Showing posts with label Gay Judge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Judge. Show all posts

February 5, 2020

The First Gay Federal Judge Dies At 72

 The first openly gay judge appointed to a U.S. federal court died Sunday, according to court officials and colleagues.
Judge Deborah Batts, 72, presided over the bench at Southern District of New York since 1994 and oversaw major cases including the criminal trial against al-Qaida member Mamdouh Mahmud Salim and the defamation lawsuit filed against Bill O'Reilly. A spokeswoman for Fordham University School of Law, where Batts taught for over 30 years, said she died in her sleep.
Batts was slated to preside over the upcoming federal trial of Michael Avenatti over his alleged theft of Stormy Daniels’ book advance. 
She was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1969. Three years later, Batts earned her law degree from Harvard, where she served on the editorial board of the school's Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.
After graduation, she worked as a judicial clerk in the Southern District of New York and then spent a few years in the private sector. In 1979, Batts became an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York and began teaching at Fordham Law in 1984.
Matthew Diller, the dean of Fordham Law School, called Batts a beloved member of the school's community.
"Since joining the federal bench, we have been fortunate to hold on to her as a superb teacher of trial advocacy and a dear friend. She was a mentor to students and faculty alike. We will miss her sharp sense of humor and the joy that she took in life,” he said in a statement.
Batts worked for New York City's Department of Investigation from 1990 to 1991 as "special associate counsel" and from 1990 to 1994 served as a commissioner in the New York Law Revision Commission.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton nominated Batts to serve as the United States District Judge for the Southern District and she was sworn in on June 23, 1994, becoming the first female black LGBT federal judge in the nation. Batts was named senior judge of the Southern District Court on April 13, 2012, her 65th birthday.
Harvard Law school honored her work in 2001 with an official portrait painted by Simmie Knox. Batts married Dr. Gwen Lois Zornberg, a New York psychiatrist, in 2011. 

June 16, 2017

Gov. Cuomo Nominates First Openly Gay Justice to NY Highest Court


Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named the first openly gay judge to New York’s highest court.

Cuomo has nominated Paul Feinman, an appellate court judge and LGBT rights advocate, to fill a vacancy on the New York State Court of Appeals. During an interview on the cable news station NY1, Cuomo praised Feinman’s abilities.

“[He] is an extraordinary human being,” Cuomo said. “And would be a great addition to that court.”

Gay rights advocates have urged Cuomo to appoint an openly gay judge to the court, which often deals with LGBT issues.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), the only openly gay member of that chamber, called Feinman a “historic and inspired candidate.”

If he’s confirmed by the state Senate, Feinman would replace Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who died earlier this year in what police said was likely a suicide.

May 12, 2016

Judge Conveniently Sentenced Male Defendants to Community Service-At His Home

I had both Metro and the NYTimes write about this story and not wanting to load the readers with too many stories on any particular day I waited, until today (24 hrs)


An Arkansas judge has resigned after a state commission accused him of ordering male defendants to be spanked, engage in sex acts and bend over for thousands of photographs to fulfill their “community service,” a senior state official said on Tuesday.

The resignation of the district court judge, O. Joseph Boeckmann Jr., was effective immediately after it was sent to the State Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission on Monday, said David J. Sachar, the commission’s executive director.

The commission, which investigates judges over possible misconduct or for disabilities that prevent them from doing their jobs, began an inquiry into Judge Boeckmann in 2014 over a possible conflict of interest in an unrelated case on elder care, Mr. Sachar said. But that case took a surprising turn when court employees began asking investigators, Did you hear about the boys?

“Then the dam broke,” Mr. Sachar said.

As of Tuesday, no criminal charges had been filed, but Mr. Sachar said they were possible.

The commission began uncovering evidence and witness testimony related to the judge’s treatment of male defendants in traffic cases over the past few years, Mr. Sachar said. Men who had appeared before Judge Boeckmann in court said they were asked to go to his house or to some other location with bags of canned goods, ostensibly for charity. Then, according to their accounts, the judge told them to bend over and pick up the cans as he photographed them from behind for what he said would be evidence of community service, according to a filing on the commission’s website.

In one case from 2014, he gave a defendant his phone number and ordered him to come to his house, where he photographed the man bending over and offered him $300 to pose as Michelangelo’s statue of David, the commission said.

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The commission said it had obtained up to 4,600 photos of men — some identified as defendants — who are shown naked after an “apparent” paddling or other sex acts. The commission sent about 1,050 of the photos to Judge Boeckmann’s lawyer last week with a letter saying it expected to add them to the allegations about his conduct, Mr. Sachar said.

“We are not through processing them,” Mr. Sachar said in an interview Tuesday, referring to the photographs and potential witnesses. “They were defendants in traffic court cases, but possibly some other misdemeanors.”

The judge’s lawyer, Jeff Rosenzweig, declined to comment on the photographs but denied that Judge Boeckmann had done anything wrong. Mr. Rosenzweig said the judge had been near the end of his second elected four-year term in Cross County when he resigned.

“He does not want to get into a big fight about the veracity or inaccuracy of the allegations over an office that he was going to vacate anyway, and that is why he decided to resign,” Mr. Rosenzweig said. “He did not admit any wrongdoing, and he is not going to admit any wrongdoing.”

Mr. Sachar said the commission was assisting prosecutors on possible criminal charges.

“If a criminal charge is brought, he will be fighting that vehemently,” Mr. Rosenzweig said of the former judge.

The commission was continuing its investigation and it had interviewed hundreds of witnesses since August 2015, looking at the judge’s docket sheets, Mr. Sachar said.

“We have identified three dozen people by name that we have contacted or know it happened,” he said, referring to people who said they had experienced inappropriate sex acts, paddling or photography or payments by the judge. “We suspect there are more.”

The State Supreme Court ordered the judge to stop hearing cases in late 2015 as the investigation unfolded, but he was still drawing a salary and benefits. His resignation on Monday, which was sent to Mr. Sachar and to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, means he is permanently disqualified from being a judge and public servant.

June 18, 2014

Openly gay Judges are Obama’s forever achievement on the gay civil rights


On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed three more of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees to the federal bench, where they will have lifetime tenure as district court judges. Two of the nominees are openly gay; one, Judge Darrin Gayles, is the first openly gay African American man to serve in the federal judiciary. Gayles was confirmed 97-0.
Because the appointment of a district court judge isn’t usually huge news, it’s easy to overlook how much diversity—especially sexual diversity—Obama has added to the judiciary. When he took office, only one openly gay judge, Clinton appointee Deborah Batts, served on the federal bench. (Judge Vaughn Walker, nominated by Ronald Reagan and confirmed under George H.W. Bush, did not come out until 2011, after his retirement.) But over the last six years, Obama has brought eight openly gay judges to the judiciary: Gayles, Staci Michelle Yandle, Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro, Alison Nathan, Paul Oetken, Michael Fitzgerald, Michael McShane, and Pamela Ki Mai Chen.
This is really an astonishing achievement. For most of the 20th century, gay people were driven from government jobs and vilified as too perverted and aberrant to work in even the most low-level positions. Today, they populate the most esteemed positions the government has to offer. Long after don’t ask, don’t tell repeal fades from memory and marriage equality becomes a settled issue, these judges will still be on the bench. They might not reflect Obama’s most visible gay rights achievements. But in a very real sense, they will be his most enduring. 
Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

April 19, 2014

How a Gay Judge Handles Gay Marriage Cases

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, seen in this 2013 photo when he was still a 
Multnomah Circuit Court judge, will rule on a legal challenge to Oregon’s ban on
 same-sex marriage. (Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian)
Starting next week, the spotlight on the status of gay marriage in America will shift to the Eugene courtroom of U.S. District Judge Michael McShane – who finds himself in an unusual position.
Unlike the five federal judges who have struck down laws prohibiting same-sex marriages in other states in recent months, McShane won't have anyone in the courtroom defending Oregon's constitutional ban when he holds oral arguments Wednesday.
And, unlike the other judges, McShane also happens to be one of just nine openly gay members of the federal judiciary, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
It's an unusual combination of factors for the 53-year-old jurist, who has served as a federal judge for less than a year.
GS.00036443B_PL.GAY.MARRAIGE-02.jpgView full sizeHere's a state-by-state look at the status of gay marriage in America.
McShane, citing the sensitivity of the case, declined to be interviewed for this story. But friends say they're confident he'll produce a careful decision while setting aside any personal feelings.
"You don't want to be the lawyer going in saying with a wink, 'I'm the lawyer on the gay-marriage side and he's going to be with me,'" says Lane Borg, who heads Metropolitan Public Defender and has known McShane for decades. "They would be ill-advised to think that just because Michael is gay that he is going to rule that way."
Still, the widespread view is that McShane will follow the lead of other federal judges in ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry. Backers of a gay marriage initiative are even asking McShane to rule by May 23 so that they don't have to take their fight to the November ballot.
In his courtroom, McShane will face a battery of lawyers all telling him to strike down the 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.
That's because Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced earlier this year that shewouldn't defend the law because it violates federal equal-rights protectionsas interpreted by last year's Supreme Court decision.
Several lawyers on both sides of the issue say the lack of opposition will almost undoubtedly lead McShane to strike down Oregon's constitutional prohibition.
"That would appear to make the case a foregone conclusion," says William Duncan, who heads the Marriage Law Foundation, a Utah-based group opposed to same-sex unions.
If McShane decides to strike down the law, his major issue may be whether to stay his decision while appeals are heard from other states – or whether to allow gays and lesbians to begin marrying in Oregon.
McShane's own journey to the federal courthouse in Eugene has been unusual enough.
He grew up in a conservative Catholic family in small-town eastern Washington. After college, he came to Portland with the Jesuit Volunteers Corps and counseled homeless parolees and probationers.
That led him to law school and then work at Metropolitan Public Defender, where Borg and others say he quickly became one of the sharpest and hardest-working trial lawyers in the office.
He became a pro tem judge in 1997 and a full Circuit Court judge in 2001. Around the courthouse, he became known for going to unusual lengths to try to help defendants turn their lives around.
He and his staff held a Friday breakfast club for probationers he knew wouldn't get regular supervision. Once, he offered the shoes off his feet to a bare-footed defendant. Another time, his socks.
He also regularly met defendants for their scheduled early-morning appointments at Hooper Detox, reasoning that they would be more likely to actually show up if they knew McShane was there waiting for them.
"Your only option is to be a disinterested observer and watch a train wreck, or step in," McShane told Willamette Week in a 2010 interview.
For all of that, McShane also earned the respect of prosecutors, who quickly came to see him as evenhanded, says former Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk.
"He's not super-harsh or super-lenient," says Schrunk. "He's fair but not a pushover."
McShane also became known around the courthouse for having a temper. He could be particularly tough on lawyers he saw as unprepared. One prosecutor privately calls him an "equal-opportunity screamer" given to chewing out hapless attorneys.
McShane became part of a four-judge team that handled the county's aggravated murder cases.
"I don't think there is a judge in the state who has handled more death penalty cases than he has," says fellow Multnomah Judge Eric Bergstrom, a former prosecutor who became a close friend.
"He's a big collector of people around him," Bergstrom adds. "He throws a big taco party every Christmas, and you'll see an eclectic collection of people. ... He’s just instinctively warm and welcoming."
For years, McShane collected religious icons and was frequently given pictures of St. Michael.
"I don't think he's a practicing Catholic," says Bergstrom. "But I think it informs his life. ... I think he would say he considers himself a Catholic."
With one longtime ex-partner, McShane adopted a young boy, now 20, who had come from an abusive home. He's now helping rear the 13-year-old nephew of his current partner, Gregory Ford, who has gone back to school to become a nurse.
McShane's sexual orientation may have helped him get a foot in the door to be considered for a federal judgeship. The Obama administration has pressed for a more diverse federal judiciary.The five finalists for the Eugene judgeship that McShane won included three women, one an African-American.
Opponents of gay marriage have stayed away from McShane's court -- declining, for example, to file any "friend of the court" briefs aimed at influencing his thinking. Some say there's little reason to get involved since they don't have standing to appeal. But there's been some grumbling about McShane's involvement in the case.
John Eastman, a constitutional law professor and chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-gay marriage group, questions whether McShane has a conflict.
"The question is not his sexual orientation," says Eastman, "but whether he is situated identically to the plaintiffs and will benefit from the exact relief he provides to them."
In other words, McShane could also get the right to marry his partner if he strikes down the Oregon prohibition on gay marriage.
Opponents of same-sex marriage unsuccessfully made the same argument in California when they tried to erase U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 decision striking down that state's anti-gay-marriage initiative.
After Walker retired from the bench, he said publicly for the first time that he was gay and in a long-term relationship.
Walker's successor, Judge James Ware, refused to vacate the decision, saying that the presumption about Walker's state of mind "is as warrantless as the presumption that a female judge is incapable of being impartial in a case in which women seek legal relief."
In an initial court hearing with attorneys involved with the current case, McShane made clear his willingness to recuse himself if there were any concerns – and he didn't hear any.
John Parry, a Lewis & Clark law professor, says the court system is based on the belief that judges can set aside their own opinions.
"It's not like straight judges will necessarily be neutral in their thinking," says Parry. Still, he adds, he's sure the judge knows his ruling will attract a lot of attention.
"I would expect," Parry says, "Judge McShane to take extra care with the opinion."
Jeff  Mapes | jmapes@oregonian.comBy Jeff Mapes | 

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