Judiciary

Judge found in contempt for barring journalist from courtroom in defiance of appeals court order


Updated: An Ohio appeals court has found a trial judge in contempt of court for barring a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter from the courtroom in a juvenile case, despite a prior appellate court order requiring access.

The Ohio Court of Appeals, First Appellate District, found Judge Tracie Hunter in contempt in this order issued on Tuesday. Hunter appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday. The Cincinnati Inquirer noted the appeal here, her intent to file it here, and the contempt order here.

Hunter, a Hamilton County judge, is arguing that the appeals court “did not spell out the details of compliance in clear, specific and unambiguous terms” when it first required access for the newspaper.

The Enquirer had irked the judge by printing the names of six juveniles accused of beating a person because they were bored. On March 15, Hunter barred the newspaper from the courtroom, saying it had published the names in violation of her court order. The Enquirer says it printed the names before Hunter signed the order, but it nonetheless intends to continue printing the names “when needed.”

On March 29, the appeals court stayed enforcement of Hunter’s restriction on disclosure of the names and said Enquirer representatives “shall be permitted in the courtroom,” according to the appeals court opinion. On June 24, Hunter held a hearing and announced the Enquirer could attend hearings in the case while the lawsuit is pending—as long as the names of the defendants are not published. On July 23, the appeals court said Hunter had disobeyed its March order with those restrictions.

The appeals court said Hunter could purge herself of contempt by supplying the appeals court with an order showing she has reversed her decision to ban the newspaper. Hunter was told she must supply the proof by 4 p.m. Thursday, but that deadline is on hold pending appeal.

Story was updated on July 25 to include news of Hunter’s appeal and to correct date of the contempt order. Updated on July 26 to correct subsequent reference to Hunter.

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