Pioneering Juvenile Court Judge Forced from Office
As the first African-American woman and the first Democrat to ever become a judge in the juvenile court system of Hamilton County, Ohio, Tracie Hunter had high hopes of changing the system for the better. Unfortunately, her efforts have been sidetracked by an onslaught of personal and professional attacks designed to discredit her and undermine her authority.Hunter won her seat after a heated court battle and numerous appeals in which voter suppression was suspected. Inevitably, the county was required to count more than 800 votes from majority black precincts when it was found that poll workers were responsible for disqualifying voters by sending them to the wrong booth.
Hunter encountered more resistance even after she had proven herself as the rightful winner of the election. Within her first two months on the bench, Hunter became the target of over 30 lawsuits filed against her by The Cincinnati Enquirer (the city’s largest newspaper and supporter of Hunter’s opponent in the elections), the Hamilton County Prosecutor, the Hamilton County Commissioner’s Office, the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office, and WCPO-TV. These attacks on Hunter have since culminated in nine felony charges, resulting in her removal from the bench only 18 months after taking her seat. Even those who had supported her soon found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Vanessa Enoch and Cheri Franklin-Scott, doctoral students with Cincinnati’s Union Institute & University, have completed a case study in which they highlight the racial injustices within Hamilton County’s juvenile system. They state that over 80% of the juveniles charged within Hamilton County are African American, and that they have been subjected to a school-to-prison pipeline. These are the same injustices which Hunter had tried to eradicate until she was forced from her position.
Enoch and Franklin-Scott contend that the $30 million budget associated with Hunter’s position (the second largest budget in Hamilton County) was also a motivating factor in targeting her.
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