Even from a young age, Miller always knew he wanted to be in law.
“That was always in my mind since I was 10 or 11 years old. If somebody asked me what I was going to do when I grew up, it was always be a lawyer, and I didn’t change it,” he said.
Miller is the first lawyer in his family. With not everyone in his family having made it to college, he always had felt strongly about making it to college and beyond where he could he do something his family could be proud of. Today, he feels he’s accomplished that goal.
“It was never about making the most money or having the biggest house, it was always about doing something my family could say they were happy I was doing. I feel like I’ve achieved that, if nothing else,” Miller said.
He attended college at Ohio University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English, then attended Ohio Northern University for law school. While at OU, he became friends with John Schwemer.
“We became friends there and always kept in touch even after we were done with college and law school. So it was easy to come to Hardin County,” Miller said. “I became friends with him and his dad, Dave Schwemer, who was the law director when I was first here in Hardin County.”
Miller is also the court mediator for the Hardin County Juvenile Court and has been the law librarian for the local law library for the last two years. Reading just happens to be one of Miller’s favorite pastimes.
“I’m constantly reading a book,” he said.
The prosecutor is also a member of the Elks, a Mason, a Shriner, is on the Red Cross Board of Directors and is also a member of the local and state bar association.
Even with his profession and all his involvement around the community, Miller still makes sure to make time to be with his wife of 12 years, April, and his two daughters, Avery, 7, and Reese, 4.
“When I first got out of law school, I had the philosophy that you live to work – that’s what you do. I was married shortly after law school, but still, that’s what you did, you lived to work,” he said. “When my first daughter was born, my wife and I sort of re-evaluated that and we decided that we worked to live instead, and life became instantly better at that time.
“So I have plenty of free time because I make sure that I do – it’s healthy for not just me, but for my kids,” Miller added. “I don’t ever want my kids to look back and think that I didn’t have time for them.”
By TY THAXTON
Times staff writer