A federal judge in San Francisco who will take up the issue next week of whether to unseal tapes of the Proposition 8 trial has himself notified attorneys that he would like to record the hearing.
U.S. District Chief Judge James Ware notified lawyers on Monday that he would like to record the Aug. 29 hearing where he will consider whether to unseal footage of last year’s trial on the constitutionality of the ban, known as Proposition 8.
Judge Vaughn Walker who presided over the original Proposition 8 trial recorded trial proceedings and intended to make them available on YouTube. However, the United States Supreme Court issued an order preventing Walker from broadcasting said tapes outside of the federal court viewing areas.
Attorneys acting on behalf of the Plaintiffs, those wanting to overturn Proposition 8, have argued that the tapes — which show expert witness testimony and touch on matters of the history and social context of homosexuality and the scientific basis for homosexuality being naturally occurring — is of public interest and therefore the tapes should be unsealed. Those defending Proposition 8 in court say that broadcasting those tapes could put their witnesses in danger of harassment and potential violence from the gay rights lobby.
Walker, now retired, later angered Prop. 8 defenders further by showing a three minute clip of the trial during a speaking engagement. Prop. 8 supporters have demanded that the tapes be returned. They also moved to have Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling overturning Proposition 8 vacated, saying the fact that Walker was in a gay relationship at the time means his ruling is biased.
Earlier this year Judge James Ware denied the motion to vacate saying that it called for an unreasonable and unprecedented intrusion into the minutia of judges’ lives. Prop. 8 Defenders are appealing that decision. Faced with the question of whether Walker should return the trial tapes, Ware indicated that he was unlikely to call for Walker to relinquish them given that he was the one to have presented them to Walker upon his retiring from the bench. Judge Ware’s decision to record proceedings will no doubt further rile Proposition 8′s defenders.
The next stage in the Proposition 8 case itself is scheduled for September 6 when when the Supreme Court of California will hear arguments on whether Prop. 8 supporters have legal standing under state law to appeal California’s gay marriage ban being overturned. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, with whom the case currently rests, asked the California supreme court to intervene when it became apparent that those defending Proposition 8 may lack standing under federal law. You can read more about that here.
Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to angela n.