CINCINNATI - Two special prosecutors will investigate allegations from the county prosecutor’s office that someone in Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter’s courtroom may have committed crimes by deliberately backdating court documents.
The investigation appears to stem from a Sept. 13 memo from Bill Breyer, Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, which suggests someone backdated documents in two cases last month to block the prosecutor from appealing Hunter’s orders in the time the law allows.
See Breyer's memo below or at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/799088-memo-to-joe-deters-accusing-backdating-of-final.html
Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Beth A. Myers, acting at the request of the prosecutor, appointed Merlyn Shiverdecker and R. Scott Croswell III to investigate, according to her order of Sept. 17.
In his memo to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, Breyer explained that the suspected backdating came to light as his office sought to address problems of “getting timely notice of the filing of final appealable orders” from Hunter’s courtroom.
“As a result, we have tried to make periodic checks of the docket in cases where we believe we have meritorious appeal. During this process we have recently identified two cases in which it appears appealable cases have been backdated.”
In those cases, Breyer said, an affidavit from the court’s software provider attests that one document had been backdated from Aug. 22 to July 22, and the other from Aug. 19 to Aug. 12.
“The way the Juvenile Court system functions … required a deliberate act through the use of a date override function on the Juvenile Court’s IT system,” Breyer’s memo said.
The backdating prevented prosecutors from responding to Hunter’s orders, Breyer said.
Hunter and Deters have had several public squabbles this year, with Deters accusing Hunter of slandering him and Hunter accusing Deters of defaming her.
In May, Hunter asked to hire her own attorneys in civil cases and a contempt of court finding against her. But Deters objected, citing the law that requires his office to represent judges in court matters.
Hunter then filed grievances against Deters and three assistant prosecutors with the Ohio Supreme Court.
Deters announced Aug. 27 that he could no longer represent Hunter as a result.
"It's very vague. It says that basically I slandered her,” Deters told 9 On Your Side’s Jay Warren about the grievance. “I don't know what she's talking about."
Hunter then released a statement that said she was not aware of Deters' decision to terminate representation until she read it online. She claimed Deters was required to give her prior verbal or written notification.
"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 the statement.
See Hunter's complete statement at http://media2.wcpo.com/pdfs/Hunter.pdf
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.
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 has appealed her citation to the state Supreme Court.
WCPO and the Enquirer have sued Hunter over broad restrictions she placed on media in her courtroom. Those restrictions include a ban on identifying juvenile suspects and their parents in or out of court.