Groups ask Judicial Conduct Commission to remove judge who recused self from LGBT adoption cases

05/16/2017 05:27 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union and others filed a complaint Tuesday against Barren Circuit Judge William Nance and asked the Judicial Conduct Commission to remove him from the bench.

The ACLU of Kentucky, the Fairness Campaign, New York-based nonprofit Lambda Legal and University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson submitted the complaint, accusing Nance of eroding public confidence in the judiciary and failing to perform his duties impartially by issuing a blanket order recusing himself from adoption cases involving homosexuals. Nance issued the order April 27, citing his religious beliefs.

“Because Judge Nance’s actions constitute serious misconduct that violates Canons 2 and 3 and represent a persistent and ongoing failure to perform his judicial duties, we ask that the Judicial Conduct Commission exercise its authority to remove Judge Nance from judicial office,” the complaint reads.

“Judge Nance’s public announcement demonstrates bias and makes clear that he is unable to abide by the Code of Judicial Conduct in any case that may arise where litigants are, or perceived to be, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Judge Nance’s refusal to perform his judicial duties in adoption cases featuring lesbian, gay, and bisexual litigants is ‘good cause’ for his removal, and no less severe sanction would suffice.”

The Fairness Campaign organized a protest against Nance at the Barren County Courthouse on Wednesday, and Chris Hartman, the group’s director, called the judge’s decision “a blight on his office and an insult to the 8,000-plus Kentucky children who need loving foster care and forever homes.”

Others involved in the complaint also criticized Nance’s move. Currey Cook, counsel and director of Lambda Legal’s Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project, urged the Judicial Conduct Commission to review the matter and ultimately remove Nance from office.

“Rather than displaying a fair and open mind in all adoption matters, Judge Nance blindly condemns gay and bisexual people and puts his discriminatory beliefs above the best interest of the child,” Cook said in a statement. “Lambda Legal cannot and will not stand by while this judge ignores the best interests of children in favor of stereotypes that have been thoroughly debunked by well-established social science research.”

While they were critical of Nance’s recusal order, others supported the judge’s decision. Jordan Palmer, secretary-general of the Kentucky Equality Federation, called Nance’s move to remove himself from LGBT adoption cases “honorable.”

Otherwise, Palmer said Nance would arbitrarily rule against same-sex couples who come before him in adoption cases. He said that’s been a similar problem in Clay County.

“How can people expect a judge to not have a personal opinion and find away under the laws of this Commonwealth or our Union to not justify their personal opinion?” he said in a statement. “This is been happening for centuries.

“As a doctor of jurisprudence, I do not believe the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission will remove the judge. The judge did follow the rule in disqualifying himself, so this one biased judge is to be punished because he came forward?”

Martin Cothran, a spokesman for The Family Foundation, said his group also supported Nance’s recusal in LGBT adoption cases.

“We can’t imagine the Judicial Ethics Commission ruling against Judge Nance for doing what the law requires him to do—recuse himself if he believes his views might bias a case,” Cothran said in a statement. “And we can’t imagine how the groups now trying to unseat him claim to be in favor of tolerance and diversity while at the same time trying to hound from office public officials who don’t agree with their politically correct ideology.”

Download the complaint filed against Nance here: Nance Judicial Conduct Commission complaint.pdf


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