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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Judge Sued for Jailing TG Man over Marriage Licenses

[AKRON] - A transsexual man has filed a federal civil rights suit against a judge who had him arrested for allegedly falsifying the gender on his marriage license applications.

Sean M. Brookings, 56, of Springfield Township, filed a federal civil rights suit against Stark County Probate Judge R.R. Denny Clunk for wrongful arrest, detention, invasion of privacy, and malicious prosecution without cause.

The suit stems from Brookings' arrest on February 6, 2001 after Clunk accused him of misstating his gender on three marriage license applications in 1988, 1990, and 1994. Another judge later dismissed all the charges.

Clunk had granted all three licenses, allowing the post-operative female-to-male transsexual to marry women.

The suit was filed October 25 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, which is located in Akron. Also named in it are Barberton attorney Vincent Alfera, Leslie McKinney of Tallmadge, and three Stark County sheriff's employees.

Clunk learned that Brookings was transsexual in 2000 as the result of a Summit County probate court battle over the will of his most recent wife, Lois McKinney, who died that year.

Alfera represented Leslie McKinney, who is Lois' son, in the probate matter. The estate's only asset is the mobile home that Brookings and Lois McKinney lived in, and where Brookings continued to live. It is the center of the probate case.

"It makes me sick to think that thing is living in my parents' home," Leslie McKinney told the Akron Beacon Journal on April 1, 2001.

The newspaper also quoted Clunk, "Every now and then, one [of these transsexual marriages] gets by because there's so many of these surgeries going on."

Clunk wrote the landmark 1987 In Re Ladrach opinion denying a marriage license to a post-operative male to female transsexual and a male, saying Ohio law only recognizes a person's gender at birth.

On May 4, 2001, Alfera sent a letter to Clunk and Stark County Prosecutor Robert Horowitz which ended, "I urge you to bring charges against Sharon M. Perry/Sean Brookings. Otherwise, this individual will not hesitate to continue frauding [sic] probate courts by making future marriage applications, for same sex marriages that are illegal in the state of Ohio."

The prosecution ended when Brookings' attorney Randi Barnabee, who is also transgendered, moved to dismiss the charges, saying the statute of limitations had run out five years earlier for the most recent license.

Canton Municipal Court Judge John Poulos agreed April 3, and dismissed the case without hearing evidence.

According to Barnabee, the suit's defendants are listed in the order of their culpability. Clunk is listed first, followed by the county, then Alfera, then McKinney, then the three sheriff's employees who will be named once it is determined through discovery who they are.

They are alleged to have invaded Brookings' privacy when, following arrest, Brookings was sent to the Stark County jail for processing. Springfield Township and Canton police told the jail that Brookings was transsexual and needed to be segregated for his protection.

According to the complaint, two jailers, one male, one female, made Brookings pull down his pants so they could look at his genitals.

But the bulk of the complaint centers around the conduct of Clunk and Alfera as attorneys and officers of the court. Brookings alleges that the two violated numerous ethical canons and disciplinary rules.

The suit calls it "inconceivable" that Clunk didn't know the statute of limitations had long ago run out, but he used his influence as a judge to get the city of Canton to prosecute the case anyway.

Clunk may be personally liable for any award to Brookings, because he made the falsification complaints as a private citizen, not as a judge.

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