The federal judge whose recent rulings on a Kentucky same-sex marriage lawsuit made national headlines plans to take senior status.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II last month informed President Obama that he’ll move to senior judge status on April 1, according to the U.S. District Clerk’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky.
Last month, Heyburn ruled that Kentucky’s 2004 same-sex marriage ban violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment o the U.S. Constitution. He ordered that Kentucky must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, the issue at the center of the lawsuit, Bourke v. Beshear. Heyburn later issued a stay on the order until March 20.
On Tuesday, Gov. Steve Beshear announced that he’d appeal Heyburn’s decision and will seek a stay for the duration of the appeal process. Beshear will use outside counsel after Attorney General Jack Conway announced that he would not appeal.
Senior judges “essentially” do volunteer service for the courts and handle about 15 percent of the federal court’s workload each year, according to the U.S. court system.
Heyburn’s decision to take senior judge status was first reported in The Courier-Journal.
For the past two-and-a-half years, Heyburn has received successful treatments for metatastic rectal cancer, the news release said. In a statement, he said his decision to take senior status was “completely unrelated to any health issues” and has continued to take a full docket plus chairmanship of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.
Heyburn assumed the federal judgeship in 1992. He was appointed by President George H.W. Bush on the recommendation of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
Heyburn will continue to handle cases as a senior judge, and he’ll keep his current caseload, the news release said.
“I enjoy my work and intend to continue with a full caseload for the foreseeable future,” Heyburn said in the statement.