Friday, March 16, 2018

Judge Suspended, In Part For Refusal To Conduct Same-Sex Weddings

In In re Day, (OR Sup. Ct., March 15, 2018), the Oregon Supreme Court in a 91-page opinion suspended state circuit court judge Vance D. Day from his judicial office for three years without pay. The state's Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability had recommended the harsher penalty of removal from office. (Commission report).  A number of unrelated charges were involved; the court concluded that six of the counts had been proven.  One of those was described as follows by the court in its press release on the case:
Count 12 concerned a change in respondent's chambers relating to marriage requests that he received after issuance of a federal court ruling, in May 2014, that had invalidated Oregon's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Before that ruling, respondent had made himself available to solemnize marriages. After that ruling, he told his staff that, upon receiving any marriage request, they should check for any personal gender information available in the court's case register system, to try to determine whether the request involved a same-sex couple. If so, they should tell the couple that he was not available on the requested date or otherwise notify him so that he could decide how to proceed. If the request were from an opposite-sex couple, however, then they should schedule the wedding date.  Respondent's judicial assistant checked the system one time and determined that a requesting couple might be a same-sex couple, but respondent had an actual scheduling conflict, so she truthfully told the couple that he was not available.  Several weeks after that, respondent stopped solemnizing all marriages. The Court concluded that respondent's conduct had been willful and had violated Rule 3.3(B) (prohibiting manifestation of bias or prejudice in the performance of judicial duties) and related constitutional provisions. The Court did not address a number of constitutional challenges that respondent had raised as affirmative defenses to Count 12. It explained that, in light of the other, notably serious misconduct that the commission had proved by clear and convincing evidence, the misconduct at issue under Count 12 would not affect its consideration of the appropriate sanction, regardless of whether those constitutional challenges were meritorious or not.
Progressive Secular Humanist blog reports on the decision.