January 12, 2010
Courting Intimidation: Supremes May Shut Down Cameras in SSM Case
In the long-running soap opera "As the Marital Definition Turns" -- that is, the case underway in federal court in San Francisco, where plaintiffs are trying to overturn the initiative constitutional amendment Proposition 8 that re-re-established traditional marriage in America's biggest state -- I reported a couple of days ago that the judge in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker (Bush-41), had decided that it would be just dandy to have cameras rolling all through the trial, so videos of the pro-traditional-marriage witnesses could be circulated on YouTube... probably as "wanted" posters.
Given the Left's recent history, I concluded that the most likely outcome would be a vicious cycle of witness intimidation that might even cause the "designated defendants" to drop out of the case (as one, Hak-Shing William Tam, is already petitioning to do). Since both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California Attorney General (and former governor) Jerry Brown refused to defend the amendment, despite it having been enacted by a clear majority of California voters, the proponents of Prop. 8 were forced to ask the court to allow them to defend it. Otherwise, the enemies of the proposition, proponents of same-sex marriage (SSM), would simply win the case and overturn the will of the people by default.
That still could happen, if all the designated defendants are driven out. But that's a little less likely now, for the United States Supreme Court stepped in with an emergency order to prevent the cameras from being turned on. The order lasts only until tomorrow at 4:00 pm court-time; but clearly the Court intends to issue a final ruling on a permanent injunction before then:
The Supreme Court on Monday temporarily blocked a federal judge's decision to allow cameras in the courtroom during the trial on the constitutionality of California's same-sex-marriage ban.
The court's order will remain in effect until 4 p.m. on Wednesday to allow the justices more time to consider the issue. That means the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial, which began Monday, will have proceeded for three days without being broadcast or videostreamed to news outlets and Web sites such as YouTube.
The only justice objecting to the temporary order was Stephen Breyer, one of the most activist of the left-liberal justices. To me, that's a good sign.
I have high hopes that at least five justices will see the obvious danger of witness inimidation, harassment, vandalism of property, or even physical assault -- given the history I alluded to earlier -- and rule that the experiment of televising federal court cases should not commence with such a contentious issue, about which so many people have such strong, even hysterical positions. Without cameras, the trial should proceed as expected -- to an obviously pre-ordained victory for the plaintiffs; Judge Walker has made his own pro-SSM activism quite clear.
Then we can have the inevitable appeal to a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circus, to an en banc hearing of the entire Ninth, and ultimately to the USSC.
As usual, I expect the camera order -- and the final case, whenever that gets to the Court -- will hinge how Justice Anthony Kennedy feels that day. Let's hope he doesn't have a bad bout of indigestion when it comes time to vote.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 12, 2010, at the time of 1:18 PM
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