Oregon judge accused of ethical misconduct

MARION COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — An Oregon judge who allegedly refused to perform same-sex weddings is suspected of violating several other state codes, and is accused of hanging a photo of Adolf Hitler in the county’s courthouse.

Circuit Court Judge Vance D. Day, who stopped performing weddings altogether this spring, is under an ethics investigation for allegedly violating the Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct and the Oregon Constitution on several occasions.

According to documents provided by the Oregon Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability, Judge Day engaged in contact that reflected adversely on his character, competence, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.

In 2012, Judge Day behaved questionably during at least two of his son’s soccer games, documents state.

Marion County Judge Vance Day reportedly stopped performing wedding ceremonies this spring. (Marion County Circuit Court)
Marion County Judge Vance Day reportedly stopped performing wedding ceremonies this spring. (Marion County Circuit Court)

“On October 17, 2012, Judge Day attended a soccer game during which his son, Daniel Day, was injured when he collided with another player,” court documents state.

After the game, Judge Day allegedly approached the referees’ table to complain about the performance of a game official. Court documents show he threatened to report the incident to higher authorities.

At another game less than one month later, Judge Day claimed he was physically assaulted while attempting to speak with officials at the referees’ table.

“Before I could finish the sentence I was grabbed by my shoulders from behind without warning, whirled around, and nearly picked [up] off my feet and forcefully thrown forwards. I nearly went down on my hands and knees, but was able to right myself,” Judge Day wrote.

But according to court documents, his claims were unsubstantiated.

“There was no physical contact between the soccer official and Judge Day,” documents state.

The judge is also accused of lying to investigators about allowing a veteran with a felony conviction to handle a firearm, which violated state law.

In court documents, Judge Day admitted to knowing about the veteran’s felony conviction which prohibited him from possessing weapons.

However, “when asked about the events, Judge Day told Marion County Judges… that he did not know [the individual] was convicted of a felony,” court documents state.

Judge Vance Day standing in front of a picture with veterans and Adolf Hitler in the Marion County Courthouse (Courtesy, Judge Day's spokesperson)
Judge Vance Day standing in front of a picture with veterans and Adolf Hitler in the Marion County Courthouse (Courtesy, Judge Day’s spokesperson)

The veteran, referred to in court documents as BAS, was allegedly singled out by Judge Day who had control over his probation status.

BAS interacted with several of Judge Day’s family members on numerous occasions, documents show.

“While driving BAS to Judge Day’s daughter’s home to do some cabinetry work, Judge Day stopped to perform a wedding ceremony,” court documents allege. “Judge Day made BAS stand next to him at the wedding.”

Additionally, Judge Day is accused of ordering, “BAS to read ‘Fearless’ even though BAS expressed that reading the book exacerbated his PTSD symptoms and threatened his sobriety,” documents state. “On another occasion, Judge Day forced other veterans… to watch a video that exacerbated PTSD symptoms in some of them.”

Judge Day denied that the veterans experienced enhanced symptoms of PTSD through exposure to the book and video.

Documents allege Judge Day acted unprofessionally with veterans by calling them “Raggedy A**es” and saying, “I’m the judge – I can do whatever I want.”

Judge Day is accused of collecting, “money from lawyers, including those appearing before him in court, to sponsor veteran-related wall hangings in the Marion County courthouse hallways,” according to court documents.

One of the wall hangings in question included a picture of Adolf Hitler. Judge Day displayed the image in a public area of the courthouse without receiving permission, although he claims he did not know the display had to be pre-approved.

A picture with Adolf Hitler inside the Marion County Courthouse (Courtesy, Judge Day's spokesperson)
A picture with Adolf Hitler inside the Marion County Courthouse (Courtesy, Judge Day’s spokesperson)

“The wall art was not intended to honor fascism, but to honor the Americans that defeated the dreadful ideology,” Judge Day said in response to the accusation.

A judicial assistant working under Judge Day said he hung pictures in her work space even though she expressed that she did not want them.

“When his judicial assistant removed the items while Judge Day was on vacation, Judge Day told her that he is a ‘benevolent dictator’ and that she ‘works at his pleasure,’” court documents state.

Other members of his staff were also fearful of his treatment, documents state. Court staff were allegedly not given required breaks for lunch and were expected to stay late on a regular basis.

Earlier this month, Judge Day received backlash when it was revealed he would not perform same-sex weddings in his jurisdiction. In doing so, he gave up his right to perform wedding ceremonies altogether.

New allegations reveal, “Judge Day inappropriately screened and ordered his court staff to screen wedding applicants to ensure that they were not same-sex applicants,” court documents show. “Judge Day refused to marry same-sex partners even though they could lawfully marry under Oregon law.”

Judge Day denies screening wedding applicants, but said he did not wish to perform same-sex marriages because of his firmly held religious beliefs.

A public hearing on the case has been scheduled for November 9 at 9 a.m.

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