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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Suspended Oregon Judge Avoids Criminal Trial

All charges were dropped Tuesday against suspended Circuit Court Judge Vance Day, who made national headlines in 2016 for his refusal to marry same-sex couples.

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – All charges were dropped Tuesday against suspended Circuit Court Judge Vance Day, who made national headlines in 2016 for his refusal to marry same-sex couples.

Day was suspended for three years from his courtroom based on a ruling in March by Oregon’s Supreme Court. That came after the Commission on Judicial Fitness recommended that Day lose his judgeship altogether based on its finding that Day compromised public trust in the judiciary.

Central to the commission’s findings was Day’s treatment of a former Navy SEAL who was under his supervision on felony drunk driving charges. Day twice let the veteran handle firearms, the commission found, actions that were both illegal and manipulative, because Day had the power to have the veteran put behind bars.

Day had also claimed that his religious beliefs justified his refusal to wed same-sex couples. He told his clerks to lie about his schedule to get him out of such duties, the high court found – an arrangement that he later lied about when the presiding judge at the Marion County Circuit Court asked him about it.

But it was the incidents with the veteran that drew the attention of criminal prosecutors. Day faced one felony charge of giving the veteran permission to handle guns and two misdemeanor charges of first-degree official misconduct. The trial was scheduled to begin this week, but Senior Judge Julie Franz agreed on Tuesday to dismiss all charges after prosecutors said they were unable to proceed “in the absence of an essential witness.”

Court records did not specify the identity of the witness.

Franz dismissed the case without prejudice, but noted that all parties agreed that the statute of limitations had passed, and that the case could not be refiled. Day’s term as a judge ends this year, but because he is suspended, he can’t run for re-election.

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Categories / Civil Rights, Criminal, Government, Law

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