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The anti-Prop. 8 mob strikes again

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By Michelle Malkin  •  January 7, 2010 12:51 PM

Judicial activism + far Left radical activism = Courtroom intimidation.

Yesterday, liberal California Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker issued an unprecedented ruling that will put the trial involving a challenge to the Prop. 8 same-sex marriage ban on YouTube.

SFGate.com reports:

Next week’s trial in San Francisco of a lawsuit challenging the initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California won’t be televised live, but it will be videotaped for delayed Internet release on YouTube, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco ordered the video coverage, the first for a federal trial in California, over the objections of Proposition 8′s sponsors. Their lawyer argued that allowing the proceedings to be viewed outside the courthouse would violate their right to a fair trial by intimidating their witnesses.

“The knowledge that you’re testifying to untold thousands or millions … can cause some witnesses to become more timid” and induce others to be overly dramatic, attorney Michael Kirk told Walker.

Prop. 8′s campaign committee, Protect Marriage, has maintained that some of its supporters have been harassed, and that witnesses whose testimony was widely seen would face further danger. Walker will have the power to order that individual witnesses’ faces be concealed or their voices muted on the YouTube uploads. Kirk said such actions would only draw attention to the witnesses. But Walker said this case seemed ideal for a pilot program, approved last month by the federal appeals court in San Francisco, to allow telecasting of selected nonjury civil trials. He cited the wide interest in the case and said most of the witnesses will be campaign officials or academic experts accustomed to speaking in public.

“I’ve always thought that if the public could see how the judicial process works, they would take a somewhat different view of it,” the judge said.

I generally support more sunshine in all government proceedings. But the judge’s unusual method of securing video coverage is extremely troubling. This isn’t a sincere educational effort to provide transparency to the public. It’s a flagrant attempt at making Prop. 8 a show trial — and intimidating Prop. 8 backers who will be called to testify.

Ed Whelan at Bench Memos lays out Walker’s agenda thoroughly. Start here, then go here, and here. Writes Whelan: “Walker is rushing to override longstanding prohibitions on televised coverage of federal trials so that he can authorize televised coverage of the Proposition 8 trial. Televised coverage would generate much greater publicity for ringmaster Walker’s circus. And, whether Walker desires the effect or is somehow blind to it, televised coverage would surely also heighten the prospect that witnesses and attorneys supporting Proposition 8 would face harassment, intimidation, and abuse. In his eagerness to stack the deck against Proposition 8 and its defenders, Walker has resorted to procedural shenanigans and outright illegality.”

Former federal district judge Paul Cassell weighs in: “Without getting into the merits of Proposition 8 or the legal challenges to it, I agree with Whelan that it seems highly unusual for a judge to authorize televised proceedings for this particular case as part of some new “pilot” project to see how televised proceedings work. Surely if there were going to be a test run of a new idea, it should be in a more run-of-the-mill case rather than this particular highly controversial one. Moreover, it does appear that public comment process has been completely short-circuited.”

Indeed, the public comment process seems to have been wholly fixed in favor of anti-Prop. 8, nutroots-fueled feedback.

The MoveOn-backed left-wing group “Courage Campaign” conveniently coordinated an e-mail campaign backing Walker’s solicitation of public comment on his YouTube order. I’m on the group’s e-mail list and received this on Jan. 5:

Dear Michelle –

This is extremely urgent and extremely important.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker — who will be overseeing a federal court challenge to Prop 8 starting this Monday (January 11) — is considering whether or not to open the court room to TV cameras.

The court just announced that it is seeking public comment on the proposal to televise the trial — and that all comments must be submitted to the court by a Friday deadline.

The interest in this case is unprecedented. And not surprisingly, supporters of Prop 8 — who eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry — do NOT want the trial to be televised.

Opponents of Prop 8 — led by attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson — are seeking to televise the case in the interests of full transparency. They want this historic trial to be watched by as many Americans as possible. And, of course, we agree.

We have just this one chance to make our voices heard — thousands of Americans calling for equality, transparency and accountability. That’s why we’re teaming up with CREDO Action to collect as many signatures as possible asking Judge Walker to televise the case. We need your signature now:

SIGNATURE DEADLINE: FRIDAY 9 a.m.:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/TeleviseTheTrial

Together, along with our friends at CREDO, we will hand-deliver your signatures to Judge Vaughn Walker on Friday before the deadline.

This case presents issues that are very important to the public, and will affect millions of people. However, if the case is not televised, only a tiny fraction will ever be able to watch the trial in person.

By televising the trial, the public will be able to see for themselves the arguments and evidence presented by both sides, and will therefore have more confidence in the outcome of the trial.

That’s why we think the Prop 8 court case should be televised and we’re collecting as many signatures as possible to submit to Judge Vaughn Walker. Click here to sign now and say “YES — the Prop 8 trial should be televised.” SIGNATURE DEADLINE: FRIDAY 9 a.m.:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/TeleviseTheTrial

If you know other people who believe the Prop 8 trial should be televised as well, please forward this message to them ASAP.

Thank you so much for making your voice heard at this critical time. We will update you as soon as further news develops.

Rick Jacobs
Chair, Courage Campaign Institute

Yesterday, the group followed up:

BREAKING: Judge Walker rules; 82,103 say “televise Prop 8 trial!”

Yesterday, we asked you to respond to Judge Vaughn Walker’s request for public comment on potentially televising the Prop 8 federal trial that starts Monday. In less than 24 hours, an amazing 82,103 people have signed the letter from the Courage Campaign Institute and CREDO Action.

Despite Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling below (please read on), we still need you to sign the letter. With right-wing groups like the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family gathering signatures to stop any broadcast of the Prop 8 trial, we need to spread the word ASAP.

GOAL: 100,000 signatures. DEADLINE: Friday 9 AM:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/TeleviseTheTrial

Dear Michelle –

The news is spreading like wildfire. And it’s both good and bad.

From a San Jose Mercury News article:

“Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker approved court-operated cameras in his courtroom for delayed release on YouTube, but rejected a bid by media organizations to televise the proceedings themselves for live broadcast.”

This decision is NOT final: Judge Walker is leaving the public comment period open until Friday, pending a ruling on his decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

While we are pleased that the trial may be on a delayed broadcast via YouTube at least, our call for full transparency — a televised broadcast that network news and cable channels can pick up live, as it happens — has not been met.

And, it’s entirely possible that the 9th Circuit Appeals Court may overrule Judge Walker’s ruling, shutting down all broadcasting — even a delayed daily YouTube broadcast. Lawyers representing supporters of Prop. 8 have already opposed broadcasting the trial in any form whatsoever and are likely to fight Walker’s ruling.

Millions of lives across America will be affected by this federal trial challenging Prop 8. That’s why more than 80,000 people have already signed our letter asking for a televised trial. To keep up the pressure before the public comment period closes on Friday, please sign here now:

GOAL: 100,000 signatures. DEADLINE: Friday 9 AM:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/TeleviseTheTrial

With right-wing religious groups like NOM and Focus on the Family organizing against televising the trial, we need as many signatures on this letter as possible.

If you know other people who believe the Prop 8 trial should be televised so that as many people as possible can see it, please forward this message to them ASAP.

Thank you so much for your incredible response to this critical action. We will update you again as soon as news breaks.

Rick Jacobs
Chair, Courage Campaign Institute

The anti-Prop. 8 mob has its thumbs on the scales of justice. Brace for a courtroom circus.

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