CINCINNATI - Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters says his office will no longer represent Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter after she filed grievances against him, allowing Hunter to hire her own attorneys as she wanted.
"I had to cease representation of Tracie Hunter after she filed grievances against me and three of my assistants with the Ohio Supreme Court," Deters told 9 On Your Side Tuesday. "I was hoping to save the taxpayers a bill for outside counsel. She has now made that impossible."
Deters said Hunter accused him of slandering her, 9 On Your Side’s Jay Warren reported.
"It's very vague. It says that basically I slandered her,” Deters said. “I don't know what she's talking about."
The Hamilton County Juvenile Court released a statement Tuesday night that said Hunter was not aware of Deters' decision to terminate representation until she read it on the Internet Monday.
The statement claims Hunter did not receive prior verbal or written notification from Deters of his decision, which Hunter said is ethically required by attorneys when termination occurs.
Hunter added that she believes Deters is trying to defame her.
"It is disturbing that an individual who has never personally, nor professionally met me, continues to make dishonest, inflammatory statements about me in a public forum, calculated to fuel hatred," Hunter said in statement.
Deters said he believes the Ohio Supreme Court is looking at media lawsuits and a contempt of court citation against Hunter and could take action against her – possibly suspending her law license.
A dispute between the prosecutor and the judge has been going on for months. Hunter tried to dump Deters’ office in May and hand-pick her own outside attorneys. She openly criticized Deters' office for not properly representing her and even found one of Deters' attorneys in contempt.
In her statement Tuesday night, Hunter said Deters continued to cost taxpayers money by "failing to allow three competent attorneys" to represent her for free.
Deters objected to outside counsel for Hunter, citing Ohio law that states the county prosecutor shall represent elected officials in their official capacity.
But the grievances changed that.
"While that's pending, I can't represent her in other matters. It's a clear conflict," Deters said.
Tim Burke, chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, told Jay Warren Tuesday that Deters should have stepped aside sooner.
"In all honesty, I wish that decision had been made weeks ago,” Burke said. “Judge Hunter asked for her own personal counsel because of the same conflicts that finally were resolved yesterday when the prosecutor agreed to take his attorneys off of representing her."
Hunter has appealed her contempt of court citation to the Ohio Supreme Court.
WCPO and other media outlets have sued Hunter over broad restrictions she placed on media in her courtroom.
The Ohio Court of Appeals found Hunter in contempt because she ordered the Cincinnati Enquirer not to report the names of juveniles in an assault case despite an appellate court order to lift her ban on the newspaper from using the names.
Hunter argued that her order was within the rules that govern juvenile court. She also said that as a judge, she would never disobey an order from a higher court.
Hunter’s restrictions on media in her courtroom include a ban on identifying juvenile suspects and their parents in or out of court.
WCPO contends the restrictions are unconstitutional and set a bad precedent.
"I do understand the point that you are making,” Burke said. “I don't disagree with the fact that we have a free press, but the free press has always been restricted in juvenile court. That's nothing new."
Hunter has hired attorneys Firooz Namei and James Bogen to represent her, Deters’ office said.
County commissioners approved the request and now Common Pleas Court judges must approve.
To read Hunter's complete statement, click here : http://media2.wcpo.com/pdfs/Hunter.pdf