Prop 8 judge sends in the tapes, asks to be excused from court

Former U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker doesn’t want to appear in court next month, when his successor tackles the question of whether Walker’s 10-year relationship with a man should be cause for vacating Walker’s decision to strike down Proposition 8.

Current U.S. District Court Chief Judge James Ware ordered Walker to appear in the San Francisco federal court June 13, to answer why he shouldn’t be required to turn over videotapes of last year’s historic trial challenging California’s ban on same-sex marriages.

But, with a May 12 letter from his attorneys, Walker returned his “chambers copy” of the video recordings “for the purpose of the court’s consideration” of a motion from Yes on 8 attorneys seeking to force return of the videotapes and have them sequestered from public view.

Walker’s attorneys said, however, in returning the tapes, that the recordings should be considered part of Judge Walker’s “chambers papers.” Such papers, they argued, quoting from A Guide to the Preservation of Federal Judges’ Papers, “remain the private property of that judge, the judge’s heirs, and it is the prerogative of the judge or the judge’s heirs to determine the disposition of those papers.”

“Having [returned] his chambers copy of the video recordings and as a non-party to these proceedings,” said the letter, “it appears that Walker has satisfied the April 28 order” from Judge Ware. They, then, requested Ware relieve Walker of order to appear in court June 13.

As of Tuesday, May 17, Judge Ware had not indicated whether Walker would be relieved of the order to appear.

Though there are three motions pending at the district court level in the Proposition 8 case, Ware will hear arguments June 13 on only two. One motion, from Yes on 8, seeks to vacate Walker’s August 2010 decision that Proposition 8 violates the federal constitution. Yes on 8 argues that, because Walker recently revealed he has been in a 10-year relationship with a man, he had an “interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.” Such an interest is identified in the U.S. Code governing “Judiciary and Judicial Procedure” as a reason for a judge to recuse himself or herself from a case. LGBT legal activists and others say the effort is a long shot with little chance of succeeding. California Governor Jerry Brown and the state’s Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a brief against the motion.

The second motion is Yes on 8’s motion to sequester video tapes of the three-week-long trial on Proposition 8. This motion, too, seems a long shot, given that Yes on 8 does not identify any injury done by use of the video tapes and a transcript of the trial proceedings is already public record.

A third motion, from attorneys challenging Proposition 8, asks the court to release the video tapes immediately. Ware has said he will consider this third motion after deciding the first two.

One Response to Prop 8 judge sends in the tapes, asks to be excused from court

  1. John says:

    Walker. Poor guy. I bet he’s thankful to be retired. On this very issue see Bats, Balls, Bigots and Bullies at open

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