SCOTUS declines to hear same-sex parent case

Supreme Court building graphic

By Janet A. Hendrick and Mark E. Hornbeek

On December 14, 2020, the United States Supreme Court declined to review the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision requiring the State of Indiana to list two females on the birth certificate of a child of a lesbian couple who was conceived by in-vitro fertilization. Ashlee and Ruby Henderson brought suit against the Indiana State Health Commissioner claiming that the State’s practice of listing only the birth mother and her husband, if any, violated their rights to equal protection under the United States Constitution. Indiana argued that forcing it to identify both women as parents would prevent the State from treating the sperm donor as a parent, while providing parental rights to an individual who provided neither the sperm nor the egg.

Same sex parents graphicThe trial court ruled in favor of the couple and ordered Indiana to treat same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples with regard to parentage on birth certificates. Indiana appealed, and the appeals court upheld the trial court’s decision. Indiana then filed a petition of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.

Court-watchers have monitored this case, waiting to see if the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority, given the addition of new Justice Amy Coney Barrett, would take this opportunity to roll back rights of same-sex couples as established by the Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing same-sex marriage, and confirmed by the Court’s 2017 decision in Pavan v. Smith, which requires the government to provide the same rights to all couples with respect to parentage on birth certificates, regardless of the parents’ genders.

Many observers have been particularly interested whether Justice Coney Barrett, who has been critical of same-sex marriage, will seek to disturb Obergefell and Pavan and whether this case would present the opportunity for her to do so.

Once a party has appealed a lower court’s decision to the Supreme Court, it requires the vote of four justices before the Court will grant certiorari agreeing to hear the case. While we know that the Court denied certiorari, neither the margin of the vote, nor the vote cast by any individual justice, is publicly revealed, so we cannot know how any particular justice, including Justice Coney Barrett, voted. At least six justices, including at least three of the justices typically considered to be conservative, voted against hearing Indiana’s appeal.

The Court’s refusal to take this case may be a signal that the current Supreme Court is not interested in reversing or narrowing the rights established by its recent opinions. The value of the Court’s denial of certiorari in Box, however, is somewhat limited, as the denial does not necessarily indicate that the majority of justices agree with the lower court’s ruling. Rather, refusal to take the case means that fewer than four justices felt this particular case was worth review.  Because the Court refused to hear the case, it will not issue an opinion either confirming or upsetting the rights of same-sex couples or set any new precedent that would bind future courts.

As a result, the Seventh Circuit’s Box decision will continue to guide courts, at least within that court’s jurisdiction, which includes Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. While other appellate courts will undoubtedly consider the Seventh Circuit’s opinion when faced with similar cases, it is possible that another court may reach a conflicting conclusion.  While the Supreme Court’s decision not to consider Box may signal some stability of same-sex rights, the door remains open for future challenges.

Janet Hendrick

Janet Hendrick is an experienced employment litigator who tackles each of her client’s problems with a tailored, results-oriented approach.

For more information on this article, please call 214.615.6391 or email Janet A. Hendrick.

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Phillips Murrah attorneys team up to win big at annual chili cook-off

Phillips Murrah chili team

Phillips Murrah’s chili cook-off team celebrates another successful year.

The new year signals a new race to claim a trophy at the annual Oklahoma County Bar Association Chili Cook-Off.

Phillips Murrah attorneys competed in teams against local law firms in OCBA’s Young Lawyers Division to show off their chili-making prowess Jan. 25 at Twisted Spike Brewing Co.

Representing Phillips Murrah were attorneys Hilary Hudson Clifton, Cody J. Cooper, C. Eric DavisTravis E. Harrison, Mark E. Hornbeek, Martin J. Lopez IIISamuel D. Newton, Morgen D. PottsAshley M. Schovanec, and Monica Y. Ybarra.

The competition formally kicks off the YLD’s year-long commitment to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, raising funds and awareness within the community to support the mission of the Regional Food Bank and the Oklahomans who rely on its services.

Attorneys Travis Harrison, Mark Hornbeek, and Ashley Schovanec

Attorneys Travis Harrison, Mark Hornbeek, and Ashley Schovanec get festive for the annual chili cook-off.

“This year’s chili cook-off was a huge success for the OCBA YLD and its year-round fundraising efforts for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma,” Clifton said. “It’s always a fun event with a great turn-out, and this year Phillips Murrah definitely showed up.”

Teams were judged in different categories including Best Overall, Traditional, Non-Traditional, and Hottest Chilis.

“In addition to having two serious chili contenders, Ashley Schovanec brought a smorgasbord of sides and toppings, Mark Hornbeek kept it festive with a light-up chile necklace, and we had an awesome turnout of other associates there wearing PM aprons and talking up our entries,” Clifton said. “It seems like our team gets bigger and more enthusiastic every year, which is awesome, because it’s a really fun event for a great cause.”

Potts won the Best Non-Traditional Chili category on behalf of Phillips Murrah’s teams at this year’s cook-off with her and her husband’s recipe which includes elk, deer, chorizo, coffee, molasses, and different types of peppers.

Attorney Morgen Potts and her husband John

Attorney Morgen Potts and her husband John hold their trophy for Best Non-Traditional Chili.

“The chili was inspired by all the hunting trips my husband and my brother-in-law take together,” Potts said. “The unique flavors of the different types of wild game combined with coffee and molasses always make their long days of hunting worth it.”

Phillips Murrah has had at least one team compete in the Chili Cook-Off each year since it first started more than ten years ago.

Cooper and Ybarra currently serve on OCBA’s Board of Directors.

For more information on the OCBA and the Young Lawyers Division, click here.

Phillips Murrah rowing team competes in 2018 Stars and Stripes River Festival

Law & Oarder, Phillips Murrah's rowing team, gets ready to practice before racing in the 2018 Stars and Stripes River Festival.

Law & Oarder, Phillips Murrah’s rowing team, gets ready to practice before racing in the 2018 Stars and Stripes River Festival.

Phillips Murrah’s rowing team Law & Oarder completed the Summer 2018 season and improved on the team’s competitive time from Fall’s rowing season.

The team competed on June 23 at the 2018 Stars and Stripes River Festival held at the OKC Boathouse District.

“I am super proud of Law & Oarder,” said Deena Baker, Legal Assistant and Law & Oarder team leader. “At the regatta we had a time of 1:58 in our heat race, which advanced us to the finals.

“Even though we didn’t medal in the finals, we made a great run for it and finished with a time of 2:03.  We aren’t disappointed with our efforts at all, and it just gives the team more determination than ever for the Fall season which starts in just a few weeks.”

In all eight seasons the Firm’s rowing team has competed, team members consisted of both attorneys and staff members.

“The rowing team has been a great way to spend time with my coworkers,” Attorney Mark E. Hornbeek said. “It is also exciting to see the amazing changes that have been made to the city’s riverfront in recent years.”

Journal Record and Oklahoman Best Places to Work of 2017

Phillips Murrah has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Oklahoma in 2017 by The Journal Record and an Oklahoma Top Work Place by The Oklahoman/Energage three years in a row. Our Firm strives to recognize and reward our employees for excellence.

The ins and outs of the Presidential impeachment process

It has been a Stormy few months for the current administration. With the headlines full of names like Robert Mueller, James Comey and Vladimir Putin, there has been plenty of speculation surrounding the possibility of Presidential impeachment. Talking heads love to throw the term around, but what is the impeachment process?

Mark E. Hornbeek

Mark E. Hornbeek represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

The Constitution doesn’t give much guidance into the impeachment process. The ability to bring impeachment charges against the president, the vice president or a public officer is given to the House of Representatives, which investigates public officials and then puts each impeachment charge to a simple majority vote. Afterward, the Senate has the ability to convict the accused by conducting a trial with a requirement of a two-thirds vote to remove the accused from office.

There are three grounds for impeachment, two of which are self-explanatory: bribery and treason. The third, high crimes and misdemeanors, is more akin to “covfefe,” in that it could mean practically anything. The framers chose this term in an attempt to clarify an earlier draft of the Constitution, which used the word “maladministration.” Perhaps there should have been a third draft for further explanation, as public officials have been impeached and convicted for offenses as diverse as perjury, tax evasion and even drunkenness. That last one seems particularly spiteful.

Simple incompetence generally doesn’t qualify as an impeachable offense, but even so, Congress has wide latitude to determine who deserves impeachment, and both parties have been accused of using the device as a political weapon.

Historically, a whopping 60 impeachment proceedings have been initiated by the House, but few have been successful. To date, only two presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives. In 1868, Andrew Johnson was impeached for violating federal law, followed 130 years later by Bill Clinton’s impeachment for obstruction of justice and perjury. Neither was convicted by the Senate.

Surprisingly, the worst perpetrators of high crimes and misdemeanors appear to be federal judges. A total of eight judges have been impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate. Three more judges have been impeached but, not liking their chances, resigned before the Senate could hold a vote.

If America does, indeed, have to endure another impeachment, Semisonic’s Closing Time would make an appropriate theme song for the proceedings: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

By Phillips Murrah Attorney Mark E. Hornbeek

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on March 29, 2018.

Mark E. Hornbeek is a litigation attorney at the law firm of Phillips Murrah in Oklahoma City.

Phillips Murrah welcomes new litigation attorney

Mark E. Hornbeek represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

Phillips Murrah is proud to welcome Mark E. Hornbeek to our Firm.

Phillips Murrah welcomed Mark to the Firm’s Litigation Practice Group as an associate attorney.

As a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma School of Law, Mark earned the American Jurisprudence Award for Civil Procedure I, Torts I and Criminal Law. He served as Symposium Editor of the Oklahoma Law Review, was a member of the Phi Delta Phi Legal Honor Society, the Board of Advocates, and the Student Bar Association Board of Governors.

Mark also received the Welcome D. Pierson Award for excellence in the fields of Evidence and Civil Procedure, the Gene and Jo Ann Sharp Award for his contributions to the Oklahoma Law Review, the William T. and James Comfort Scholarship, and was selected as a Dean’s Leadership Fellow.

In his role at Phillips Murrah, Mark represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.