- Jun 2009
Prop. 8 backers want trial videos withheld
Same-sex marriage foes accusing a federal judge of illegally showing courtroom videos drew a sharp retort Friday from gay-rights advocates, who said their legal adversaries are trying to hide the record of a trial they lost.
Backers of Proposition 8 want to "forever conceal from the American people ... the actual compelling evidence which demonstrated the unconstitutionality" of the 2008 ballot measure, which banned same-sex marriage in California, lawyers for two couples told the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
They asked the court to exonerate former Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker and let the public see the videos of the 12-day trial he conducted in January 2010. The same court is reviewing Walker's ruling in August that found Prop. 8 unconstitutional.
On Wednesday, Prop. 8's sponsors told the court that Walker violated court rules and defied a U.S. Supreme Court decision by playing a three-minute excerpt of the videos in a Feb. 18 speech at Arizona State University, 10 days before he retired from the bench.
The excerpt showed a witness for Prop. 8's sponsors, political science Professor Kenneth Miller, being questioned about laws that discriminated against gays and lesbians. Walker used the video in a talk advocating cameras in the court.
The sponsors asked the court to retrieve the videos from Walker and from lawyers for the couples, who are plaintiffs in the case.
Walker, who now heads a San Francisco law office specializing in mediation, sent a letter to the court Thursday noting that the trial had been a public event but saying he would comply with any court order to dispose of the videos.
Federal court rules prohibit televising trials, but the Ninth Circuit established a pilot program in December 2009 allowing cameras in nonjury civil trials. Walker then approved telecasting the Prop. 8 trial on closed-circuit to other federal courts, and taping the proceedings for Internet posting on YouTube.
But the Supreme Court intervened at the request of Prop. 8's sponsors, a group called Protect Marriage, which said cameras would intimidate its witnesses.
The judge continued videotaping the trial, over the objections of Protect Marriage, and made the videos available to both sides for closing arguments. He told the appeals court Thursday he had asked his staff to download the recordings for his records when he left office, and has played brief excerpts in two speeches and a lecture to his UC Berkeley law class.
Lawyers for Protect Marriage said the Arizona speech, later telecast on C-SPAN, violated both the Supreme Court's decree and Walker's mid-trial promise that he would use the videos to help him prepare his ruling, and not for public broadcasting.
In Friday's filing, the couples' lawyers said Walker had not violated the Supreme Court's order, which barred only televising during the trial, and that he is using the videos to educate the public about the legal system.
"Public trials are a cornerstone of our democracy," plaintiffs' lawyer Theodore Olson told the appeals court. "There was no reason to keep the video of this trial under the cover of darkness in the first place."
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/04/15/BA4V1J1SUU.DTL#ixzz1JjB8bosi