Vaughn R. Walker, the judge who struck down Proposition 8, California’s gay marriage ban, sought Ted Olson’s opinion regarding whether Walker should attend next week’s Supreme Court arguments on the gay marriage cases. Olson was one of the lawyers who successfully persuaded Judge Walker to strike down Proposition 8 after a trial held in 2010.
In December 2012 emails obtained exclusively by Patterico.com, Judge Walker, who retired in February 2011, asked Olson’s law partner to “ask Ted if he thinks my attending the argument would be an unwanted distraction.”
A staff member for Olson responded:
Frey concludes (emphasis mine):
This blog post is a piece of journalism, breaking a story that should be of public interest regarding the conduct of a former jurist on a significant case. This site does not advocate an anti-gay rights agenda, and the proprietor of this web site is a supporter of gay marriage (although he disapproves of the imposition of gay marriage on society through judicial fiat).
Nor does this web site assert that Walker, Olson, or Olson’s partner has engaged in any breach of legal ethics. Walker’s views on the decision are no secret: he has spoken since retirement of his belief that the case was appropriately brought and that his decision was correct. It is not shocking that a judge would defend a decision he has already made.
But the behavior of Walker, as revealed by these emails, creates the appearance of a partisan rather than an impartial former jurist who simply believes he issued a correct ruling. Walker was so invested in his ruling that he wanted to watch the appellate courts’ argument himself. He went out of his way to make sure that he consulted with the winning side to help them prevail in the appellate courts. Specifically, he sought to learn whether his attendance at the appellate arguments would be acceptable to the prevailing party — and when told it would not be, he deferred to the prevailing party’s media strategy. All of this, cumulatively, suggests an emotional investment in the outcome of the case. The emails are likely to reinforce the widely held perception among Prop. 8 supporters that Walker was less than impartial in his rulings during the trial.
The Supreme Court hears the gay marriage cases next week, on March 26 and 27.