In an order issued Tuesday, the state Judicial Conduct Commission found retired Barren and Metcalfe counties Family Court Judge Mitchell Nance guilty of misconduct and issued a public reprimand.
Nance issued an order April 27 stating he would no longer hear adoption cases involving “homosexual parties” because of his belief that an adoption of a child by a “practicing homosexual” wouldn’t be in the child’s best interest under any circumstance.
Judge John Alexander of the 43rd Judicial Circuit agreed to hear any adoption cases in the circuit involving one or more gay parents.
Kentucky law allows gay parents to adopt.
The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Kentucky, the Fairness Campaign, Lambda Legal and University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson filed a formal complaint with the commission in May.
“Acknowledging that this declaration constitutes a ‘personal bias or prejudice’ against homosexuals seeking to adopt children, Judge Nance ordered that any attorney filing a motion for adoption on behalf of a homosexual party notify court staff so that he could recuse and disqualify himself from any such proceeding,” according to the commission’s Tuesday order.
“The General Order effectively created a Local Rule that was implemented without the approval of the Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court as required under SCR 1.040(3)(a) and its content is contrary to prevailing law,” the order read.
As a result, Nance was charged with violating Kentucky Supreme Court rules that constitute misconduct in office and violations of the Canons of Code of Judicial Conduct.
In October, Nance announced he was resigning effective Dec. 16.
“I wish to thank the people of Barren and Metcalfe counties for electing me to this position, and I wish to thank my staff and my fellow judges and the clerks and the many dedicated members of the bar with whom it has been my honor to work in these courts,” Nance said in his resignation letter.
In his Oct. 25 answer to the Judicial Conduct Commission’s charges, Nance through his Lexington attorney, Bryan Beauman, said his resignation makes moot the action against him. He waived any formal hearing and requested dismissal of the charges.
Beauman did not return a phone call to his office.
Neither Nance nor Beauman attended the Friday hearing on the charges. They did not provide any defense, according to the order.
On Tuesday, the commission found him guilty of misconduct by violating several Canons of Code of Judicial Conduct.
“For the foregoing violations, the Commission concludes that, due to Respondent’s retirement, a public reprimand is warranted, and is the only public sanction available, and by a vote of 4-1, the Respondent W. Mitchell Nance, Family Court Judge 43rd Judicial Circuit is publicly reprimanded.
“Judge David Bowles, the District Court Member of the Commission, voted that Judge Nance be removed from office for the violations set forth in the charges, and since at the time the vote was taken, Judge Nance’s resignation was not yet effective believed that the only appropriate vote was a vote to remove him from office,” the order read.
The commission’s order becomes effective within 10 days unless an appeal is filed within that time frame.
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