Only 24 hours after hearing the Proposition 8 supporters' motion to disqualify former U.S. District Court Chief Judge Walker and invalidate his August 2010 ruling striking down Prop 8, Chief Judge James Ware of the federal district court in San Francisco today issued an inspiring defense of the integrity of judges everywhere. Judge Ware, who was appointed by President George H. W. Bush, ruled that Judge Walker had no reason to recuse himself from hearing the case just because he is gay and in a relationship. Judge Ware saw right through the smokescreen the defenders of Prop 8 had thrown up, holding that a decision that Judge Walker could not rule impartially "would come dangerously close to holding that minority judges must disqualify themselves from all major civil rights actions."
Judge Ware's ruling today was a well-deserved vindication for Judge Walker, who presided over the Prop 8 trial with integrity, balance and poise. He was scrupulously fair to both sides throughout the trial, permitting the defenders of Prop 8 to cross-examine witnesses at length and offer all the evidence they could muster in defense of the initiative--which turned out to be essentially nothing.
Echoing the arguments made by civil rights groups who had filed friend-of-the-court briefs on this issue, Judge Ware incisively stated the central problem with the Prop 8 supporters' challenge to Judge Walker. "In our society," Judge Ware explained, "a variety of citizens of different backgrounds coexist because we have constitutionally bound ourselves to protect the fundamental rights of one another from being violated by unlawful treatment. Thus, we all have an equal stake in a case that challenges the constitutionality of a restriction on a fundamental right."