Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Backers of Prop 8 Seek To Have Ruling Invalidating It Vacated Because of Judge's Same-Sex Relationship

In Perry v. Brown, the California federal court challenge to the constitutionality of Proposition 8-- California's ban on same-sex marriage-- defendant-intervenors yesterday filed a motion (full text) to vacate the decision handed down by federal district judge Vaughn Walker last summer. Walker held that the state ban violates the U.S. Constitution. (See prior posting.)  The new motion argues:
The district judge who issued this judgment, retired Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, has now disclosed to the press on April 6, 2011, that he is gay and that he has been in a committed relationship for more than 10 years....The published reports of former Chief Judge Walker’s statements to the press note that he had heretofore refused to comment on these issues when asked by the press.... The published reports do not address the question whether former Chief Judge Walker and his partner have, or have had, any interest in marriage should the injunction he issued be upheld on appeal.
Given that Chief Judge Walker was in a committed, long-term, same-sex relationship throughout this case (and for many years before the case commenced), it is clear that his “impartiality might reasonably [have been] questioned” from the outset. 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). He therefore had, at a minimum, a waivable conflict and was obligated either to recuse himself or to provide “full disclosure on the record of the basis for disqualification,” id, § 445(e), so that the parties could consider and decide, before the case proceeded further, whether to request his recusal.
AP reports on these developments.