- Associated Press - Friday, March 14, 2014

CINCINNATI (AP) - An Ohio judge facing criminal charges was “not only unreasonable but also utterly unconscionable” in ruling to take two children from their mother, an appeals court ruled Friday.

The ruling by Ohio’s 1st District Court of Appeals reverses an earlier ruling by Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter, who isn’t currently allowed to oversee cases as she faces criminal charges on accusations she misused county credit cards and backdated court documents. She has pleaded not guilty.

Hunter’s attorney, Clyde Bennett, declined to comment.

In the October ruling in question, Hunter upheld a magistrate judge’s decision to permanently remove the children of a Cincinnati woman from her custody and place them with a county agency, despite finding potential error with the original ruling.

In her reasoning for the decision, Hunter cited “undue time restraints,” even though she had the case for nearly a full year after she first held a hearing in the matter and only after the 1st District ordered her to issue a decision.

Hunter’s “judgment was not only unreasonable but also utterly unconscionable,” wrote 1st District Judge Sylvia Sieve Hendon in Friday’s decision.

“By its own admission, the trial court (Hunter) found error, but then claimed that it did not have the time to determine whether the error was prejudicial to (the) mother,” Hendon wrote. “The trial court’s purported lack of time to adequately review the magistrate’s decision is not an excuse for its failure to abide by (the law).”

In reversing Hunter’s ruling, the case returns to Hamilton County Juvenile Court and will be overseen by a different judge.

In January, the Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hunter from hearing cases after she was indicted on nine felony charges of tampering with evidence, forgery and theft in office.

Hunter also is accused of using her county-issued credit card to pay court fees stemming from lawsuits against her and ordering that her brother - who provided security for the court before he was fired - be paid overtime.

Hunter became a judge in 2012 following a lengthy legal battle over disputed 2010 juvenile judge election results. After her indictment, Hunter suggested that there were opponents to her because of changes she wants in juvenile court and because she is a black Democrat.


Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

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