On Tuesday, November 21, 2023, the Ohio Supreme Court issued an indefinite suspension against former juvenile court judge Tracie Hunter.
The case is titled ‘Disciplinary Counsel v. Hunter’ with case no. 2023-0472.
Judge Hunter had been convicted of a felony in 2014 for having an unlawful interest in a public contract related to her brother’s employment. Based on this conviction, the Ohio Disciplinary Board filed a complaint against Judge Hunter for judicial ethics rules violation, specifically Jud.Cond.R. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.4(B), and 3.5.
The Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct can be found here.
Judge Hunter served as a judge on the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division from May 2012 until January 2014. In July 2013, Hunter’s brother Stephen Hunter, who worked as a corrections officer at the county’s juvenile detention center, was involved in an incident where he allegedly hit a youth. As a result, Hunter’s brother faced potential termination from his job.
Shortly after learning of this in July 2013, Judge Hunter inserted herself into the disciplinary process involving her brother. She sent emails to juvenile detention center staff questioning the allegations against her brother and requesting numerous documents from the facility related to the youth involved in the incident. Some of these documents were considered nonpublic and would not typically be released. Judge Hunter provided these documents to her brother.
In January 2014, Hunter was indicted by a grand jury on charges related to this conduct. In October 2014, a jury found Hunter guilty of one count of unlawful interest in a public contract, a fourth-degree felony, for misusing her position to aid her brother’s employment matter. She was sentenced to six months in jail and one year of probation.
After unsuccessfully appealing her conviction through the state court system, Hunter filed a habeas corpus petition in federal court in 2016 challenging her conviction on constitutional grounds. The U.S. District Court and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected her claims over the next several years. Hunter completed her criminal sentence by July 2020.
Based on this felony conviction, Judge Hunter received an interim suspension from the practice of law in Ohio in October 2014. In August 2022, after Judge Hunter’s legal challenges concluded, the Ohio disciplinary counsel filed a complaint arguing Hunter’s conduct violated judicial ethics rules. At a hearing, the Board of Professional Conduct found Judge Hunter committed misconduct and recommended an indefinite suspension with credit for time served on the interim suspension.
The Ohio Supreme Court accepted this recommendation, indefinitely suspending Hunter’s law license but giving her credit for the nearly nine years already served under the interim suspension dating back to 2014.
The disposition reads:
“Hunter was convicted of a felony offense, acted with a selfish motive, and has taken no responsibility for her actions and continues to blame others for her legal situation. While Hunter has presented evidence to support several mitigating factors, those factors should be given little weight in our analysis, since Hunter committed the felony offense while serving as a judge, and the offense was a significant misuse of power. In this case, we should impose upon Hunter an indefinite suspension from the practice of law with no credit for time already served.”
According to Avvo, Judge Tracie Hunter is from Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, and acquired her license to practice in the state in 1993.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.