Prop. 8 Judge: Nevermind

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    How'd they beat Yale?

    A final nail was hammered into the coffin of a proposed  broadcast of a high-profile same-sex marriage trial in San Francisco Thursday when the judge presiding over the case announced he has dropped  the idea.
         
    U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said at the start of trial  proceedings today that he has asked 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals  Chief Judge Kozinski to withdraw the case from a pilot program for  cameras in federal courtrooms.

    Walker is presiding over the trial of a lawsuit in which two  same-sex couples claim that Proposition 8, California's ban on gay and  lesbian marriage, violates their federal constitutional rights.

    As part of a pilot program approved by the 9th Circuit last  month, Walker had proposed allowing a live video feed of the trial to  five other federal courthouses around the country as well as a delayed  video broadcast to be posted on YouTube.

    Any broadcast of the trial was stopped for at least the near  future Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote issued an  indefinite stay in response to an emergency lawsuit by Proposition 8  sponsors.

    The court majority said the local court failed to allow  enough time for public notice and comment on a rule change allowing the  broadcast. It also said Proposition 8 supporters had raised a  reasonable argument that witnesses could be intimidated by cameras.

    The four dissenting justices, led by Justice Stephen Breyer,  said they believed that rules on comment were followed and that  broadcasting the high-profile trial was in the public interest.

    But the ruling left unresolved the possibility that a video  recording could be preserved and broadcast later, either after the  Proposition 8 sponsors completed a full appeal or after a longer period  for public comment was provided.

    That possibility was ended today when Walker announced he  wants to withdraw the case from the pilot program authorized by the 9th  Circuit Judicial Council for nonjury civil trials in nine western  states.

    While television cameras have been allowed in California's  state court system and some federal appeals court hearings, they have  been permitted in only a handful of federal trials nationwide. 

    The broadcast of the Proposition 8 case would have been the  first coverage of a federal trial in western states.

    Cameras operated by court staff members are still being used  in the Walker's Federal Building courtroom to relay live video coverage  to an overflow courtroom on a different floor. The relay to an overflow  room in the same courthouse is routinely used in trials of high public  interest and was not blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Charles Cooper, a lawyer for Proposition 8 supporters, asked  Walker this morning whether that video is being preserved and if so,  whether it shouldn't be destroyed in view of Walker's announcement.

    Walker said the video is being kept, but only for his own  review later in chambers, which he said is customarily done under  existing court rules. 

    The judge, who will decide the case without a jury, said, "I  think it would be helpful to me to have that.

    "It's not going to be for the purpose of public broadcasting  or televising," Walker said.

    Bay City News