John Heyburn

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John Heyburn
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Court Information:
United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky
Title:   Judge
Position:   Seat #4
Appointed by:   George H.W. Bush
Active:   8/17/1992-4/1/2014
Chief:   2001 - 2008
Senior:   4/1/2014-Present
Preceded by:   Thomas Ballantine
Personal History
Born:   1948
Hometown:   Boston, MA
Undergraduate:   Harvard College, A.B., 1970
Law School:   University of Kentucky College of Law, J.D., 1976
Military service:   U.S. Army 1970 - 1976

John G. Heyburn II is an Article III federal judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. He joined the court in 1992 after being nominated by President George H.W. Bush. Heyburn served as the Chief Judge of the court from 2001 to 2008. Heyburn took senior status on April 1, 2014 but has stated he plans to keep a full caseload.[1]

Early life and education

Heyburn was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. His father and grandfather were both attorneys. Heyburn graduated from Harvard University with his bachelor's degree in 1970, and earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Kentucky Law School in 1976. Heyburn served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1970 to 1976.[2]

Professional career

Heyburn was a private practice attorney in Louisville, Kentucky, from 1976 to 1992. Heyburn also served as Special Counsel for Jefferson County Judge-Executive Mitch McConnell.[2]

Judicial career

Western District of Kentucky

On the recommendation of Senator Mitch McConnell, who Heyburn previously worked with, Heyburn was nominated to the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky by President George H.W. Bush on March 20, 1992, to a seat vacated by Thomas Ballantine as Ballantine went on senior status. Heyburn was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 12, 1992 on a Senate vote and received commission on August 17, 1992.[3] Heyburn assumed senior status on April 1, 2014.[2]

Judicial Committees and Commissions

In 1994, Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed Judge Heyburn to serve on the Budget Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States. In January 1997, Judge Heyburn was appointed Chair of the Budget Committee and served in that capacity until December 2004.

In June 2007, Chief Justice Roberts appointed Judge Heyburn as Chair of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The panel was tasked with determining whether cases, including national class-actions, should be centralized in a single judicial district for pretrial purposes.[4]

Notable cases

Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states (2014)

     United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky (Bourke, et al v. Beshear, et al, 3:13-cv-00750-JGH)

In February 2014, Judge Heyburn issued a preliminary ruling, determining that the State of Kentucky must recognize the marriages of four couples who were married in different states and in Canada. In the ruling, Heyburn wrote:
It is clear that Kentucky's laws treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them.[5] [6]

This ruling voids in part Kentucky's Marriage Amendment, which identified marriage as between one man and one woman. That ballot measure passed in 2004.[7]

Judge Heyburn also pointed out that every federal judge who has heard challenges to state recognition of same-sex marriage bans since the passage of Windsor v. United States has found them to be unconstitutional.[5]

After the ruling was announced, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who argued the case on behalf of the state, plainly said that he "did his duty" in defending the law. At that time, both Attorney General Conway and Governor Steve Beshear said it was too soon to comment on the next steps in the case.[5][8] Two weeks later, Judge Heyburn issued a final order, requiring state officials to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. Attorney General Conway and Governor Beshear immediately filed a motion with Judge Heyburn seeking a 90-day stay of the ruling to determine whether an appeal would be filed.[9]

On March 4, 2014, Attorney General Conway announced that he would not continue to defend Kentucky's ban on the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages:

Judge Heyburn got it right. The United States Constitution is designed to protect everyone’s rights, both the majority and the minority groups.[10] [6]
Shortly thereafter, Governor Beshear publicly stated that Kentucky would appeal Judge Heyburn's ruling, but without Conway's assistance.[10][11]

Kentucky same-sex ban found unconstitutional (2014)

     United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky (Love et al. v. Beshear, 3:13-CV-750-H)

On July 1, 2014, Judge John Heyburn ruled that Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Similar to the 20 plus cases that had found same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional, Judge Heyburn found that the ban was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Heyburn chided Kentucky's argument that the exclusion of same-sex marriages held interests in the states economic security:
The state’s attempts to connect the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage to its interest in economic stability and in “ensuring humanity’s continued existence” are at best illogical and even bewildering. These arguments fail for the precise reasons that Defendant’s procreation argument fails.[12][6]
Heyburn stayed the order until the Sixth Circuit could hear and rule on the appeal. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will hear oral arguments of the appeal on August 6, 2014.

See also

External links


Political offices
Preceded by:
Thomas Ballantine
Western District of Kentucky
Seat #4
Succeeded by:

KentuckyKentucky Supreme CourtKentucky Court of AppealsKentucky Circuit CourtsKentucky District CourtsKentucky Family CourtUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of KentuckyUnited States District Court for the Western District of KentuckyUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern District of KentuckyUnited States bankruptcy court, Western District of KentuckyUnited States Court of Appeals for the Sixth CircuitKentucky countiesKentucky judicial newsKentucky judicial electionsJudicial selection in KentuckyKentuckyTemplate.jpg