The California Report’s Scott Shafer tweeted live today from the Proposition 8 hearing at the U.S. District Court for Northern California. The issue before Chief Judge James Ware: Should Vaughn Walker, the judge’s predecessor, have disclosed his long-term same-sex relationship before he adjudicated the Proposition 8 case because of potential bias?
Update 1 p.m. KQED’s Joshua Johnson debriefed Scott Shafer mid-way through the proceedings, after the attorneys for Proposition 8 had made their case. Shafer reports that the Prop 8 attorneys asserted that their motion to vacate does not relate to Judge Walker’s sexual orientation, but rather to his being in a long-term same-sex relationship, which they contend he should have disclosed. Judge Ware then questioned Prop 8 attorney Charles Cooper on whether or not being in a long term relationship meant you necessarily wanted to get married.
The judge, Shafer reports, really homed in on the question of whether sexual orientation is equivalent to race or gender when it comes to issues of judicial bias. Can a black judge or female judge rule impartially on race or sexual assault issues, he asked. At one point, the judge queried Prop 8 attorneys as to whether a female judge who’d been raped would have to disclose that in a case concerning sexual assault. “That was a tough question for Charles Cooper (Prop 8 attorney) to answer,” Shafer reports.
You can also listen to Scott Shafer’s NPR report from before the hearing. Here is the motion to vacate filed by Prop 8 lawyers. The argument against Judge Walker starts on page 9. Shafer reported on his Proposition 8 blog Friday that the motion is unlikely to succeed, at least according to the legal experts he spoke with:
Most legal experts I’ve talked to doubt the motion has much merit. First, it’s very late. These kinds of challenges need to be immediate — like during the trial. Second, this is like saying a black judge can’t fairly rule on civil rights cases, or female jurists cannot be impartial about gender equity issues. The very premise of our legal system is that justice is blind — that judges set aside their own perspective (as women, minorities, or presumably gay and lesbian judges) and rule based on the law.
You can read about the arguments anti-Prop 8 attorney Ted Boutros made in the second half of the hearing in Scott Shafer’s tweets below: