Judge Walker to retire next year

The federal district court judge who earlier this year presided over the landmark trial challenging the constitutionality of California’s same-sex marriage ban announced Wednesday that he will retire in February.

Judge Vaughn Walker, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Northern California, sent a letter to President Obama September 29 announcing his plan. Walker is 66.

Walker was hailed by many and derided by others in August when he issued his opinion in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, declaring Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional.

A press release from the court indicated that Walker will step down as chief judge of the court on December 31 and will “leave the court” in February 2011 to “return to the private sector.”

Walker was first nominated to the bench by President Reagan but his nomination stalled in the Democratic-led Senate, largely due to opponents who considered him too conservative and even hostile to the civil rights of gays. He was later re-nominated to the bench by President George H.W. Busch and confirmed in 1989.

As of February 5, Walker, 66, will have served as a district court judge for 21 years.

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