Kate Kendell

Historic Prop 8 Ruling Rejects Effort to Disqualify Judge Walker

Filed By Kate Kendell | June 14, 2011 7:15 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: California, Judge James Ware, Judge Walker, marriage equality, Prop 8, same-sex marriage

gay-wedding.jpgOnly 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."

As Judge Ware recognized, no judge has more of an interest that any other judge in these broad constitutional values, and to decide otherwise would mean that minority judges would automatically be disqualified from ruling on a vast array of cases affecting important civil rights.

One of the legal tests that applied to the motion asks whether a "reasonable person" would question whether a judge was impartial. Here again, Judge Ware knocked it out of the park:

"A well-informed, thoughtful observer would recognize that the mere fact that a judge is in a relationship with another person-whether of the same or the opposite sex-does not ipso facto imply that the judge must be so interested in marrying that person that he would be unable to exhibit the impartiality which, it is presumed, all federal judges maintain. To assume otherwise is to engage in speculation about a judge's motives and desires on the basis of an unsubstantiated suspicion that the judge is personally biased or prejudiced."

This is a victory for common sense. It is gratifying to see such a strong reaffirmation, from yet another Republican-appointed judge, that sexual orientation has no bearing on anyone's ability to do their job, including a federal judge.


Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Well, whattaya know! Two judges with common sense on the federal bench who were appointed by Republicans? Miracles do happen.

Amen to your final sentence Kate.