In re Judge Connie Glenn Wilkerson
Judge Connie Glenn Wilkerson wrote a letter to the editor of the George County Times expressing his outrage over the California Legislature enacting a law granting same-sex couples the right to sue their partners. In his letter, Wilkerson recommended that homosexuals not be granted more rights, but rather placed in "mental institutes." Lambda Legal filed a complaint on behalf of Equality Mississippi with the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance saying that the judge's comments violated the state's Code of Judicial Conduct. Furthermore, this indicated that he would not decide cases involving gays and lesbians fairly and impartially. The Mississippi Supreme Court decided 5-2 (two judges not participating) that the First Amendment protected Judge Connie Glenn Wilkerson's antigay statements. The court's ruling came despite a recommendation from the commission to publicly reprimand Wilkerson and fine him for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct.
The Code of Judicial Conduct prescribes that judges avoid making "expressions of bias or prejudice." In April2002, Mississippi amended its Code of Judicial Conduct to specifically prohibit expressions of bias or prejudice regarding sexual orientation.
Lambda Legal's Impact
This complaint highlights Lambda Legal's Fair Courts project, which works to preserve fair and impartial courts. Because LGBT people and those with HIV often rely on the courts to uphold their individual rights, it is essential that judges are not biased against them.