University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name In the Matters of Unmarried Couple Adoptions PB-MI-0007
Docket / Court 02-0130-AO/02-0129-RB ( State Court )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Same-Sex Marriage
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
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
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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.

Margo Schlanger - 08/28/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Discrimination-basis
Sexual orientatation
General
Adoption
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Marriage
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Washtenaw County Trial Court
Plaintiff Description Several unmarried couples who sought joint adoptions of children already in their care.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2002
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Limited Partnership
http://www.limitedpartnershipmovie.com/
By: Thomas G. Miller
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  United States Government says L.A. Gay Couple‚Äôs 1975 Marriage is Valid
The Pride L.A.
Written: Jun. 07, 2016
By: Troy Masters
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Letter to Adoption Staff Washtenaw County Probate Court Juvenile Division 09/26/1993
PB-MI-0007-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
OPINION AND ORDER 06/21/2001
PB-MI-0007-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Termination of Second Parent Adoption Program 06/04/2002
PB-MI-0007-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Brief in Support of Motion to Vacate Chief Judge Brown's Order to Reassign Case to Himself, or, Alternatively, for Disqualification of Judge 06/14/2002
PB-MI-0007-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
REASSIGNMENT ORDER 06/20/2002
PB-MI-0007-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Supplemental Brief in Support of Motion to Disqualify Judge 07/31/2002
PB-MI-0007-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Alleged Judicial Code of Conduct Violation 09/17/2002
PB-MI-0007-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Judges Brown, Archie C. (State Trial Court)
PB-MI-0007-0001 | PB-MI-0007-0004 | PB-MI-0007-0005 | PB-MI-0007-0006
Kenny, Timothy M. (State Appellate Court)
PB-MI-0007-0007
Wheeler, Nancy (State Trial Court)
PB-MI-0007-0006
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Kaplan, Jay (Michigan)
PB-MI-0007-0002 | PB-MI-0007-0003
Reno, Molly H. (Michigan)
PB-MI-0007-0003
Defendant's Lawyers None on record
Other Lawyers None on record

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