By Rex Wockner
The media are seeking intervention in the Proposition 8 case to urge the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to release the 13 days of video from the U.S. District Court case in which Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional.
The trial was recorded to help Judge Vaughn Walker write his decision, and attorneys also played back snippets of the trial at later points in the trial. Walker seemingly “sealed” the recording from other uses.
In recent public talks about cameras in the courtroom, however, Walker, who retired from the bench in February, has played a brief clip from the video, which led to a new flareup about the recordings. A copy of the video was given to Walker on a disk drive along with his other material when he retired.
The gay side now wants the recordings made public, but the other side wants them to stay sealed and for Walker and the parties to the case to turn over any copies. Now a group of media companies has asked the 9th Circuit to make the recordings public.
The Los Angeles Times, McClatchy Co., CNN, In Session (Court TV), The New York Times, Fox News, NBC News, Hearst Corp., Dow Jones & Co., The Associated Press and KQED say that the public and the media have a First Amendment right of access to court records and proceedings, and seem to suggest that the parties who want the Prop 8 recordings to remain private have failed to meet “their heavy burden to justify that sealing.”
Walker’s strikedown of Prop 8, which amended the state constitution in 2008 to re-ban same-sex marriage, is on appeal to the 9th Circuit.
The case has been delayed because the people who were sued – including California’s governor and attorney general – have no interest in defending Prop 8. As a result, the people who put Prop 8 on the ballot have intervened in the case to defend it, but it’s unclear at this time if they have legal “standing” to defend the amendment in federal court.
The 9th Circuit recently asked the California Supreme Court for its opinion on the “standing” question. The California court is not expected to answer until late this year at the soonest.