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Federal Judge Rules Vaughn Walker Needn’t Have Recused

Chief Judge James Ware of the Federal Court of the Northern California District ruled today that the bigots’ argument that Vaughn Walker should have recused himself because he could possibly benefit, by marrying his long-time companion, from his own ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

Yesterday was a low point in the federal justice system: it was offensive and heinous that a petitioner could come in to federal court to argue that a judge’s sexual orientation, and relationship status, deprives that judge of the ability to rule impartially. Happily, Judge Ware did not take long to discard this odious argument, made by bigots as a last gasp against the arc of justice.

Sponsors of the voter-approved 2008 ban offered no evidence that then-Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker had planned to marry his partner and can’t rely on mere speculation to show that he had a conflict of interest, said James Ware, who succeeded Walker as chief judge and inherited the case.

The fact that a judge is in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean he is “so interested in marrying the person that he would be unable to exhibit the impartiality which, it is presumed, all federal judges maintain,” Ware said.

A gay judge is entitled to rule in a gay-rights case, even if his ruling could provide him “some speculative future benefit,” Ware said.

The contrary argument by Walker’s opponents, he said, would require “recusal of minority judges in most, if not all, civil rights cases.”

Further, Ware wrote about Walker and the absurd arguments made against him and his personal life by the ProtectMarriage bigots:

“The sole fact that a federal judge shares the same circumstances or personal characteristics with other members of the general public, and that the judge could be affected by the outcome of a proceeding in the same way that other members of the general public would be affected, is not a basis for either recusal or disqualification,” wrote Ware in his ruling, issued a day after he heard oral arguments in the matter.

Let’s hope this is the very last of this kind of argument we ever see in federal court at any level.

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Teddy Partridge

Teddy Partridge