Judge Tracie Hunter’s lawyers subpoenaed

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It’s a move questioned by some defense attorneys.


“It’s pretty rare,” attorney Mark Vander Laan said of issuing subpoenas – orders summoning the recipient to court – to attorneys.


Vander Laan represents attorney Janaya Trotter Bratton, one of the attorneys who previously represented Hunter. But any information Bratton may have about the criminal charges, Vander Laan noted, is protected by attorney-client privilege and can’t be revealed – unless Hunter allows it or a judge orders it – without Bratton facing potential penalties.


“That’s unethical to do,” Vander Laan said of breaking that privilege. The Ohio Supreme Court’s Rules of Professional Responsibility generally prevent attorneys from revealing information their client shared with them.


Vander Laan has asked Common Pleas Court Judge Norbert Nadel, who is presiding over Hunter’s criminal cases, to throw out Bratton’s subpoena.


Veteran criminal defense attorneys Merlyn Shiverdecker and R. Scott Croswell III, both former prosecutors, issued the subpoenas. They are prosecuting Hunter on nine criminal charges. Shiverdecker said Monday the reason for the subpoenas will come out in court but wouldn’t otherwise comment.


Hunter, 47, is accused of forgery, backdating documents, improperly using her county-owned credit card to pay for legal filings in lawsuits filed against her and improperly helping her brother before and after he was fired as a juvenile court worker for punching a teen inmate.


In addition to Bratton, the special prosecutors have subpoenaed to the Sept. 8 trial:


• Jennifer Branch, the attorney who represented Hunter in the lawsuit that led to Hunter winning the 2010 election for Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge;


• James Bogen and Firooz Namei, attorneys appointed to represent Hunter in her official capacity as a judge in lawsuits against her by the media, including The Enquirer, and by the public defender, who asked a higher court to force her to rule on cases that had been pending too long.


“It’s pretty clear if there is any consultation it’s definitely a (client-attorney) privilege and the only one who can waive that privilege is the client,” veteran criminal defense attorney Rich Goldberg said.


If Hunter, as part of her criminal defense, attacks the work her former attorneys did for her, that could ethically allow them to testify against her to defend themselves.


Hunter’s attorney, Clyde Bennet II, couldn’t be reached for comment.


Special prosecutors were appointed because Hunter had filed several complaints against Prosecutor Joe Deters and his office.


Hunter has pleaded not guilty. The nine charges against her carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. Because an indictment is an accusation, Hunter was suspended with pay Jan. 10 by the Ohio Supreme Court until the criminal case is resolved.


Hunter’s case is in court Thursday, the last scheduled hearing on the case before her trial, set to begin Sept. 8.


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