On Friday, May 26, 2023, the Disciplinary Counsel filed its answer to Honorable Tracie Hunter’s objections before the Supreme Court of Ohio in regard to the findings of the Board of Professional Conduct wherein the Board recommended suspending the former judge for her illegal conduct that resulted in her conviction for having an unlawful interest in a public contract while serving as a judge of the Hamilton County Court.
The case is entitled “Disciplinary Counsel v. Tracie Hunter,” with case no. 2023-0472.
On May 3, 2023, the respondent lodged objections challenging the board’s suspension recommendation, denying allegations of misconduct related to an unlawful interest in a public contract. In her defense, the respondent asserted that she did not engage in selfish behavior as she neither secured a public contractor nor obtained any personal benefits.
The respondent’s objection states:
“Judge Hunter did not act selfishly n or have a selfish motive because she didn’t secure a public contract or anything of value for herself or her brother, unlike Justice s DeWine and Deters’ family. Stephen was a victim as much as Respondent, a mere pawn in the prosecutor’s game. Stephen was involved in routine juvenile restraints as was every other JCO. The difference is that for his first seven years, his sister was not the judge of the Juvenile Court. Prior to her election, Stephen Hunter had an unblemished record at the Juvenile Court for over seven years and never had a complaint for a bad restraint against a juvenile, unlike other JCOs that had a history of complaints. He testified that he had informed the court that he didn’t want a job. It was factually and legally impossible for Respondent to secure a contract that her brother didn’t want.”
The respondent’s objection continues:
“Respondent requests that the charge by Relator be dismissed; the Board’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law be set aside; and that she be immediately reinstated to the practice of law. Anything different will only further perpetuate the unjust, inequitable, disparate, and arbitrary treatment and duality of law applied to Respondent, in violation of the Constitutions of the United States and Ohio. It will also highlight the hypocrisy, which former Justice Stafford identified when two sitting justices directly involved in Respondent’s case violated the law that they accused Respondent of.”
In response, after the Disciplinary Counsel requested an extension of time to file its answer brief, the same filed its answer stating that the court should adopt the board’s recommended sanction suspending the respondent from the practice. According to the Disciplinary Counsel, the respondent abused her position as a judge and committed a felony in an attempt to protect her brother’s employment. She inserted herself into her brother’s termination proceedings, used her position to obtain documents for his defense, and she provided those documents to her brother, who then tried to provide them to his attorney. However, his attorney refused to accept some of the documents because she considered her receipt of those documents to be unethical.
The relator’s answer states:
“The board properly found that there was clear and convincing evidence of respondent’s criminal conduct and that respondent violated five rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The board properly found that the respondent’s felony conviction and the findings of the reviewing courts support all the allegations in the complaint and demonstrate that the respondent violated five rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct when she abused her judicial position to interfere with her brother’s employment contract.”
The relator’s answer continues:
“Respondent’s felony conviction for Having an Unlawful Interest in a Public Contract, as a felony of the fourth degree in violation in R. C. 2921.42(A)(1), conclusively demonstrates that she violated Jud.Cond.R. 1.1 [A judge shall comply with the law]. Rel. Ex. 6. Relator’s Exhibit 6 is a certified copy of the Judgment Entry of Sentencing; she was sentenced to six months in jail. Id. Relator’s Exhibit 5 is a certified copy of the verdict form, demonstrating that the jury found her guilty. Therefore the board correctly found that under Gov.Bar R.V(18)(B), the relator presented conclusive evidence that the respondent was convicted of a felony offense and, thus, has failed to comply with the law in violation of Jud.Cond.R. 1.1.”
The relator’s answer further states:
“Despite her argument to the contrary, no evidence was withheld from the respondent. Respondent argued that the relator “intentionally refused to provide all of Judge Hunter’s emails.”Resp. Obj. at 9. The Respondent did not engage in written discovery, and she did not request any email evidence from the relator. However, even if she had, the relator had no such evidence to provide. The relator does not possess any of the respondent’s emails beyond those emails she provided as the proposed exhibit. Relator did not withhold exculpatory evidence.”
Based on these foregoing reasons, the Disciplinary Counsel requested the court to adopt the board’s recommended sanction and indefinitely suspend the respondent from the practice with credit for time served under her interim felony suspension.
The relator’s request states:
“Respondent abused her position as a judge and committed a felony in an attempt to protect her brother’s employment. She interfered in her brother’s termination proceedings and abused her position to obtain documents in order to provide them to her brother to assist in his defense. He then tried to provide them to his attorney, who refused them because she believed accepting them would have been unethical. As a result, the respondent was convicted of having an Unlawful Interest in a Public Contract in violation of R.C. 2921.42(A)(1 ), as a felony of the fourth degree. No Ohio judge who has committed a felony offense while in office has received anything less than an indefinite suspension. Based on that precedent, the abuse of her position, and the aggravating and mitigating factors in this case, the relator respectfully submits that this court should adopt the board’s recommended sanction and indefinitely suspend the respondent from the practice with credit for time served under her interim felony suspension.”
Former Judge Hunter attended the University of Cincinnati College of Law, graduating in 1992.
Ms. Hunter sat as a judge for the Hamilton County Juvenile Court located at 800 Broadway St., Cincinnati, Ohio, and can be reached at 513-946-9200. Her info can be found on ballotpedia.org.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.