No cameras for Prop 8 closing

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker gave no explanation late Wednesday for his decision to keep cameras out of the courtroom next week when he hears closing arguments in the landmark Proposition 8 trial.

Major news organizations submitted a joint request last month, asking to record the proceedings next Wednesday, and arguing that allowing the broadcast would “enhance the public’s ability to witness … this historic case.”

Walker himself had initially sought authorization to broadcast the proceedings—through delayed streaming on the web and through closed-circuit access in several federal courtrooms around the country. The broadcast was to be part of a pilot program being developed by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, for making courtroom proceedings more accessible to the public.

But before the trial got underway in January, the U.S. Supreme Court intervened and prohibited Walker from making a broadcast of the proceedings available anywhere outside a closed circuit feed in the federal courthouse in San Francisco during the trial.

The media organizations, in making their request last month, noted that the objections expressed in the Supreme Court intervention were no longer at issue. But Yes on 8 lead attorney Charles Cooper objected to broadcast of closing arguments, and on June 9. Walker issued a terse denial.

“No further request to include the case in the pilot program is contemplated,” said the judge. “The media coalition’s request is therefore denied.”

But attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, who are leading the team that is challenging California’s same-sex marriage ban, delivered a preview of their closing argument in a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

Boies said witnesses for Yes on 8 not only failed to identify a legitimate need to bar gay couples from marriage, they contradicted themselves repeatedly during the three-week-long trial.

And Olson said the Proposition 8 case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, shares much in common with the historic Loving v. Virginia case of the 1960s. In that case, an interracial couple challenged laws barring white people from marrying non-whites.

Olson said his opponents in the Proposition 8 case “make essentially the same argument.” And he noted a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court struck down those laws.

Olson also commented on Judge Walker’s list of 39 questions for closing argument, said they were very much typical of Walker.

“He’s very much involved in the case, and he’s done his homework,” said Olson.

Like other attorneys watching the case, Olson suggested Walker’s list of questions indicates he’s probably already done a draft of his decision. Olson said he believes Walker could render a decision “within weeks” of closing arguments adjournment.

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