Warren County Common Pleas Court Judge Joe Kirby responded to a federal court claim that he was depriving transgender teens seeking name changes of their constitutional rights. The response came in a county court order that delayed a hearing in one of the cases at issue.
The federal lawsuit made “untrue allegations regarding how the court decides name changes for transgender minors,” Kirby said in an order delaying a hearing on one of the name change requests scheduled for Tuesday in Warren County Probate Court.
On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman granted the teens’ families motion for an expedited hearing and gave Kirby’s lawyers until the end of the month to to appeal his ruling.
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Kirby is represented by two Columbus-based lawyers in the federal lawsuit. A teleconference is scheduled for 1 p.m. today in this case.
“The lawsuit has been filed by the same law firm” representing the child whose name change was set for a hearing in Kirby’s court, Kirby said in his order filed on Monday.
Kirby also noted one of the cases has been appealed to the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals in Middletown.
“That is the normal procedure utilized to review a trial court’s decision. Otherwise, every decision in a case becomes yet another lawsuit by the losing side. And in this particular case, the lawsuit filed may bring attention to other cases already decided by this court, in which those applicants did not seek public disclosure of their case, or their personal affairs.”
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As a result of the appeal and federal lawsuit, “the approach that the lawyers have chosen has put the court in a position where, if the hearing proceeds on Aug. 14, there will be those who claim I only ruled for or against the applicant because of the fact that I have been sued, rather than the evidence actually presented at the hearing,” Kirby wrote.
Kirby continued the hearing to an unspecified date.
Also in his order, Kirby said he decided transgender name cases in the “best interest of the child” based on evidence presented after a hearing.
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“This court holds no bias against those that are transgender. In fact, this court has granted name changes for multiple applicants on the basis of transgender status, including both adults and children,” he said, adding none of these cases was cited in the federal lawsuit.
The Warren County chief bailiff reportedly told The Washington Post that the reference to 'this court' was not to Kirby's individual caseload but to all judges in the courthouse.
“This court has received extensive negative publicity based on the allegations in the lawsuit which will prove to be factually incorrect,” Kirby added.
Josh Engel, one of the lawyers in the federal lawsuit, declined to respond to Kirby’s statement in the order delaying the probate-court hearing.