EXCLUSIVE! Vance Day: Portrait of an Honorable Judge Under Fire

Editor’s note: I freely admit that this first article, and subsequent exposées in this series following the accusations and hearings in the Case of Judge Day, are colored with a worldview. If one peruses the last couple months’ headlines, most if not all have reckoned Vance Day guilty until being proven innocent. I am still idealistic enough to believe quite the opposite. I have spoken with Judge Day, his wife Mattie, son Justin, friend and colleague Matt, and mother Janet. I hope to introduce the nation to the REAL Vance Day, not the “Hater and Villain” portrayed in MSM. This is an important case that bears universal constitutional heft: do judges, once they take the bench, relinquish their First Amendment rights? Audire veritatem. Tami Jackson


On the surface, my native state of Oregon remains the setting of rugged and breathtaking panoramas, the sought-after subject of legendary photographers and painters.

But beneath that physical surface that baptizes the artist’s imagination wages a fierce culture war, the spoils being the character and morés of Oregon’s people. Oregon’s soul as it were. The battle repercussions could shake the nation.

And smack dab in the middle of the battle is Marion County Circuit Court Judge Vance Day, “the subject of an investigation by the state judicial fitness commission in part because of his decision not to officiate weddings for gay couples.”

Perusing the headlines across the nation for September, those stories concerning Judge Day are so patently skewed as to be almost comical.

In that last article, Oregonian Metro Columnist Steve Duin wrote:

Marion County Circuit Judge Vance Day needs to retire with his “deeply-held religious beliefs,” now that the evolving complexity of justice has overwhelmed him.

In the last year, Day has, instead, raised questions about his impartiality, imposed on his colleagues, and laid the groundwork for a fundraising campaign to defend himself against a judicial fitness complaint.

Those choices were set in motion 16 months ago when U.S. District Judge Michael McShane struck down Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Day immediately ordered his staff to funnel gay and lesbian couples seeking a more perfect union to other judges in the Marion County court system.

Several months later, Day recalculated and decided to quit officiating marriages altogether.

Day – who attends Morning Star Community Church in Salem – is welcome to such exercise when he’s off the bench. But that faith-based stamp-of-approval is precisely what many couples seek to avoid when they head to the courthouse, rather than the local chapel, to finalize this civil transaction.

Just how many Marion County judges would need to follow Day’s lead, I wonder, before gays and lesbians reached the conclusion that the circuit court is in revolt against the rulings of McShane and the Supreme Court of the United States?

What I would posit of Duin? First, you do realize that SCOTUS is not vested with the power to make law?

And second, a judge is only “…welcome to such exercise [First Amendment rights] when he’s off the bench”? Meaning a sitting judge has no First Amendment rights?

Duin continues:

When former Gov. John Kitzhaber appointed Day to the bench in 2011, Day’s religious views on marriage equality didn’t bring him into conflict with state and federal law.

But the law has changed, and Day, the former head of the Oregon Republican Party, has not evolved with it.

Ahhh. There’s the rub. That, my friends is the “Living Document” school of thought that twists the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions to suit the current whim or degeneracy of society. It would seem that a law that is ever-changing and morphing to the pleasure of those who would otherwise be law-breakers is no law at all.

Those headlines stand as examples of what poses as journalism in America today. Nothing like the old standards established by Walter Williams, founder of the world’s first school of journalism at University of Missouri in 1908. Williams taught would-be-columnists to get out the who, what, why where and how and hold everyone’s feet to the fire.

The dozen or so stories on Judge Day are mostly re-hashing of the Oregonian and Statesman stories, with little or no investigation.

So who is Judge Vance Day? What are the allegations? And who or what is the Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability?

Let’s start at the beginning and navigate the muddied waters of the case.

Vance Day's mother, Janet Day Brelje

Vance Day’s mother, Janet Day Brelje

Vance Day is a native Oregonian, born at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland. Raised in the Portland metro area, Vance was a beloved son and brother (with an older and younger sister). Vance’s mother, Janet, is a lovely woman whose ready smile and quick intellect belie her octogenarian status.

Janet recounted her son’s facile mind and great humor from the youngest age. She particularly remembered that, at age 13, Vance made a heartfelt decision to follow Jesus and give Him his whole life. The stories she told made perfect sense in light of Vance’s will to honor his Savior, whether overtly or in subtle ways.

After all…what does it mean to follow Jesus? Jesus himself told a religious leader:

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

The stories of Vance Day’s life paint a picture of a man who habitually lives out Mark 12:30 & 31, who loves God and people, ALL people.

Vance was a soccer player, Boy Scout (eventually an Eagle Scout, as are his sons), active in Young Life, loved to sail, attended Sunday School and church.

Vance met his bride-to-be Mattie when they were both attending Regent University. He earned his law degree at Willamette University Law School. Willamette was originally established in 1834 by missionary Jason Lee who came to the Oregon Territory to establish a Methodist mission for Native Americans living in the Willamette Valley.