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Gay couples' lawyers object to full-court hearing

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Attorneys on either side of a lawsuit over Wisconsin and Indiana's overthrown gay marriage bans are wrangling over how many federal judges should hear the states' appeal, a technical issue that could make a big difference.

Those representing gay couples who want the bans overturned permanently in both Indiana and Wisconsin filed briefs on Monday arguing that a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is enough. They say three-judge panels in other districts have heard similar cases and at least one has rejected a similar motion for a full-court hearing.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller requested June 11 that the full, 10-member court hear the case, which lawyers call en banc review. Wisconsin made a similar move last week after the same federal appeals court had consolidated Indiana and Wisconsin's cases.

"En banc review would serve to provide the insights and judgment of 10 well-respected judges, rather than just three, which would benefit the judicial review process no matter the outcome," Indiana attorney general's office spokesman Bryan Corbin said in a statement Tuesday.

But according to a legal expert, a full-court review amounts to playing the odds.

"Your panel of three may or may not be representative of the whole court. There are going to be times when that happens," David Orentlicher, a professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, said Tuesday.

Both states agree that the case should move rapidly through the legal process.

Hundreds of couples were married in Indiana from June 25, when U.S. District Judge Richard Young struck down the state's gay marriage ban, to June 27, when the 7th Circuit put the decision on hold. The sole exception to the appeals court stay in Indiana was an order for the state to recognize the out-of-state marriage of Amy Sandler and Nikole Quasney of Munster; Quasney is dying of ovarian cancer.

In Wisconsin, more than 500 couples got married after U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled June 6 that the ban was a violation of gay couples' equal protection and due process rights. Crabb put her ruling on hold a week later and there have been no marriages since.

Marriages in both states conducted in between when the bans were struck down and put on hold remain in legal limbo.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging the bans in both states, argues that the marriages are legal.

ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on July 11 asking him to issue a statement that the federal government will recognize the marriages as he did in Utah and Michigan, which would make Indiana's couples eligible for federal benefits for married couples.

Democratic members of Congress from Wisconsin made a similar request.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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