LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- A Kentucky judge who refused to hear same sex adoption cases could learn whether he’ll be punished as soon as next week.
Barren and Metcalf family court Judge Mitchell Nance is charged with violating the code of judicial conduct. He issued an order last spring requiring attorneys to alert his staff if their clients were gay so he could recuse himself.
Civil rights organizations complained to the Judicial Conduct Commission. Friday, the commission held a hearing.
Nance is charged with breaking several ethics rules, including showing bias and making a local rule without approval from the state’s Chief Justice. Nance issued an order at the end of April that he wouldn’t hear same sex adoption cases because it couldn’t be in a child’s best interest to be adopted by “practicing homosexuals”. He wrote he would recuse himself because ethics rules require judges to do so when they have a bias.
In October, Nance resigned effective Saturday, but the commission didn’t let him off the hook. Amber Duke, with the ACLU, hopes that sends a message to judges across the country.
“All of the actions that he took really just erode the public’s confidence in our judiciary. People expect when you go before a judge you’re going to be treated fairly. Clearly, that’s not the case here,” Duke said.
Nance wasn’t in the courtroom today, nor were his attorneys, but they did write a response to the commission that same sex adoption created a “unique crisis of conscience for the judge” because he has a “sincerely held religious belief that the divinely created order of nature is that each human being has a male parent and a female parent.”
This case is one example of several in Kentucky in which officials have put conscience over duty. The director of The Fairness Campaign says he thinks Judge Nance wanted to be a Kim Davis in training, referring to the Rowan County clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. The director says people can’t be used as political pawns and he’s glad the judiciary is making that clear.