Tracie Hunter can't run for judge, BOE rules

Posted at 11:50 AM, Dec 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-21 13:31:27-05

CINCINNATI -- Saying her felony conviction makes her ineligible, the Hamilton County Board of Elections won't allow suspended Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter to run for her seat again.

The board ruled on Hunter's request Monday. The board said she also is ineligible because the Ohio Supreme Court suspended her law license. Hunter would become eligible if she wins her appeal on her conviction, members said.

State Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, a Hunter supporter, recently told a meeting of the Hamilton County Democratic Party's Executive Committee that Hunter wanted to run again in 2016, according to party chairman Tim Burke. But the party endorsed Darrell Payne, a local attorney, instead.

Hunter went on trial in September 2014 on nine felony counts of judicial misconduct. Five weeks later, the jury was hung on eight counts and convicted her on one -- unlawful interest in a public contract -- for helping her brother, a county employee, in a disciplinary hearing. Two special prosecutors plan to retry her on the other eight counts - forgery, tampering with evidence, unlawful interest in a public contract and theft in office - in January.  Hunter made personal charges on a court-issued credit card, backdated documents to prevent prosecutors from appealing her decisions, and arranged for her brother, a juvenile court jailer, to work overtime, according to prosecutors.

The Ohio Supreme Court suspended her from the bench upon her conviction. The judge from that trial, Norbert Nadel, sentenced her to six months in the Hamilton County Justice Center, but the Ohio high court allowed her to remain free on appeal.

In August, Hunter filed a 53-page complaint that named 19 defendants, including multiple county leaders and attorneys, of violating her civil rights. She has also argued that those defendants, including Judge Patrick Dinkelacker, could not guarantee her a fair trial due to past decisions made against her.

Hunter's trial is set to begin Jan. 19. She will be represented by First Amendment and criminal defense attorney Louis Sirkin and Jennifer Branch, who worked with Al Gerhardstein to win the same-sex marriage ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court this year. Hunter's attorney from the first trial, Clyde Bennett II, withdrew in September.