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Calls for Legislature to Impeach Controversial Judge

Critics are calling for the impeachment of a controversial Utah judge. Credit: Serggn/
Critics are calling for the impeachment of a controversial Utah judge. Credit: Serggn/
November 17, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY – A movement is gaining steam to oust a Utah judge who sparked a national controversy when he ordered an infant to be removed from her foster parents' home last week – because the foster parents are lesbians.

Judge Scott Johansen has since reversed his decision, but the government watchdog group Alliance for a Better Utah called on the Utah House of Representatives on Monday to initiate impeachment proceedings against him.

Josh Kanter with the Alliance calls Johansen's conduct unbecoming of a judicial officer.

"He seems to have his own brand of justice," says Kanter. "If he wants to be 'Judge Judy,' he should have a reality TV show and not be a judge in the state of Utah."

The Alliance for a Better Utah also started an online petition this week that has drawn more than 150 signatures so far, calling on the Legislature to act.

Judge Johanson has declined comment.

Meanwhile, a hearing is set for Dec. 4 on the case of the married same-sex foster parents who have said they want to adopt the baby girl.

Kanter says this isn't the judge's first brush with controversy. He was reprimanded in 1997 for slapping a 16-year-old boy, and has been criticized for ordering a mother to cut off her daughter's ponytail and threatening to remove children from a mother who was home-schooling them.

"If you're in front of the judge, you have a 'three strike' rule," he says. "There's no such thing on the other side. This is strike four for him. We feel like impeachment is the appropriate measure at this point for this judge."

An LGBT group, the Human Rights Campaign, is urging residents to write to the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission about Judge Johanson, who was appointed by then-Governor Norman Bangerter in 1992 and won't be up for a retention vote until 2020.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - UT