prop 8 trial

Prop 8 Appeal Takes A Step Forward; But Not The Big One It Should Have

Liberty & Justice by Mirko Ilic

Those of us watching and covering the Proposition 8 case, formally known as Perry v. Brown, got a cryptic notification from the court yesterday afternoon. The notice read:

This is to inform you that a filing is expected on Tuesday, June 5, 2012, at approximately 10 a.m., in Perry v. Brown, case 11-16577, also know as the Proposition 8 case. The filing will be available from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals website, www.ca9.uscourts.gov/opinions. We are advised that this is not a large document. If you have difficulty downloading the filing, please contact us by email.

The fact the court said the document would appear in their “opinions” section seemed prophetic. It was. The opinion was just released and my prediction on it was right, it did signal a final opinion and a declination of en banc consideration.

Here is the order. The key takeaway language:

The full court was advised of the petition for rehearing en banc. A judge requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc. The matter failed to receive a majority of the votes of the non-recused active judges in favor of en banc consideration. Fed. R. App. P. 35. The petition for rehearing en banc is DENIED.

The mandate is stayed for ninety days pending the filing of a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court. If such a petition is filed, the stay shall continue until final disposition by the Supreme Court.

Notable is the sniping dissent lodged by Judges O’Scannlain, Bybee and Bea, and the broadside shot right back by Steve Reinhardt and Mike Hawkins, who were the accused when O’Scannlain said:

Based on a two-judge majority’s gross misapplication of Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996), we have now declared that animus must have been the only conceivable motivation for a sovereign State to have remained committed to a definition of marriage that has existed for millennia, Perry v. Brown, 671 F.3d 1052, 1082 (9th Cir. 2012).

Interesting is the sniping back and forth, but ultimately of no moment. The ruling today is important, however, because the ultimate destination for the Prop 8 Perry case is now straight to the Supreme Court. As I explained when the original panel decision was issued, authored by Steve Reinhardt, it was different than expected:

It is a narrower and shallower victory than I had hoped and predicted though.

All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation of ‘marriage,’ which symbolizes state legitimization and social recognition of their committed relationships. Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those opposite-sex couples. the Constitution simply does not allow for “laws of this sort.” Romer v. Evans, 517 US 620, 633 (1996).

By basing on Romer instead of the full constitutional protections of due process and equal protection, the court has likely increased the odds the decision stands up to further appeal, but has done a disservice to those seeking true equality, both as to marriage and otherwise, for gays and lesbians. In short, it does not move the ball nearly as much as it should have, and was hoped for. The decision of the 9th does not go nearly as far as Vaughn Walker did, and wastes much of the meticulous taking of evidence, making of findings of facts and law, and crafting of his decision. It was hand tailored to go MUCH further, and that now appears at least significantly squandered.

That analysis of the panel decision in Perry still stands. The bigger problem is that many experts on this issue have been putting their eggs in the basket of the DOMA litigations. And the problem with that is that the biggest of the DOMA cases just got decided in the 1st Circuit last week, and it too is grounded on Romer and is painfully narrow and depressing as to hope for full extension of protected status to sexual orientation by individuals.

As Reuters explains:

“The federalism aspect of the decision makes it a stronger case to bring some conservatives along,” said Paul Smith, a lawyer for the same-sex couples.

The Supreme Court has become increasingly concerned with states’ rights over the past 10 years, striking down numerous federal laws that intrude on state authority, said New York Law School professor Arthur Leonard. The conservative justices have tended to defend traditional areas of state control. Justice Antonin Scalia, for example, criticized the majority decision in Romer for creating a new level of equal protection for gays and lesbians, but he based his argument on a defense of states’ rights.

The DOMA litigation is clearly presented as a battle between federal and state powers. The plaintiffs only challenged the law’s central provision that denies federal economic benefits to married same-sex couples. They left alone the part of the law that says a state doesn’t have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

While the focus on states’ rights could lead the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA, it could also make it more difficult for gay rights advocates to achieve their ultimate goal: making same-sex marriage a federal constitutional right.

The focus on federalism could also undercut arguments against state laws like Proposition 8 that ban same-sex marriage. Schowengerdt, the lawyer from the Alliance Defense Fund who is currently defending gay marriage bans in Hawaii and Oklahoma, said he plans to cite the recent Massachusetts ruling to support his position that the definition of marriage should be left up to the states.

He pointed out that 31 states had passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman. “At the end of the day, federalism helps proponents of traditional marriage,” he said.

By having both Perry and the 1st Circuit DOMA rely on the Romer paradigm, the main thrust of LGBT litigation is now set up under a states rights analysis as opposed to full equal protection status across the board and uniformly nationwide.

While many of the experts, pundits and lay people closely watching these cases may be cheering today, it seems a tad hollow. This is not the posture that Vaughn Walker worked so hard to put in place, the posture that the affected citizens deserve.

[The absolutely incredible graphic, perfect for the significance and emotion of the Perry Prop 8 case, and the decision to grant marriage equality to all citizens without bias or discrimination, is by Mirko Ilić. Please visit Mirko and check out his stock of work.]

California Supreme Court Rules There Is Standing For Prop 8 Intervenors

Liberty & Justice by Mirko Ilic

When the Ninth Circuit initially referred the issue of standing for the Defendant-Intervenors in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger/Brown back at the start of the year, I wrote this:

I still look for the California Supreme Court to certify this issue, and my best guess is they will find standing, the case will be sent back to the 9th Circuit for a merits decision and the 9th will uphold Vaughn Walker. Assuming all that is the case and plays out accordingly, it will sure eviscerate much of the ability of the US Supreme Court to avoid the merits on standing (which I think they otherwise would do). The bad news is this is going to take well over a year, and could easily be two years if there is an en banc process as well in the 9th. An attempt to repeal Proposition 8 will almost certainly be on the ballot for the 2012 election and if it gets repealed, this case is moot. That would not be so bad, as it would reinstate marriage equality in California. However if it fails, and Barack Obama loses in 2012, and there is a very early opening on the Supreme Court, the resulting extreme rightward shift would be very detrimental. There are a lot of ways this could go in the future, stay tuned!

The California Supreme Court just issued its opinion and I have been affirmed! In short, the highest California appellate court has certified to the 9th Circuit that, as a matter of state law, the DI’s have legitimate standing to represent their side of the matter in Federal appellate courts.

The key finding is:

At the request of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, we agreed to decide a question of California law that is relevant to the underlying lawsuit in this matter now pending in that federal appellate court. (Perry v. Brown (9th Cir. No. 10-16696); see Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.548.) As posed by the Ninth Circuit, the question to be decided is “whether under Article II, Section 8 of the California Constitution, or otherwise under California law, the official proponents of an initiative measure possess either a particularized interest in the initiative’s validity, which would enable them to defend the constitutionality of the initiative upon its adoption or appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so”.
….
Accordingly, we respond to the question posed by the Ninth Circuit in the affirmative. In a postelection challenge to a voter-approved initiative measure, the official proponents of the initiative are authorized under California law to appear and assert the state’s interest in the initiative’s validity and to appeal a judgment invalidating the measure when the public officials who ordinarily defend the measure or appeal such a judgment decline to do so.

Here is the full decision.

The opinion was written by newly seated Chief Judge Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who was literally sworn in the day before the 9th Circuit dumped this question in the laps of the California Supremes. It appears quite well sculpted and the full court signed on to her opinion; however, Judge Kennard issued a specially concurring opinion to “highlight the historical and legal events that have led to today’s decision and to explain why I concur in that decision”. As I said back in January, this was not really all that novel of an issue in California jurisprudence, and so the court has noted and, now, established with certainty.

Time for Steve Reinhardt and his merry band of 9th Circuit pranksters to fire up the cert alert in the stodgy halls of SCOTUS! And I think that will be happening sooner rather than later as the 9th has already received full briefing and oral argument on the merits. I would even go so far as to say there are draft opinions already written and ready to be tweaked and supplemented with today’s California Supreme Court ruling. So expect a ruling from the 9th fairly quickly.

I will be adding in some more analysis after a thorough reading of the full opinion.

[The absolutely incredible graphic, perfect for the significance and emotion of the Perry Prop 8 case, and the decision to grant marriage equality to all citizens without bias or discrimination, is by Mirko Ilić. Please visit Mirko and check out his stock of work.]

9th Circuit Punts On Perry Prop 8; Certifies Standing To California

Liberty & Justice by Mirko Ilic

We have unexpectedly quick news out of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on the Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proposition 8 marriage equality appeal. As you will recall, the case is in the 9th on appeal from the three week long evidentiary trial in the Northern District of California last January in front of Judge Vaughn Walker with closing arguments made on June 16 (summary of EW live coverage here) and Judge Walker’s opinion finding such marriage discrimination unconstitutional was issued on August 4th. The current appeal had oral argument less than a month ago, on Monday December 6th.

Now we have the surprisingly fast first decision, if you can call it a “decision”. It is really a disguised punt. The main opinion is in docket No. 10-16696, where the effective docket order reads:

Filed Order for PUBLICATION (STEPHEN R. REINHARDT, MICHAEL DALY HAWKINS and N. RANDY SMITH) for certification to California State Supreme Court. Before this panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is an appeal concerning the constitutionality under the United States Constitution of Article I, § 7.5 of the California Constitution (“Proposition 8”). Because we cannot consider this important constitutional question unless the appellants before us have standing to raise it, and in light of Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43 (1997) (“Arizonans”), it is critical that we be advised of the rights under California law of the official proponents of an initiative measure to defend the constitutionality of that measure upon its adoption by the People when the state officers charged with the laws’ enforcement, including the Attorney General, refuse to provide such a defense or appeal a judgment declaring the measure unconstitutional. As we are aware of no controlling state precedent on this precise question, we respectfully ask the Supreme Court of California to exercise its discretion to accept and decide the certified question below. (See order for full text).

….

The case is withdrawn from submission, and further proceedings in this court are stayed pending final action by the Supreme Court of California. The parties shall notify the Clerk of this Court within three days after the Court accepts or rejects certification, and again within three days if the Court renders an opinion. The panel retains jurisdiction over further proceedings. IT IS SO ORDERED.

Now, as you will also recall, there were two cause numbers consolidated for oral argument and that, really, comprise the same effective case. In the second one, Docket No. 10-16751, the part of the action initiated by Imperial County attempting to intervene and provide governmental cover for standing on appeal, the effective corollary docket order reads:

FILED PER CURIAM OPINION (STEPHEN R. REINHARDT, MICHAEL DALY HAWKINS and N. RANDY SMITH) AFFIRMED; DISMISSED. The district court order denying the motion to intervene is AFFIRMED. Movants’ appeal of the district court order concerning the constitutionality of Proposition 8 is DISMISSED for lack of standing. The deadline for filing a petition for panel rehearing or rehearing en banc is hereby EXTENDED until the deadline for such petitions in No. 10-16696, which will be 14 days after an opinion is filed in that appeal. The Clerk is DIRECTED to stay the issuance of the mandate in this case until the mandate issues in No. 10- 16696. AFFIRMED in part; DISMISSED in part. FILED AND ENTERED JUDGMENT.

In the second cause number, 10-16751, the court issued a 21 page per curiam (by the whole panel collectively) opinion addressing the Imperial county attempt at intervention. the court held:

None of the Imperial County movants has demonstrated a “significant protectable interest” at stake in this action, as it was brought by Plaintiffs, and we affirm on that basis alone.

The court effectively laughed at the attempt to use Deputy County clerk Isabel Vargas as a mule for intervention, wondering why the hell a minion would be used instead of, you know, the actual County Clerk. A real valid question, and the court found no good answer. The court similarly found that the Imperial County Board of Supervisors was not a proper vehicle, stating “…the Board plays no role with regard to marriage, which is “a matter of ‘statewide concern’ rather than a ‘municipal affair’”. The court rounded out the fisking as follows:

Moreover, the duties of the Supervisors themselves are not directly affected by this litigation, so they lack a significant protectable interest.

Second, the County itself has failed to demonstrate any interest of its own, apart from those claimed by Vargas or the Board of Supervisors.

So, in a nutshell, the argument by Imperial County that they were entitled to intervene as a matter of right was denied in full. Oh, and the 9th also found that Vaughn Walker was correct in finding no necessary basis for permissive intervention by Imperial County as well, and affirmed that denial. So Imperial County, unless they get some appellate relief, which is unlikely, is toast.

And, so that completes the fun today, right? Oh no! We have more! The estimable Judge Stephen Reinhardt lodged a concurring opinion that is a little, shall we say, more interesting. I will excerpt a few key quotes, but this one is only ten pages long and is well worth the read. I think you will quickly understand why I have said Reinhardt is such a wonderful treasure as a judge.

Today’s two orders involve a procedural question known as “standing.” The public may wonder why that issue is of such great importance, and what the significance of our standing decisions is. For that reason, while I agree entirely with our two dispositions, both of which are filed in the names of all three of us who are considering the appeals and both of which represent our unanimous views, I believe it desirable to set forth a few explanatory remarks of my own.

The standing problem arises out of a trend in our judicial system over the past few decades. It is a trend that emphasizes technical rules over deciding cases on the merits, and indeed over the merits themselves.

Reinhardt’s disdain for the avoidance of meritorious claims on technical standing issues just drips off the pages. Indeed he cites his own previous tomes on just this subject in a prominent footnote (See footnote 3 for the cites). But as to the instant case, Reinhardt acidly remarks:

All I can say now is that the issues concerning standing were wholly avoidable in this case.

He goes on to take a crystal clear shot directly at the broadside of Ted Olson and David Boies for filing their action, and obtaining their relief, against one two of the 58 counties in California:

Whether Plaintiffs are correct or not, it is clear that all of this would have been unnecessary and Plaintiffs could have obtained a statewide injunction had they filed an action against a broader set of defendants, a simple matter of pleading. Why preeminent counsel and the major law firms of which they are a part failed to do that is a matter on which I will not speculate.

Ouch. Reinhardt then goes on to blast Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, the Governor and Attorney General at the time respectively, for not giving the intervenors appellate cover (as I have consistently carped about as well) and Imperial County for the incredibly lame effort of trying to appear through a common deputy clerk. Reinhardt is spot on in each of these regards.

The last paragraph from Steve Reinhardt’s concurring opinion summarizes where the case stands, and is likely to do so better than I could, so I am going to let him speak:

None of this means that ultimately there is no standing in this case. Because of a United States Supreme Court ruling regarding the availability of standing to proponents of initiatives, Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43 (1997), we have certified to the Supreme Court of California the question of an initiative proponent’s authority and interests under California law. Although that matter must be decided by the Supreme Court of California, Proponents advance a strong argument on this point. Thus, in the end, there may well be standing to maintain this appeal, and the important constitutional question before us may, after all, be decided by an appellate court – ours, the Supreme Court, or both – and may apply to California as a whole, instead of by being finally decided by a trial court, or by default, in only two counties or in none. As a result, the technical barriers and the inexplicable manner in which the parties have conducted this litigation may in the end not preclude an orderly review by the federal courts of the critical constitutional question that is of interest to all Americans, and particularly to the millions of Californians who voted for Proposition 8 and the tens of thousands of same-sex couples who wish to marry in that state. In the meantime, while we await further word from the Supreme Court of California, I hope that the American public will have a better understanding of where we stand today in this case, if not why.

The one last parting thought I have is that this California Supreme Court certification process is likely to take some time. Six months would be a miracle, a year is far more likely. First off, the California Supreme Court does not have to accept consideration, and there will be a briefing process on whether they even should do that. Assuming they then accept consideration on the merits, and I do think it extremely likely they will, there will then be a full briefing schedule on the merits before any decision.

It would have been expected that the Court under Chief Justice Ron George (very nice article here) would take this up, but he just left and the new Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, literally was just sworn in yesterday. She is known as being cautious and moderately conservative, but fair and open minded. Which, really, is probably a fair description of Ron George, so there may not be that much of a change at the top of the California Supremes.

I still look for the California Supreme Court to certify this issue, and my best guess is they will find standing, the case will be sent back to the 9th Circuit for a merits decision and the 9th will uphold Vaughn Walker. Assuming all that is the case and plays out accordingly, it will sure eviscerate much of the ability of the US Supreme Court to avoid the merits on standing (which I think they otherwise would do). The bad news is this is going to take well over a year, and could easily be two years if there is an en banc process as well in the 9th. An attempt to repeal Proposition 8 will almost certainly be on the ballot for the 2012 election and if it gets repealed, this case is moot. That would not be so bad, as it would reinstate marriage equality in California. However if it fails, and Barack Obama loses in 2012, and there is a very early opening on the Supreme Court, the resulting extreme rightward shift would be very detrimental. There are a lot of ways this could go in the future, stay tuned!

UPDATE: Here is Judge Reinhardt’s collateral final order on the earlier motion to disqualify him that he previously denied long before oral argument.

[The absolutely incredible graphic, perfect for the significance and emotion of the Perry Prop 8 case, and the decision to grant marriage equality to all citizens without bias or discrimination, is by Mirko Ilić. Please visit Mirko and check out his stock of work.]

Perry v. Schwarzenegger 9th Circuit Oral Argument Liveblog Primer

Liberty & Justice by Mirko Ilic

Emptywheel and Firedoglake have covered the groundbreaking marriage equality civil rights litigation in Perry v. Schwarzenegger from the outset. today is the critical appeal in the 9th Circuit and it is being televised on CSPAN live. In a separate dedicated post, Marcy Wheeler will be liveblogging and I will be assisting with color commentary both through her and in comments.

The case was filed by plaintiffs Kristin Perry, Sandra Stier, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo in response to the passage of an amendment to California’s constitution by Proposition 8 providing “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

There was a three week long evidentiary trial in the Northern District of California last January in front of Judge Vaughn Walker with closing arguments made on June 16 (summary of EW live coverage here) and Judge Walker’s opinion finding such marriage discrimination unconstitutional was issued on August 4th. The appeal being argued today is from that decision by Judge Walker.

The oral argument is being televised live by CSPAN, will be carried by live feed on numerous internet sites, and will likely be on several other television networks as well. Here is a page with links and viewing information.

Here is Firedoglake’s dedicated Proposition 8 Resource Page containing just about everything you could possibly want to know about the case from start to finish including links to all of our coverage of the trial, closings, and judgment process, as well as the lead up to today’s argument, and nearly every important document, filing and brief in the case.

An article yesterday by Maure Dolan in the Los Angeles Times hit the nail on the head as to where to focus watching the oral argument:

When a federal appeals court meets in San Francisco on Monday for arguments on Proposition 8, legal analysts will be closely watching Judge Michael Hawkins, a moderate Democratic appointee whose vote is expected to be critical in the same-sex marriage case.

The randomly chosen three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also includes Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a California liberal appointed by President Carter, and Judge N. Randy Smith, a conservative from Idaho appointed by President George W. Bush.

“It’s a very favorable panel for the challengers to Proposition 8,” said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and expert on the 9th Circuit.

Hawkins, an Arizonan appointed by President Clinton, “is the one to watch most closely,” Hellman said. He has sided with liberals in some key cases and will probably cast the decisive vote in the case if there is a split decision, Hellman and other analysts said.

Having spent my legal career practicing in the 9th Circuit, I can tell you Dolan is spot on here. Reinhardt is Continue reading

With Kagan On SCOTUS, We Are Still Down A Justice

With the long anticipated retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, it was important for President Obama to appoint and get confirmed a new justice so there would not only be a full compliment of justices on the court, but to insure the ideological balance of the court was maintained. By selecting Elena Kagan, Obama certainly did not pick the most qualified person for the job, nor did he maintain the ideological balance particularly as Kagan undoubtedly moved the court to the right at least to some degree.

Now, it turns out, by appointing Kagan Obama did not even give the Court a full compliment of justices. From the Blog of Legal Times:

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan this week quietly recused herself in 10 cases that will be argued in the term beginning Oct. 4, bringing to 21 the number of cases in which she will not participate.

That represents more than half of the 40 cases the Court has already agreed to hear in the new term — a number that will grow in coming months as the justices agree to hear arguments in more new cases.

During her confirmation this summer, Kagan already indicated she would recuse in 11 cases in which she was counsel of record as solicitor general. The new batch appears to reflect a determination that her participation at earlier stages — even where her office did not file a brief — required her to step aside.

So, as it stands today, Kagan will not be participating in over half the cases on the Supreme Court docket for the coming term. Lovely. A full list of the cases Justice Kagan has recused on to date can be found at the BLT link.

What is more distressing, however, are the cases to come that Kagan will also undoubtedly be recusing on. For instance the al-Haramain, Jeppesen and Jewel cases from the 9th Circuit. There are a whole plethora of Executive/Unitary power, Habeas, Gitmo, Detainee and other critical war on terror cases Kagan either did have, or may have had, her fingers on as head of the Solicitor General’s office. At this point, it looks like she plans on recusing herself from anything and everything that was in her vicinity, no matter how nominally. As should be well known by now, there is no necessity for a justice to recuse from everything they have ever known about, no less an authority than Antonin Scalia proved that.

Now, quite frankly, I have no problem with Elena Kagan recusing from consideration of Vaughn Walker’s decision in al-Haramain, I think the case would be better off without her toadying for the Obama Administration’s view of supreme Executive power and covering of crimes through assertion of state secrets, but what about the Prop 8 Perry v. Schwarzenegger case? In case you have forgotten, a portion of that case (the cameras in the court issue) went to the Supreme Court; if Elena Kagan decides she has to recuse herself, or is looking for an excuse to avoid such a controversial matter, that is going to be a HUGE blow to the chances of success on appeal.

I wonder how many people really understood they would be getting a part time justice for such a critical period over the next couple of years? And for all those on the liberal end of the political spectrum that carped about the fundamental dishonesty of John Roberts when he swore he was just a “balls and strikes” kind of guy “respectful of precedent”, I wonder what they think of the same type of deception from Kagan when she ridiculously understated the depth of her anticipated recusal problem to the Judiciary Committee?

There were a lot of things needed from President Obama’s choice to fill the seat of Justice John Paul Stevens; none of them have been fulfilled so far by Elena Kagan.

Breaking News: Perry Prop 8 Stay Granted By 9th Circuit

The order granting the Proponents/Appellants request for stay in Perry v. Schwarzenegger was just sent to me by the 9th Circuit. The docket text is as follows:

Filed order (EDWARD LEAVY, MICHAEL DALY HAWKINS and SIDNEY R. THOMAS) Appellants’ motion for a stay of the district court’s order of August 4, 2010 pending appeal is GRANTED. The court sua sponte orders that this appeal be expedited pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 2. The provisions of Ninth Circuit Rule 31-2.2(a) (pertaining to grants of time extensions) shall not apply to this appeal. This appeal shall be calendared during the week of December 6, 2010, at The James R. Browning Courthouse in San Francisco, California. The previously established briefing schedule is vacated. The opening brief is now due September 17, 2010. The answering brief is due October 18, 2010. The reply brief is due November 1, 2010. In addition to any issues appellants wish to raise on appeal, appellants are directed to include in their opening brief a discussion of why this appeal should not be dismissed for lack of Article III standing. See Arizonans For Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 66 (1997). IT IS SO ORDERED.

Well, I thought there was a very good chance that there would be an accelerated briefing and consideration if there was to be consideration on the merits. And there will be consideration on the merits, even if it is concurrent with consideration of the standing issue (here is a very good and detailed discussion of the standing issues and law).

This is a bit of a new wrinkle and, safe to say, gives more life to Proponents/Appellants than many people were giving them recently. And it appears there will be oral argument in San Francisco during the second week of December. Now the next question is what panel for the merits will the appeal be handed to – will it be Wardlaw, Fisher and Berzon – or will it be a new panel? Time will tell, and we should know that very soon. Exciting!

Breaking News: Judge Walker’s Prop 8 Stay Decision

Liberty & Justice by Mirko Ilic

A week ago yesterday, Judge Vaughn Walker issued his landmark decision in the Perry v. Scwarzenegger Proposition 8 marriage equality case. Concurrent with his decision, Walker ordered a temporary stay of the judgment pending his consideration and determination of Defendant-Intervenors’ Motion For Stay Pending Appeal, and there has been much anticipation of that ruling ever since.

It is here.

The stay requested by DIs has been DENIED by the court, but will be kept in force until August 18 in order to give DIs a chance to apply for a stay from the 9th. The key language from the ruling:

None of the factors the court weighs in considering a motion to stay favors granting a stay. Accordingly, proponents’ motion for a stay is DENIED. Doc #705. The clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment forthwith. That judgment shall be STAYED until August 18, 2010 at 5 PM PDT at which time defendants and all persons under their control or supervision shall cease to apply or enforce Proposition 8. It is so ordered.

I thought from the outset of the stay application that Judge Walker would deny it at the District level in order to force the 9th to get moving on the appeal quickly:

Furthermore, Walker not granting a stay for DIs, by definition, accelerates the appellate process by making the 9th Circuit assign a panel and consider the the certain stay request by DIs there once Walker denies it at the District level. Walker knows this will accelerate the consideration by the 9th and keep it moving along.

Not to mention that the tenor, tone, assertiveness, vibrancy and passion of Judge Walker’s main judgment on the merits is, as the real defendants in interest, the State of California and Governor have argued, simply not consistent with there being a legitimate basis for stay. And so it has been decided exactly as predicted.

And with that, the case now moves on to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. As the DIs have already noticed their appeal, the case is already docketed at the 9th and a presumptive briefing schedule set. Appellant/DIs’ opening brief is due November 12, 2010 and Appellee/Plaintiffs’ answering brief is due December 13, 2010. Appellee/DIs have the option to file a reply brief if they wish (and they would) by December 27, 2010.

So now the question is which three judges will be assigned to the panel that will consider and rule on the appeal, because the makeup of the appellate panel is absolutely critical to the process and potential outcome. There has not yet been a formal panel assigned to the appeal, but just as with the court protocol I used to predict Walker’s decision ahead of time, there is a tradition and protocol generally followed in the 9th Circuit that may give us an idea of the panel that will be deciding this seminal case.

In the 9th Circuit, when a case goes up on appeal, and it has been there before to a given panel on any issue, that panel has the option of taking the full appeal when it is filed. Well, the Perry case has indeed already been up to the 9th previously on an interlocutory appeal of a discovery issue during the trial process, and that appeal was decided by a panel consisting of Judges Wardlaw, Fisher and Berzon. I think there is a very decent chance the standard 9th protocol is followed here and the full appeal is assigned to the previous panel of Wardlaw, Fisher and Berzon, which makes sense in terms of judicial economy since they are already up to speed on the parties and the case facts and posture.

So who are these judges, and what is the book on them? Well, that is where the fun comes in. They are all three Clinton appointees, and two of them, Marsha Berzon and Ray Fisher, clerked for Justice Brennan. Solid liberal credentials for sure, and Kim Wardlaw may actually be even more enlightened. If the appeal gets assigned to this panel, it would be in excellent hands and I would like very much the chances for upholding Judge Walker’s decision in favor of marriage equality for all.

So the case now moves on from the meticulous hands of Vaughn Walker and up to the 9th Circuit. First there is the matter of assignment to a panel. Then we will see whether the automatically generated briefing schedule set upon filing stays in place or is accelerated, whether by motion by a party or sua sponte by the court. It will be exciting to watch such a historic case continue to play out right in front of our eyes, and Emptywheel and Firedoglake will be bringing you complete coverage every step of the way including planned live coverage of the critical oral argument. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: And, as a simply beautiful little parting shot poke in the eye to the DI H8ters and bigots, Judge Walker’s court also just executed and lodged the Permanent Injunction prohibiting any and all enforcement of Proposition 8.

This action having come before and tried by the court and the court considered the same pursuant to FRCP 52(a), on August 4, 2010, ordered entry of judgment in favor of plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors and against defendants and defendant-intervenors and each of them, Doc #708, now therefore:

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that:

Defendants in their official capacities, and all persons under the control or supervision of defendants, are permanently enjoined from applying or enforcing Article I, § 7.5 of the

California Constitution.

Vaughn Walker is something special, and the way he has worked this case is simply a work of art. My hat is off to a wonderful man and great judge. Liberty, justice and equality are beautiful things when you really see them in action. Let’s hope the 9th keeps that vision intact and alive; I think they will.

[The absolutely incredible graphic, perfect for the significance and emotion of the Perry Prop 8 case, and the decision to grant marriage equality to all citizens without bias or discrimination, is by Mirko Ilić. Mirko is an artist par ecellence in New York who also teaches illustration and design. Please visit Mirko and check out his stock of work, it is really superb.]

The Stay Issue in the Perry Prop 8 Case

As pretty much every sentient being knows by now, Judge Vaughn Walker issued a groundbreaking decision finding California’s Proposition 8 ban on marriage equality to be fundamentally unconstitutional under both equal protection and due process considerations. The defendant-intervenors in the case, who are the dogmatic people supporting Proposition 8 and fighting against marriage equality, did not even wait for Walker’s verdict to be publicly issued before lodging their Motion For Stay Pending Appeal.

The same Wednesday afternoon as he publicly released his opinion, Judge Walker set an accelerated schedule for consideration of DI’s Motion For Stay.

.

Plaintiffs, plaintiff-intervenor and defendants are DIRECTED to submit their responses to the motion to stay on or before August 6, 2010, at which time the motion will stand submitted without a hearing unless otherwise ordered.

Well, that is today and the briefs are hitting the docket.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s Opposition To Stay

Governor Schwarzenegger’s Administration’s Opposition To Stay

Plaintiff Perry and City of San Francisco’s Joint Opposition To Stay

I will update with any further filings on the stay issue, as they come in. Suffice it to say though, the three linked above paint quite a picture. Of course the Plaintiffs oppose the stay; that is to be expected. But the Attorney General of California, representing the law department of the state, and the Governor and Administration of the state are something different altogether. You see, the State of California is the real defendant in interest in the case; the DIs are effectively interlopers that got involved because they thought Brown and Schwarzenegger might not, shall we say, put much effort in defending the egregious and discriminatory Proposition 8 (which is undoubtedly quite correct). Nevertheless, the state is actual putative primary defendant in this case, and the state has now officially accepted, conformed and ratified Walker’s verdict. A marginally significant thing you might say.

From AG Brown’s Opposition To Stay: Continue reading

BREAKING NEWS: Court Overturns Prop 8; Joy For Marriage Equality

Yesterday’s anticipation has turned into today’s joy. Judge Vaughn Walker of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (NDCA) has issued his verdict and, as predicted, he has found in favor of Plaintiffs Kristin Perry, Sandra Steir et. al. The court, in a historic opinion and verdict, has declared California’s Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional:

Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8. California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result, see FF 64-66; moreover, California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.

Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8. The clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment without bond in favor of plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors and against defendants and defendant-intervenors pursuant to FRCP 58.

Here is the full official decision and verdict and it is framed under both equal protection and due process.

The opinion is, again as predicted, extremely well written, consummately detailed, brilliantly structured and contains a foundation of extremely well supported findings of fact and conclusions of law. In short, Vaughn Walker has crafted as fine a foundational opinion as could possibly be hoped for, and one that is designed with the intent to withstand appellate scrutiny not just in the 9th Circuit, but in the Supreme Court as well.

Obviously this is but a step in the process because there will be appeals, and the case will, without question, go to the Supreme Court. But, that said, you could not ask for a better platform and posture for a case on this issue to go to the Supremes on. It is all that and more.

Additionally, regarding the Defendant-Intervenors’ request for a stay, Judge Walker has ordered as follows:

Defendant-intervenors (“proponents”) have moved to stay the court’s judgment pending appeal. Doc #705. They noticed the motion for October 21, 2010 and moved to shorten time. Doc #706.

The motion to shorten time is GRANTED.

Plaintiffs, plaintiff-intervenor and defendants are DIRECTED to submit their responses to the motion to stay on or before August 6, 2010, at which time the motion will stand

submitted without a hearing unless otherwise ordered.

The clerk shall STAY entry of judgment herein until the motion to stay pending appeal, Doc #705, has been decided.

There will obviously be a lot of further analysis and detailed discussion and dissection of Judge Walker’s opinion to follow, both at this blog and elsewhere. I would like to make one point as to the much discussed prospects on appeal, as that is clearly a concern and fear of anybody interested in the ultimate issue of marriage equality and removal of pernicious discrimination from American society.

The common wisdom is that the prospects for upholding Judge Walker’s decision in the 9th Circuit are good. I agree. However, the common fear is that the ever more conservative and dogmatic Roberts Court will reverse and ingrain the discrimination, inequality and hatred of Proposition 8 and its supporters deep into American law and lore. I am much more optimistic this is not the case.

As the inestimable Linda Greenhouse noted recently, although the Roberts Court is increasingly dogmatically conservative, and Kagan will move it further in that direction, the overarching influence of Justice Anthony Kennedy is changing and, in some ways, declining. However, there is one irreducible characteristic of Justice Kennedy that still seems to hold true; she wrote of Kennedy:

…he embraces whichever side he is on with full rhetorical force. Much more than Justice O’Connor, whose position at the center of the court fell to him when she left, Justice Kennedy tends to think in broad categories. It has always seemed to me that he divides the world, at least the world of government action — which is what situates a case in a constitutional framework — between the fair and the not-fair.

The money quotes of the future consideration of the certain appeal and certiorari to come on Judge Walker’s decision today in Perry v. Schwarzenegger are:

Laws designed to bar gay men and lesbians from achieving their goals through the political process are not fair (he wrote the majority opinion striking down such a measure in a 1996 case, Romer v. Evans) because “central both to the idea of the rule of law and to our own Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection is the principle that government and each of its parts remain open on impartial terms to all who seek its assistance.”

……

In a book titled “Justice Kennedy’s Jurisprudence,” a political scientist, Frank J. Colucci, wrote last year that Justice Kennedy is animated by an “ideal of liberty“ that “independently considers whether government actions have the effect of preventing an individual from developing his or her distinctive personality or acting according to conscience, demean a person’s standing in the community, or violate essential elements of human dignity.” That is, I think, a more academically elegant way of saying fair versus not-fair.

So the challenge for anyone arguing to Justice Kennedy in the courtroom, or with him as a colleague in the conference room, would seem to be to persuade him to see your case on the fair (or not-fair, depending) side of the line.

I believe that Linda is spot on the money with her analysis of what drives Anthony Kennedy in his jurisprudence. And this is exactly what his longtime friend, and Supreme Court advocate extraordinaire, Ted Olson will play on and argue when the day arrives. It is exactly what Vaughn Walker has ingrained in to and framed his extraordinary decision today on.

Today is one of those rare seminal days where something important and something good has occurred. Fantastic. The beauty and joy of equality, due process and equal protection under the Constitution of the United States of America.

Expect a Win for Plaintiffs and Marriage Equality in Perry Prop8 Case

As I indicated earlier, and as nearly every media outlet and blog has now figured out and related, the decision from Judge Vaughn Walker in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger Prop8 gay marriage case is to be issued tomorrow sometime between 1 pm and 3 pm Pacific time. Here is what other media sources and blogs either do not know or won’t relate: the lead attorneys for the respective sides likely got courtesy copies from the court of Judge Walker’s draft opinion around 2 or 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon.

As a courtesy on really big opinions, so as to give counsel a chance to prepare appropriately for media response and/or immediate motions that need to be filed, courts occasionally give lead counsel on each side their draft opinion slightly ahead of public filing and release, but do so with a strict gag order so no one ever knows this happens This is something that Vaughn Walker has, from experience, a track record for doing, and I think it likely, actually almost certain, that he did just that here. Which makes the fact that the H8ter Defendant Intervenors (DIs), who propagated the hateful Proposition 8, and who oppose gay marriage, have already lodged a Motion For Stay Pending Appeal very, very telling.

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that, should the Court enter judgment for Plaintiffs, on October 21, 2010, or as soon as the matter may be heard, before the Honorable Vaughn R. Walker, United States District Court, Northern District of California, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, California, Defendant-Intervenors Hollingsworth, Knight, Gutierrez, Jansson, and ProtectMarriage.com (“Proponents”) will move the Court for a stay pending appeal. In the alternative, Proponents request a limited seven-day stay of the Court’s judgment to permit them to seek a stay pending appeal from the Ninth Circuit and, if necessary, the Supreme Court.

DIs filed this Motion For Stay Pending Appeal at shortly after 6 pm Tuesday night according to the docket notice issued by the court. Exactly what they would do if they know they lost. As the Washington Post reported late Tuesday night:

Both sides previously said an appeal was certain if Walker did not rule in their favor. The case would go first to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals then the Supreme Court if the high court justices agree to review it.

Anticipating such a scenario, lawyers for the coalition of religious and conservative groups that sponsored Proposition 8 in 2008 filed a legal brief Tuesday asking Walker to stay his decision if he overturns the ban so same-sex couples could not marry while an appeal was pending.

“Same-sex marriages would be licensed under a cloud of uncertainty, and should proponents succeed on appeal, any such marriages would be invalid,” they wrote.

Well, yes. Both sides have said all along they would appeal from a negative decision. But only one side is laying the groundwork for it, and that side is the Proposition 8 supporting gay marriage hating bigots. They have a courtesy copy of Walker’s decision and they don’t just think they lost, they know they lost.

And it is hilariously ironic that the gay hating Proposition 8 bigots base their Motion For Stay on the thought that failure to stay might harm the gays wanting to get married. How nice of them to be concerned. What a load of disingenuous dung.

The decision by Vaughn Walker to have a full fledged trial with a full evidentiary record was inspired and put the Perry case in a unique position compared to how such issues are usually handled on submitted pleadings and argument. This one had a real trial with a real record; that makes a ton of difference for the appeal.

Appellate courts cannot just substitute their views for that of the trial court when there is an evidentiary record, findings of fact and conclusions of law like this, where it is much easier to do so if it has been decided by preliminary injunctive relief, motions or on the pleadings. Walker can really put this in a unique posture with how he frames his findings of fact and conclusions of law; and I expect him to do just that. Walker is very detailed and very smart and crafty. He will lock in and protect his decision to every extent he can, and trust me Walker is very good at this. One of the best I have ever seen. Ted Olson, David Boies, Plaintiffs Perry et. al and fans of Constitutional equality everywhere could not ask for anything more.

So tomorrow looks to be not only a historic day, but a very good one for equality and civil rights under the Constitution. It is about time.

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