Case: In the Matters of Unmarried Couple Adoptions

02-0130-AO/02-0129-RB | Michigan state trial court

Filed Date: 2002

Closed Date: 2002

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In 1995, Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Nancy Wheeler was presiding over the juvenile court where adoptions are ratified. She began to grant second-parent adoptions to same-sex couples who were foster parents. She explained years later: "I thought that it was an outrage that we encouraged and, in fact, had a lot of gay and lesbian foster parents, but didn't allow both parties to adopt the children. So, these children had been in foster care with these same parents sometimes for a number of y…

In 1995, Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Nancy Wheeler was presiding over the juvenile court where adoptions are ratified. She began to grant second-parent adoptions to same-sex couples who were foster parents. She explained years later:

"I thought that it was an outrage that we encouraged and, in fact, had a lot of gay and lesbian foster parents, but didn't allow both parties to adopt the children. So, these children had been in foster care with these same parents sometimes for a number of years and then they were adopted by one."
Judge Wheeler decided, as paraphrased by a reporter, "if one person could be an adoptive parent, then two could." When she was succeeded in juvenile court by Judge Donald Shelton, he continued to ratify second-parent adoptions. In 2002, however, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Maura Corrigan decided to put a stop to second-parent adoptions by unmarried couples. She contacted the Chief Judge of Washtenaw's county court and directed him to end the practice. Judge Archie Brown complied, issuing a memo (included in the Clearinghouse, dated 6/2/2002) declaring, "Effective immediately the Washtenaw County Trial Court and in particular, the Juvenile Division staff, shall no longer process petitions for second parent adoptions, including any petitions that are currently pending." Judge Brown cited a "legal opinion from an adoption specialist," interpreting the Michigan adoption statute.

Judge Shelton, however, pushed back, taking the position that his Chief Judge lacked the authority to dictate on a matter of law. At this point, Judge Brown reassigned all the pending cases to himself. Efforts to disqualify Judge Brown failed, and second-parent adoptions were dead in Washtenaw County. (Two years later, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox issued an opinion that the statute disallowed joint adoption by unmarried couples. 2004 Mich. OAG No. 7160 (Mich.A.G.), 2004 WL 2096457 (Sept. 14, 2004).) Such adoptions apparently continued in at least one other location, but the Washtenaw episode at least greatly reduced their number, in Michigan, and perhaps all but shut them down.

Summary Authors

Margo Schlanger (8/28/2014)

People


Judge(s)

Brown, Archie C. (Michigan)

Kenny, Timothy M. (Michigan)

Wheeler [Francis], Nancy (Michigan)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Kaplan, Jay (Michigan)

Reno, Molly H. (Michigan)

Judge(s)

Brown, Archie C. (Michigan)

Kenny, Timothy M. (Michigan)

Wheeler [Francis], Nancy (Michigan)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Kaplan, Jay (Michigan)

Reno, Molly H. (Michigan)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

02-0130-AO/02-0129-RB

Letter to Adoption Staff Washtenaw County Probate Court Juvenile Division

Adoption Policy #5

Sept. 26, 1993

Sept. 26, 1993

Correspondence

02-0143-AO

02-0144-RB

OPINION AND ORDER

In the Matter of [redacted] a minor

June 21, 2001

June 21, 2001

Order/Opinion

Termination of Second Parent Adoption Program

[In re: Adoption Cases]

June 4, 2002

June 4, 2002

Correspondence

Brief in Support of Motion to Vacate Chief Judge Brown's Order to Reassign Case to Himself, or, Alternatively, for Disqualification of Judge

[Several cases, together referred to as Unmarried Couple Adoptions]

June 14, 2002

June 14, 2002

Pleading / Motion / Brief

02-0130-AO/02-0129-RB

REASSIGNMENT ORDER

In the Matters of UNMARRIED COUPLE ADOPTIONS

June 20, 2002

June 20, 2002

Order/Opinion

02-0130-AO/02-0129-RB

Supplemental Brief in Support of Motion to Disqualify Judge

In the Matter of: Adoption Cases

July 31, 2002

July 31, 2002

Pleading / Motion / Brief

02-0130-AO/02-0129-RB

Alleged Judicial Code of Conduct Violation

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Sept. 17, 2002

Sept. 17, 2002

Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated June 26, 2022, 3 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Michigan

Case Type(s):

Public Benefits/Government Services

Special Collection(s):

Same-Sex Marriage

Key Dates

Filing Date: 2002

Closing Date: 2002

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Several unmarried couples who sought joint adoptions of children already in their care.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Washtenaw County Trial Court (Washtenaw), County

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Availably Documents:

None of the above

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Issues

General:

Adoption

Gay/lesbian/transgender

Marriage

Discrimination-basis:

Sexual orientatation