Monday, June 13, 2011

California's Proposition 8: Here We Go Again

Let's say that voters in some state were so upset about an international corporation closing a factory, that they passed an amendment to their state's constitution that wouldn't let the corporation do any sort of business there.

This is a hypothetical situation: although outsourcing and 'corporate greed' have been hot button issues for years.

Enter the Villain, Waxed Mustache and All

Let's say that corporate lawyers - today's analog of the melodramas' mustache-twirling villain - sued, putting the amendment's future in the hands of some judge.

The judge, who 'just happened' to be a major corporate stockholder, ruled that the amendment was unconstitutional.

Judicial Impartiality, Real or Imagined

I think a few people might think that the judge might have let personal considerations influence his decision.

I also think that the judge might have ruled against the new amendment on strictly legal, procedural, grounds: and would have made the same decision if he would have benefited from the amendment. There are, I think, honest judges.

But, in my opinion, that hypothetical judge should have recused himself. Judges are supposed to be impartial. Which, I've been told, is why you'll read now and then about a judge who refused to hear a case: citing conflict of interest.

My hat's off to judges who acknowledge that they have a potential conflict of interest, and let someone else handle a case. I think it's important for a judge to be impartial. I also think it's important for everybody else to have reason for thinking the judge doesn't have a bias.

California's Proposition 8

From today's news:
"A retired federal judge's long-term relationship with another man will be the subject of an unusual and possibly unprecedented court hearing Monday involving California's same-sex marriage ban.

"Lawyers for the sponsors of the voter-approved ban are asking the chief federal judge in San Francisco to vacate the decision issued by his predecessor last year that declared Proposition 8 an unconstitutional violation of gay Californians' civil rights. They maintain that former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself or disclosed his relationship status before trial because he and his partner stood to personally benefit from Walker's verdict...."
(Associated Press, via (June 13, 2011))
I think Chief Judge Walker should have recused himself.

That's not because I hate judges, or homosexuals, or Californians, or lawyers. I'm not allowed to hate people. (see Getting a grip, under Related posts, below)

Why didn't Judge Walker recuse himself? I don't know.

Maybe it never occurred to him that anybody might think he could be other than the epitome of judicial excellence.

Maybe he thought people would laugh at him - or hate him - if he recused himself. I think "homophobia" is being used the way "communism" was in my youth: but I also recognize that some folks have their skivvies in a knot over homosexuality, one way or another.

Proposition 8: 'That's Different?'

"...Ted Olson, one of the couples' lawyers, said he is unaware of any other cases in which a ruling was challenged because of the issuing judge's sexual orientation. He called the move to disqualify Walker 'frivolous' and 'demeaning' and said that expecting judges to reveal parts of their personal lives when hearing gay rights cases would set a dangerous precedent.

" 'What would a judge do who was Mormon knowing the Mormon Church took such an active role' in campaigning for Proposition 8, Olson asked...."
(Associated Press, via (June 13, 2011))
If a judge had been a devout Mormon, and decided that Proposition 8 was okay, my guess is that another set of lawyers would be asking for that ruling to be overturned. I also think they might have a point.

That's not what happened, though.

Conflict of Interest? Good Question

Do I think that Judge Walker decided to use his position to change a constitutional amendment he didn't like? Again: I DO NOT KNOW.

The problem, as I see it, is that Judge Walker made it possible for someone to assume that he influenced California law for personal advantage. That, I think, is a mess that needs to be sorted out.

For all I know, Judge Walker may have, in his professional opinion, based on years of experience with California law, determined that - in objective fact - Proposition 8 did not fit into the existing framework of California's constitution. That is possible. As I said, I think there are honest judges.

But I also think there are judges who are alternatively-honest, or clueless. Judge Walker, in my opinion, could have saved California a lot of trouble by recusing himself.

Political Correctness, Commie Hunts, and Getting a Grip

I am a practicing Catholic in a sincerely non-Catholic culture. I have had many opportunities to notice that a person may live in a way I think is not right - and still be honest. Within the cultural framework that person has decided to accept.

Back when political correctness was in flower, I knew folks who appeared to honestly believe that male-chauvinist-pig-rapist-oppressors really were behind everything they didn't like. Just as others were convinced that commies were backing the Democrats: and think America's president isn't a 'real American.'

Me? I prefer living in the real world. And that's almost another topic:Finally, although California's Proposition 8 has a political angle: This isn't a political post, and this isn't a political blog. In a way, I wish I could 'ignore politics,' but that isn't an option. (March 29, 2010)

Related posts:
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Brigid said...

You stuttered: "Let's say that that corporate lawyers"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


So so I did. ;) Found, fixed, thanks!

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.