First we must emphasize that this ruling does not deal with the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman. That decision is still pending before the court.
In this ruling, the court was to decide “whether the district court abused its discretion by ordering the unsealing of the video recording of the [Prop. 8] trial, which had purportedly been prepared by the trial judge for his in-chambers use only and was later placed in the record and sealed by him.”
A little background is needed to get the full picture. The judge presiding over the Prop. 8 trial was Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who decided he did not need to recuse himself from the trial, even though he was himself a homosexual and had been in a 10-year relationship with another man.
In direct violation of federal law, Judge Walker was adamant about broadcasting the trial for the general public. The issue was of major concern to traditional marriage supporters who were being targeted for violence and intimidation by some extremely radical homosexual activists for their support of Prop. 8. Even though Judge Walker’s shameful efforts were soundly repudiated by the U.S. Supreme Court, his actions still had the effect of intimidating witnesses that could have helped traditional marriage at trial.
Here is the way the Supreme Court repudiated Judge Walker’s activism:
The District Court [i.e., Judge Walker] attempted to change its rules at the eleventh hour to treat this case differently than other trials in the district. Not only did it ignore the federal statute that establishes the procedures by which its rules may be amended, its express purpose was to broadcast a high-profile trial that would include witness testimony about a contentious issue.
After his plans were thwarted, Judge Walker still decided he would tape the trial for his “personal” use. Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing in this opinion for the Ninth Circuit, said:
The trial judge [i.e., Judge Walker] on several occasions unequivocally promised that the recording of the trial would be used only in chambers and not publicly broadcast. He made these commitments because the Supreme Court had intervened in this very case in a manner that required him to do so.
But facts and law are no obstacle where there is the will to impose ideology. And so Judge Walker’s replacement after he retired, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware, broke the court’s promise and allowed the tapes to be released, including some footage that was released to Judge Walker himself as a parting gift for his retirement.
Think about that. Of all the cases Judge Walker presided over, this one was so special to him that he was sent away with some tapes of the trial so that he could talk about its significance and boast about his involvement on the “historic” event.
I hope the court takes a good look at that when it considers the question that everyone but the California court systems seems to know the answer to – whether Judge Walker should have recused himself from the trial.
Here is what the Ninth Circuit said about Judge Ware’s preposterous decision to release the videos:
In finding that the trial judge had not made a commitment to deny the public access to the recording, the district court [i.e., Judge Ware] abused its discretion: its finding was “without support in inferences that may be drawn from the facts in the record.”
The district court further abused its discretion by holding that the determinations made by the trial judge regarding the placement of the recording under seal did not bind a different judge presented with a motion to unseal – a conclusion that we regard as an “implausible” and “illogical” application of the law.
Yes, my esteemed reader, the Ninth Circuit says Judge Ware’s decision had no support in the evidence and his conclusion was implausible and illogical. Mmmm? He is a judge, so we can reasonably assume he is an intelligent man. So what could have possibly motivated him to ignore the law and evidence to rule in an illogical way?
Good news is, if you are a radical homosexual activist, Judge Ware is still the Chief U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California. So he could be the one “randomly” selected to rehear the Prop. 8 case if the Ninth Circuit decides to continue its pursuit of reason and rules that Judge Walker should have recused himself.
But for now, let us rejoice in the commonsense approach to this case. Reinhardt concluded:
The integrity of our judicial system depends in no small part on the ability of litigants and members of the public to rely on a judge’s word.
A novel idea, I know. But we’re making progress; this is the Ninth Circuit after all.