Debra Saunders: Prop. 8 Tapes Show Judicial Hubris


Syndicated columnist Debra Saunders in the Orange County Register:

At first blush, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware's decision to unseal videos of the federal trial challenging Proposition 8 would seem to be a victory for truth, justice and open government. But you can't always tell a video by its jacket.

... Let's say you believe in broadcasting trials purely on principle. In that case, Prop. 8 would be the last case you would propose for the debut of witness testimony.

Opponents argue that recording trials could lead to retaliation against witnesses – which most judges don't want to happen. That already has occurred with Prop. 8. After their names were made public, a small number of donors were forced to resign from their jobs. Clearly, would-be Yes on 8 witnesses had reason to fear that they would be harassed.

On the close coordination between Judges Walker and Ware:

... After Walker ruled against Prop. 8, he sealed the videos pending appeal. Later, however, Walker broadcast part of the recordings at a speech that was aired on C-SPAN – which led to the controversy that led to Ware's ruling.

And how did Walker get the sealed evidence? As the San Jose Mercury News reported, Ware admitted that he himself gave Walker the recordings. It shows the arrogance of this district that its present and former chief judge treated sealed evidence like a trophy.

... Ware treated the recordings as spoils that rightfully belong to the victor. Then he issued a ruling that found he was right to do so. In the cause of transparency. Otherwise known as hubris.