NEWPORT, Tenn. – An East Tennessee magistrate has been replaced months after ordering a baby’s name changed from Messiah to Martin because she believes Messiah is a title held only by Jesus Christ.
Lu Ann Ballew (pictured) was a child support magistrate, serving at the pleasure of the chief judge of Tennessee’s fourth judicial district. Judge Duane Slone terminated Ballew on Friday and appointed a new magistrate. He did not return calls seeking comment, and his order does not explain why he ended Ballew’s appointment.
Ballew, an attorney, still faces a March 3 hearing on accusations that her order to change Messiah’s name violated Tennessee’s Code of Judicial Conduct. Among other things, the code requires judges to perform all duties without bias or prejudice based on religion.
In a response to the Board of Judicial Conduct, Ballew has denied that her ruling was a violation.
The name change happened in August, when Jalessa Martin and Jawaan McCullough appeared before Ballew at a child support hearing in Newport about their 7-month-old son Messiah Martin. As part of the hearing, the father requested the baby’s last name be changed to McCullough.