His wife has worked for the American Civil Liberties Union and until just recently, was one of the most vocal opponents of Proposition 8 in the country, but hey, this is CALIFORNIA justice talking here. Judge Stephen Reinhardt, the most liberal judge on the liberal, wacky and most-often reversed-by the-Supreme-Court appellate court in the country says hell no, he will not recuse himself from hearing the appeal on trial for the California Proposition 8 constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage. He says he can be fair, because…..he says so.
He even has 1970s liberal hair.
Judge Reinhardt basically stuck his thumb in the eye of the Proposition 8 legal team, refusing to step down from the case. This was headstrong on the judge’s part and shows once again how out of control our radical judiciary is. Let’s repeat: The judge’s wife is a radical gay activist who has been front-and-center on the gay marriage issue nationwide, until ONLY JUST RECENTLY retiring her post. The idea that this judge and his wife are objective about this issue is simply not believable. Nonetheless, the Proposition 8 legal team soldiers on. What choice do they have?
The make-up of this 3-judge appeals panel is critical, because there is a motion to find that the Proposition 8 groups have NO STANDING to appeal their trial decision. This is because attorney general Jerry Brown in California (the governor-elect) has REFUSED to do his job under the state constitution. Brown refused to defend Proposition 8 because he personally supports gay marriage. Never mind that Brown is SWORN TO UPHOLD the State constitution as attorney general. This is California, remember?
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also refused to put his name as the defender of Proposition 8 because he also kowtows to the gay lobby. The governor is also SWORN TO UPHOLD the state constitution but won’t do so.
(sidebar: California is also the state where “sanctuary cities” like San Francisco and Los Angeles refuse to identify and deport illegal aliens even if the illegals are repeat violent offenders or murders. Do I need to remind you what all these California liberals would say if it were a Republican governor or attorney general choosing to enforce these laws?? This is California, remember?)
So it is very important who judges this appeal. If there is a decision that the Proposition 8 groups who have hired their own attorneys to handle the case in court don’t have legal standing to appeal, this case could technically be over and gay marriage could be the law in California. The question is, if the Prop 8 groups don’t have standing NOW ….why was the trial allowed to proceed in federal court BEFORE?
“I will be able to rule impartially in this appeal, and I will do so,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in a brief order filed just after 7 a.m. today. He said he would elaborate in a subsequent memorandum.
Sponsors of Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, asked Reinhardt on Wednesday evening to remove himself from the three-judge panel that will consider the constitutionality of the measure Monday.
They said his “impartiality might reasonably be questioned” because his wife, Ramona Ripston, is an outspoken opponent of Prop. 8 and was executive director of the ACLU of Southern California until her recent retirement. The ACLU is not a party in the lawsuit seeking to overturn Prop. 8, but it did file arguments with a federal judge opposing the measure.
The measure’s sponsors, a group called Protect Marriage, said today they would accept Reinhardt’s decision and focus on the legal issues in the case.
“With court precedent and the will of a strong majority of Americans on our side, we are confident that Proposition 8 and the institution of marriage will ultimately prevail,” said Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for Protect Marriage.
The group’s only recourse in the Ninth Circuit would have been a request that Reinhardt reconsider his refusal, said court spokesman David Madden. They could also raise the issue in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the appeals court does not uphold Prop. 8.
Under federal law and court rules, federal judges must disqualify themselves whenever a reasonable person might question their impartiality, or when the judge, a spouse or a close relative has a stake in the case.
In Wednesday’s disqualification motion, Protect Marriage argued that Ripston has “an avowed interest in seeing Proposition 8 invalidated.”
They cited an article in California Lawyer magazine that said an attorney for the plaintiffs who sued to overturn Prop. 8 had consulted Ripston and other advocates before going to court. They also quoted Ripston as saying, after a federal judge overturned Prop. 8 in August, that “it’s a long road ahead until final victory.”
In today’s order, Reinhardt noted that he had disqualified himself from past cases in which the Southern California ACLU represented one of the parties – for example, a suit challenging Proposition 209, the 1996 California measure that prohibited race and sex preferences in state and local government programs.
In this case, Reinhardt said, a reasonable person who knew all the facts would not question his impartiality.
If the judge’s wife does not “have a stake” in the outcome, is it simply because she recently retired from her paid-to-rant post? The leeway given to judges with conflicts of interest does not serve justice. My opinion is that any motion to have a judge recuse should be decided by an outside panel of judges who are OUTSIDE of the jurisdictional area.
There was no motion to recuse the original trial judge in the Proposition 8 case and there should have been. It was found, shortly after the trial began, that Judge Vaughn Walker is not only gay, he is in a relationship with a man. This constitutes “having a stake” in the outcome of the Proposition 8 litigation. Gays would argue that a heterosexual married judge would also have a “stake” or conflict in a matter which strikes at the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. They would be wrong. It’s a moot issue, because there never was a recusal motion at the trial level, and judging from Walker’s personality, he would not have stepped out of the case anyway.
I repeat, recusal motions should NOT be decided by the sitting judge who is being requested to leave. An outside panel of judges from another jurisdiction should hear the matter by teleconference and decide it forthwith. Someone fix this law.
Previously on UNCOVERAGE.net on the Prop 8 trial: