Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Federal Court Says Judge Did Not Need To Recuse Himself In Proposition 8 Case

Yesterday, California federal district judge James Ware held, in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, (ND CA, June 14, 2011), that now-retired federal judge Vaughn Walker did not act improperly in failing to recuse or disqualify himself from deciding a challenge to California's Proposition 8. That state constitutional amendment barred same-sex marriage in the state, and Judge Walker's decision found Proposition 8 to be inconsistent with the federal constitution. (See prior posting.) Judge Walker was involved in a same-sex relationship at the time he heard and decided the case. However in yesterday's decision, Judge Ware held:
The sole fact that a federal judge shares the same circumstances or personal characteristics with other members of the general public, and that the judge could be affected by the outcome of a proceeding in the same way that other members of the general public would be affected, is not a basis for either recusal or disqualification.
The New York Times reports on yesterday's decision.

Also yesterday in a separate opinion in the case (full text), Judge Ware found no reason to require the parties in the case to return to the court video copies of the trial proceedings that had been given to them. He also set an August 29 hearing date on a motion to lift the protective order that bars public disclosure of the trial videos.

UPDATE: AP reports that backers of Proposition 8 will appeal Judge Ware's decision that refused to disqualify Judge Walker.