SALEM — A devout Christian — who served as a Marion County circuit judge since 2011 until he was suspended last March for three years from that position — learned Oct. 23 that he is no longer facing criminal charges.
But in separate news, also from last month, Vance Day of Salem also learned he would get no help from the nation’s highest court in any attempt to return to the bench.
As reported by The Oregonian, Day, 57, who had not been hearing cases since 2016, was to face a criminal trial last month in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Portland. Day was arraigned in November 2016 on felony and misdemeanor accusations that he provided a gun to a felon on two occasions and used his position to obtain a benefit in 2013 and 2014. Day staunchly denies he committed any crimes.
But on Oct. 23, Senior Circuit Judge Julie Franz dismissed all criminal charges against Day because a key witness — Brian Shehan, the felon and former Navy Seal who had held the gun and who was in Day’s Veterans Treatment Court program — wasn’t willing to take part in the trial. That means Day’s criminal troubles are behind him because the statute of limitations has passed for refiling charges against him.
Mike De Muniz and Steve Sherlag, Day’s defense attorneys, said they were gratified the case was dismissed, but added their dismay that it took nearly two years and “an incredible waste” of public funds.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from Day regarding his suspension from work. The High Court justices on Oct. 9 opted not to intervene, thus the suspension remains.
Day’s case was considered just before Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as the court’s ninth justice. Cases must get at least four votes from justices to be accepted.
Day was suspended by the Oregon Supreme Court for what that court termed misconduct and false statements. Day had argued he was singled out for his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Among several determinations by the Oregon court was that Day acted with prejudice against same-sex couples by deciding he wouldn’t marry them and had instructed his staff to employ a scheme to keep the public unaware of his plan.
In issuing the suspension March 15, the court rejected a state Judicial Fitness Commission recommendation from two years ago that his judgeship be terminated. While Day was heartened that recommendation was not followed, he nevertheless expressed sadness over the suspension.
Day is not being paid for the remainder of his term, set to expire later this year. He also is not allowed to run for re-election during the suspension. But in a lengthy interview with The Oregonian, Day said he has no aspirations to ever work as a judge again. He still faces a fight before the Oregon State Bar, which is investigating him and has the potential to strip him of his law license for life. For now, he is working part-time as a business consultant.
Day said his $1.2 million in legal fees forced him and his wife to sell their longtime home as well as another property. They currently are in a friend’s guest house.
But he also is grateful that nearly 20,000 people nationally have donated roughly $2 million toward his legal defense, with $558,000 thus far going to legal fees.