Cincinnati, Ohio. December 2, 2013. Judge Tracie M. Hunter appealed the writs of procedendo that were issued by the First District Court of Appeals because she did not delay her decisions in these cases. Although Judge Hunter was represented by government-appointed attorneys, no defense was ever made in the Court of Appeals on her behalf. When county lawyers failed to answer the Complaints, the Writs were automatically granted against her. Judge Hunter filed the appeals in the Ohio Supreme Court herself. On Monday, she and her personal attorney, Jennifer Branch, filed memoranda in the Ohio Supreme Court explaining that Judge Hunter was not defended in the writ cases and if she had been it would have been made clear to the Court of Appeals that she did not delay her rulings.
The Hamilton County Juvenile Court has twice as many cases per judge than any other court in the state. Over 28,000 cases are terminated per year in Hamilton County, averaging 14,382 per judge. This caseload causes the Hamilton County Juvenile Court to delegate more than double the number of cases to magistrates of any other Ohio county. Parties can file objections to the Judge if the party disagrees with the magistrate’s decision. Since Judge Hunter took the bench, over 296 objections have been filed in cases pending before her, whereas only 203 were filed in Judge Williams’s cases. This means Judge Hunter hears 60% of the objections.
In August, the docket of Administrative Juvenile Court Judge John Williams revealed that 103 cases he needed to decide were beyond the Ohio Supreme Court’s time guidelines. Judge Tracie Hunter reported at the end of August only 79 cases that were pending beyond the time guidelines. Despite Judge Williams reporting more cases out of time than Judge Hunter, according to Juvenile Court reports, no lawsuits were filed against him. The Court is presently evaluating how it reports its caseload and reprogramming its reporting system after Judge Hunter exposed inaccuracies in the reporting system to the Ohio Supreme Court last year.
Despite having the heaviest caseload of all Juvenile Court Judges in both the county and the state, according to Supreme Court reports, Judge Hunter has handled her cases in a timely manner. Those who criticize Judge Hunter for delays often do not know the complexity of each unique case. Sometimes a party files a motion for more evidence, asks for more time to review transcripts, or files supplemental objections. In one custody case, a parent asked to have custody of his son instead of giving permanent custody to the government, his request must be given priority. Common to most of the contested cases is the fact that continuances were requested by parties for legitimate reasons. And, there are long delays in obtaining transcripts before the parties can argue. One case required transcribing nine hearings, which totaled over 1,100 pages of transcripts.
The backlog has been a long-standing problem in Juvenile Court for years. The Ohio Supreme Court recognized this problem and recently appointed retired Judge Thomas Lipps to help relieve the Court’s backlog. The appointment instructs Judge Lipps to complete cases from both Judge Williams’s and Hunter’s dockets.
Judge Hunter would like to focus her time and energy on addressing the children and families that appear before her, not defending meritless lawsuits, which creates case delays that did not exist.
Contact: Jennifer L. Branch 513-535-4123 (cell)
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Links to the memoranda Judge Hunter filed in six cases addressing these issues, along with the supporting exhibits:
- Memorandum in Opposition in Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2013-1725
- Memorandum in Opposition in Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2013-1726
- Memorandum in Opposition in Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2013-1727
- Memorandum in Opposition in Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2013-1729
- Memorandum in Opposition in Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2013-1733
- Memorandum in Opposition in Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2013-1734
- Exhibit A – Ohio Supreme Court Report on Courts of Common Pleas, Juvenile Divisions
- Exhibit B – Chart of Objections Filed in the Hamilton County Juvenile Court (redacted)
- Exhibit C – Certificate of Assignment of Judge Thomas Lipps
- Exhibit D – Ohio Supreme Court Form D for each Juvenile Court Judge