Judge Denies Motion to Vacate Prop. 8 Ruling

Chief Judge James Ware of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has denied a motion to vacate Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling overturning California’s gay marriage ban Proposition 8, saying that Vaughn Walker having since revealed he was in a same-sex relationship at the time of the trial is not reason enough to presume his impartiality was compromised.

Lawyers supporting Proposition 8 argued that Walker had a vested interest in the outcome of the trial and should have recused himself.

In his ruling Ware refutes this saying that Walker has no greater interest in upholding a basic principle of constitutional fairness than any other member of the public, and where he could have stood to gain by overturning the ban and eventually marrying his partner, he has at no point stated an intent to marry, and there was no proof offered by the defense that he desired to do so, and as such a presumptive benefit is too speculative to warrant the ruling being vacated or disqualified.

“After considering the Oppositions to the Motion and the governing law, as discussed below, the Court finds that neither recusal nor disqualification was required based on the asserted grounds,” Ware writes.

“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 under Section 455(b)(4). Further, under Section 455(a), it is not reasonable to presume that a judge is incapable of making an impartial decision about the constitutionality of a law, solely because, as a citizen, the judge could be affected by the proceedings. Accordingly, the Motion to Vacate Judgment on the sole ground of Judge Walker’s same-sex relationship is DENIED.”

The legal opinion contained a few pointed responses to the defendant-intervenor’s arguments, including this: “Finally, the presumption that “all people in same-sex relationships think alike” is an unreasonable presumption, and one which has no place in legal reasoning.”

Ware appears particularly critical of this line of reasoning, going on to say: “The presumption that Judge Walker, by virtue of being in a same-sex relationship, had a desire to be married that rendered him incapable of making an impartial decision, is as warrantless as the presumption that a female judge is incapable of being impartial in a case in which women seek legal relief. On the contrary: it is reasonable to presume that a female judge or a judge in a same-sex relationship is capable of rising above any personal predisposition and deciding such a case on the merits.
“The Motion fails to cite any evidence that Judge Walker would be incapable of being impartial, but to presume that Judge Walker was incapable of being impartial, without concrete evidence to support that presumption, is inconsistent with what is required under a reasonableness standard.”

Ware said that this standard, if it were to be applied uniformly, placed an “unfair burden” on minority judges who would have to be necessarily disqualified from a host of cases.

Perhaps most interesting was Ware’s strong objection to the defendant-intervenor’s contention that a judge is duty-bound to disclose any and all qualities or experiences that may be even remotely relevant to the trial. Ware writes in his ruling: “It is clear that fostering the practice of commencing a judicial proceeding with an extensive exploration into the history and psyche of the presiding judge would produce the spurious appearance that irrelevant personal information could impact the judge’s decision-making, which would be harmful to the integrity of the courts.”

To read the ruling in full, please click here.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to angela n.

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Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Randall S.
Randy Stein4 years ago

Always amused when women b&tch & moan about things like this, wanting the vote of the majority to be the law of the land. And TOTALLY ignoring the fact that if the majority had had voted on it then women would NEVER have gotten the right to vote. Let alone any of the rights they had gotten since then, despite the Republican's opposition. And some have NO problem dragging the Bible into the argument---once again ignoring all the things mentioned in the Bible about the "proper place" for females.

Irene P.
Irene P.4 years ago

It is a right for anyone and should be for gays across the world...Come on CA, get with it!

Scott H.
Scott H.4 years ago

Marriage is a Human Right. From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, December 10, 1948:

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Duncan O'neil
Duncan O'neil4 years ago

First of all Nothing in the US Constitution applies. Prop * is a state issue.

What about Prop * is unconstitutional in accordance to the constitution of the state of California?

Original Message:

Janice left a comment on the following article:

Judge Denies Motion to Vacate Prop. 8 Ruling
Cathleen S you need to go back to school and learn the history of your country. The courts are there to make sure that all people are fairly treated under the law. If the laws the congress makes are unconstitutional, if the majority are unconstitutionally repressing a minority, the court is there to take action to alleviate unfairness. Article lll section 2 of the constitution sets this up.

Duncan O'neil
Duncan O'neil4 years ago

Why do you advocate a portion of the people be prevented from exercising their rights as citizens?

Original Message:

Rosemary left a comment on the following article:

Judge Denies Motion to Vacate Prop. 8 Ruling
Dear Cathleen, religious opinion should have no place in Politics and that is what prop 8 was all about and it was heavily financed by the LDS and Catholic church etc and they should lose their non profit status for meddling with politics.

Bobbie T.
Bobbie T.4 years ago

Bruce S...the 'will of the people' has nothing to do with the law. Numbers may count at the ballot box when it comes to who reps. you but the application of the constitution is not up for majority rule. Cicil rights must be equally enforced. And religion CAN NOT play a part. That includes your homophobic attitudes, along with any other bigoted attitudes you may have. A 'church' may have it's theological reasons for it's possition about gays, but the states May Not pass legislation based on bigotry or religion.

John T.
John T.4 years ago

@ Cathleen S.: Anytime Bigotry receives a popular vote, it only magnifies the ignorance of the people who proposed it. Maybe it justs brings in to clarity the fact the only 13% of High School graduates even know American history.
These same people, and apparently many Californians are among them, don't really know their Constitution.

"It is tragic that the 'whiners' that don't like the way REPEATED elections turn out, keep tying the courts up, costing the taxpayers huge amounts of money for these trials and appeals,"

What is tragic is how easily some people can be fooled into thinking they can pass a law/prop. that denies rights, and believe that law won't be challenged and thrown out. You people wasted God knows how much money on petitions, ballots, and court costs on what any 1st year law student could have told was a lost cause.
Just MAYBE you'll think twice before opening your pocket book to further bigotry in your state.

John T.
John T.4 years ago

Uh, Bruce; you're quoting the Declaration, not the Constitution. They were a few years apart, IIRC. Maybe that confused you. ;-)

Drusilla P.
Drusilla P.4 years ago

Those who are trying to defend Prop8 are really desperate. If a court had agreed to say that the private life of a judge was relevant to refuse a ruling, that would have opened a kind of Pandora's Legal Box...

Thanks for the post.