James Ware, Chief Judge of the Northern District of California, today issued an order expediting the hearing schedule for efforts have Judge Walker's Prop. 8 decision striking down Prop. 8 vacated. "Due to the nature of the Motion," Ware wrote, "the Court finds good cause to expedite and specifically set a hearing on the Motion."
Prop. 8 proponents say Walker, as a gay man in a committed relationship, had a stake in the outcome of his own decision. They say in a motion to toss out that ruling, that Walker at the very least should have acknowledged the conflict, and perhaps should have recused himself.
In his order today Judge Ware, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, gave parties until May 13th to respond to the motion to vacate. A hearing date is scheduled for June 13th at 9 am in San Francisco.
The Prop. 8 lawsuit ended up in Walker's courtroom by a totally random process of assigning cases to judges. It's computer generated. There have been rumors about Walker's sexual orientation for many years, but he never acknowledged he was gay until after he retired from the bench. He spoke of his 10-year relationship with a physician in a Reuters article that appeared earlier this month.
Legal experts are highly skeptical that Judge Ware will set aside Walker's decision. As one pointed out, all judges have a sexual orientation and a marital status giving them a theoretical stake in the ruling on same sex marriage.
Where would it end? Should judges recuse themselves if they own a mutual fund with a stake in a company before him or her? Should the female justices of the Supreme Court recuse themselves in the Wal-Mart class action discrimination lawsuit now before them? Or any issue related to abortion?
These issues and others will no doubt be thoroughly covered in the briefs that will be filed between now and June 13th.
So what's going on here? Why are Prop. 8's attorneys going after Walker on his relationship -- and also on his use of the Prop. 8 tapes? What do they hope to gain? Perhaps the real audience is the U.S. Supreme Court -- laying seeds of doubt with them about Walker the person and Walker the Judge. The Supremes, after all, may ultimately decide this case.