WCPO has won its lawsuit against Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter, lifting restrictions she imposed on media coverage in the so-called “boredom beating” case.
The First District Court of Appeals ruled that Hunter’s restrictions are unauthorized by law.
“A principal obligation of any judicial officer is to ‘comply with the law,’ including decisional law announced by superior courts,” according to the judgment entry filed Dec. 24 by the First District Court of Appeals. The court also ordered Hunter to lift “access orders” no later than Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014.
“Judge Hunter is hereby ordered to vacate each of the Sept. 17, 2012, Feb. 19, 2013, and March 25, 2013, access orders entered in the various North College Hill cases, and to verify her compliance with the writ by providing this court with a certified copy of her entries vacating the access orders no later than Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014,” according to the judgment entry.
Hunter’s restrictions were unconstitutional and amounted to prior restraint, Scripps counsel Monica L. Dias of Frost, Brown and Todd told WCPO.
Media seeking to record court proceedings are only required to submit a written request to the judge 24 hours prior to a court proceeding, Dias said, citing the Ohio Supreme Court.
“Nothing in the (Ohio Supreme Court) rules say that the media has to fill out a particular form. Really, all the media has to do is send an e-mail saying, ‘We’d like to be there,’” Dias said.
“The media is the representative of the public, and government, democracy thrives in the sunshine, and the judge cannot on a whim decide WCPO will not be allowed to name the defendants, WCPO will not be allowed to photograph the parents … a judge cannot do that without first having a hearing,” Dias said.