Ed Whelan on Vaughn Walker’s Continuing Defiance on Prop 8 Trial Recordings


Ed Whelan is the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He writes in NRO's Bench Memos:

One of the clear early signs of former district judge Vaughn Walker’s determined malfeasance in the anti-Prop 8 case was his resort to procedural shenanigans and outright illegality in furtherance of his fervent desire to broadcast the trial, in utter disregard of (if not affirmatively welcoming) the harassment and abuse that pro-Prop 8 witnesses would reasonably anticipate. Walker’s escapade was blocked by an extraordinary (and fully warranted) stay order by the Supreme Court in an opinion that was plainly a stinging rebuke of Walker’s lack of impartiality:

The District Court attempted to change its rules at the eleventh hour to treat this case differently than other trials in the district. Not only did it ignore the federal statute that establishes the procedures by which its rules may be amended, its express purpose was to broadcast a high-profile trial that would include witness testimony about a contentious issue. If courts are to require that others follow regular procedures, courts must do so as well.

Walker ended up recording the trial proceedings but, assuring Prop 8 proponents that he was doing so only for his own use in deciding the case, he ordered the video recording of the trial to be placed under seal.

But, believe it or not, Walker himself recently publicly displayed and broadcast a portion of the video recording—containing cross-examination of one of proponents’ witnesses—notwithstanding that he thereby violated his own order and his court’s local rules, contravened the policies of the Judicial Conference of the United States and of the Ninth Circuit, and thumbed his nose at the Supreme Court.

Related: NOM Responds to News Judge Walker Violated Judicial Rules, Released Video in Defiance of Supreme Court