Thursday, July 2, 2009

Federal Case Against Prop 8 Moves Rapidly Forward with Next Hearing Scheduled for August 19th

Today in the North California U.S. District Court, Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker held the first hearing in the federal case against Prop 8. Due to the fact that Attorney General Jerry Brown declined to defend the law based on his opposition to it, the judge ruled that Protect Marriage California, which ran the campaign to pass the initiative, may defend it.

Bay Area KRON reports "...the judge won't stop enforcement of the law while the case is being considered. Judge Walker says he expects a full trial with witnesses will be needed in the case...The next step is for both sides to agree on what facts can be stipulated and submit those issues to the court by August 7th. Another case management conference is set for August 19th."

This signals a speedy trial indeed.

Yusef Robb, spokesman for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization behind the federal case, told Unite the Fight, "We're pleased that we're moving so swiftly toward ensuring each and every one of us is treated equally under the law."

The Bay Area Reporter in an excellent article covering the hearing, reports however that the judge is flexible:
Walker also indicated he is willing to forgo the normal trial process to shorten the time it will take for him to reach a decision that even he acknowledges will not be the final word in the matter. He asked both sides to brief him on what facts are germane to the lawsuit by August 7 and scheduled a second case management hearing for 10 a.m. Wednesday, August 19.

"I am reasonably sure given the issues involved, and given the legal counsel in this courtroom, that this case is only touching down in this court. It will have a life outside this courtroom," said Walker, referring to the 25 lawyers involved in the case sitting before him.
Standing in a nondescript federal courtroom near the Civic Center, the warring attorneys said they have already talked amongst themselves on how to proceed with the case without the need for lengthy trial testimony from expert witnesses. Instead, both sides' lawyers said they prefer to merely brief the court on the relevant issues in order to expedite the process.

Yet the two sides expressed different reasons as for why they don't want to see the legal wrangling be a drawn out process.

Olson, both in court and at a press conference following the hearing, said every day that Prop 8 is allowed to stand tens of thousands of Californians are being discriminated against and denied their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

"The denial of individuals such as my clients here today of the right to marry that is given to all other Californians is in violation of their rights. They are entitled to relief of that as soon as possible," said Olson. "We are very, very anxious to proceed. Even the California attorney general has admitted that Prop 8 is unconstitutional."

The backers of Prop 8, on the other hand, said at the news conference that their main objective is to see the will of the voters be upheld.

"Once again the will of the voters is being challenged. Californians should be troubled their vote, their decision on this important matter is being challenged. The voters of California should have some finality," said Andrew Pugno, who served as general counsel for the Yes on 8 campaign and is co-counsel in the federal case. "It is in the interest of justice and a speedy resolution that this case can move along speedily without being bogged down by a trial."
KRON provides footage of the press conference that followed:

No preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of Prop 8 will be given so that a speedy trial can proceed to final ruling.

Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland


  1. It's good to see we are making progress towards a fast & speedy trial.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. If this lawsuit is successful, does that mean gay marriage is legal nationwide or just California?

  4. It depends on the final ruling. It's up to the justices. I cover a lot of different scenarios in this post.

    And yes, it is good to see a fast & speedy trial. The suspense over the CA Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 lasted FOREVER.