CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court judge faces foreclosure on his eight-bedroom, lakefront Cleveland home after falling a year behind on a nearly $1 million mortgage and property taxes.
Judge Peter Sikora said he hopes a mediation session scheduled for next month will keep him in his Edgewater Drive home, which the Cuyahoga County Auditor’s Office has appraised at $844,000.
Sikora, who makes $121,350 a year as a judge, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he has the money to make his mortgage payments. What got him in trouble was following the advice of officials at JP Morgan Chase & Co., he said.
With property values in decline over the past year in Cleveland, and mortgage rates the lowest in decades, Sikora sought to refinance. But the bank, he said, declined his request.
“The bank advised me that the only way they would consider a loan modification would be if I fell behind on my payments,” said Sikora, 59, a judge since 1989. “I took their advice and put the money aside.”
Sikora said he was surprised when, in June, during the middle of negotiations, JP Morgan Chase filed the foreclosure lawsuit against him seeking $999,000, including $6,400 in unpaid property taxes.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s gotten to this situation,” Sikora said. “I’ve been talking with them for more than a year, but the bank hasn’t been responsive.”
The attorney for JP Morgan Chase did not return a phone call.
Sikora was elected in 2008 as president of the Ohio Association of Juvenile Court Judges. A Democrat, he ran unsuccessfully three times for the Ohio Supreme Court.
He acknowledged it doesn’t look good for a juvenile court judge to become delinquent on property taxes, which are used to support schools and the children who appear in his court. But he said the bank is responsible for paying the taxes out of the escrow account.