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BREAKING: Judge Vaughn Walker announces retirement

Statements Trial analysis

By Eden James

This just in from Lisa Leff at the AP:Judge Vaughn Walker

The federal judge who ruled that California’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional says he is stepping down from the bench.

The San Francisco-based federal court says Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker notified President Barack Obama by letter on Wednesday that he will leave the court in February.

Walker did not state why he was stepping down. Matthew Bajko of the Bay Area Reporter quotes Walker:

“Concluding 21 years of judicial service, I leave the bench with the highest respect and regard for the federal judiciary, its judges and their staff and the essential role they fulfill in our constitutional system.”

As the Judge Walker’s adjudication of the Prop 8 trial is over, this does not appear to have any impact on the case now before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

More to come as news develops.


  • 1. Kindra Pring  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Thank you Judge Walker, for your efforts in furthering civil rights in our nation.

  • 2. Carpool Cookie  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Must send him a nice card.

    What a great case to go out on : )

  • 3. Jimby  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I can hear the NOM team now…
    "How can we make it look like we made him retire?"
    "How can we make this seem to invalidate his ruling?"
    "How can we justify another bus tour based on this news?"

  • 4. cc  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Lol, sad but true!

  • 5. Judy  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Can we send him a cake?

  • 6. Dpeck  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

    We can at least offer him some of our cookies.

  • 7. Steve  |  September 29, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Or rainbow cupcakes

  • 8. BK  |  October 1, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Is there a way to make rainbow cupcakes with rainbow frosting *and* cake?

  • 9. Sagesse  |  October 1, 2010 at 10:45 pm


    Gourmet secret. Food colouring + white cake. Swirl batter as you would to make marble cake. May be tricky with multiple colours.

  • 10. Kathleen  |  October 2, 2010 at 3:20 am

  • 11. Trish  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I'm sure he just won't have any cases that are as interesting and challenging as Proposition 8 so he's now decided that his career can end.

  • 12. Steven in Windsor/ D  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:31 am

    A great way to end a great career!

  • 13. CarpoolSlug  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Send Jaudge Walker some Jelly Beans πŸ™‚

  • 14. Elizabeth Oakes  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:42 am

    This seems odd, and I'm sure you're right Jimby: NOM will try to spin this as a victory. However, we may be the ones who end up laughing–won't Obama get to appoint his successor?

  • 15. Lesbians Love Boies  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:43 am

    You are so right Elizabeth!


  • 16. DrPatrick1  |  September 29, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Except of course Obama has failed to nominate replacements for the majority of empty appellate positions, not to mention the district court vacancies. IN FACT, OBAMA should have made this his #1 priority when he had a supermajority. The Left missed a vital opportunity to correct the sharp right turn the entire federal judiciary took since 1980. The repub's make it their priority to fill the judiciary, while the dem's take too much time analysing the choices that will be acceptable to the repubs, that by the time the nomination is made, the repubs are back in power.

  • 17. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Touche Elizabeth! Yay!

    Thank you Judge Walker for one of the most historical, caring, meticulous, fair-minded, timely, articulate rulings that has ever been seen in the United States courts… Bless you! Thank you! Best of everything to you!

  • 18. Tony Douglass in Ca  |  September 29, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    It doesn't seem the case, from The Advocate's article:
    <q cite="">By statute, United States district chief judges are selected based on a combination of age, seniority and experience and may serve in the post for a maximum of seven years. 28 USC § 136. By application of this statute, District Judge James Ware will assume the post of chief judge of the Northern District on January 1, 2011.</q>

    The article:

  • 19. Kathleen  |  September 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    That statute just relates to the selection of chief judges from among the federal judges in a particular district court. The judges are appointed to the court in the same way all federal judges are appointed.

  • 20. Tony Douglass in Ca  |  September 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Ah, I should have seen that, thank you for the clarification!

  • 21. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  September 29, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Tony I read that and thought the same thing…so nice to have Legal Eagles among us! Thanks for clarification Kathleen.

  • 22. OldCoastie  |  September 29, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Obama is way behind in his court appointments.

  • 23. Lesbians Love Boies  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I am sure with as many death threats he has received from the fringe right he won't accept anything edible. An email or a card would be great though.

  • 24. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Talk about about "thinking of everything" LLB! I admire your critical thinking skills πŸ™‚

  • 25. Ed  |  September 29, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I hope he gets married !

  • 26. Carol  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Going out in glory. Thank you for applying your intellect and humanity to this case.

  • 27. Straight Ally #3008  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Any other case would have been anticlimactic. πŸ˜‰

    Well done, sir, and thank you for your judicial service.

  • 28. Kathleen  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Thank you Judge Walker for everything you've done to bring truth to light!

    p.s. I still haven't received an email notice of the new post. Anyone else? Is this wordpress or is it just my own email that's being slow?

  • 29. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Slowness for about 24 hours…I just got a message "slow down, you are posting too quickly" when trying to reply to a post.

  • 30. Jonathan H  |  September 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    It's not just you, Kathleen. I've noticed quite a few comments that never showed up in my email and I didn't get notified of this post either. Maybe this site is getting too big for WordPress?

  • 31. Lesbians Love Boies  |  September 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Kathleen, I had the problem earlier today. They all started to come in about 2.5 hours late (along with the ones that were on time) and it's all caught up now…for me.

  • 32. Sagesse  |  September 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I didn't get a notice either, although I did see the announcement. Wishing Judge Walker all the best in retirement. He did a superb job with the Prop 8 trial, a class act all the way.

  • 33. Eden James  |  September 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Folks — keep letting us know in the comments if you're not getting emails as you should normally. This is a WordPress issue and we'll do our best to get them to fix it.

  • 34. John B.  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:21 am

    It's possible that retiring from the bench will allow him to be more outspoken about this subject and voice his personal opinions–guess we'll have to wait and see. I have to admit there's a part of me that would love to hear him announce that he's NOT gay–it would demolish so much of the smear campaign against him, and against his Prop. 8 decision, by the religious right.

  • 35. Felyx  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I would love to hear him announce that he IS gay. Smear campaigns are fleeting but heroes endure for generations!

    What a testament to prove that disparaged minorities are able to serve society with excellence and are respected enough to be honored when overruling and refuting discrimination.

    Here's to Vaugh R. Walker regardless of orientation!


  • 36. Lesbians Love Boies  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I am with Felyx. I would rather learn that he is gay. I seriously think the numbers have been flawed for too long.

  • 37. ΔΆΔ­Ε—îΔΌΔΊΔ™&  |  September 30, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Somehow I am saddened by Walker's retirement.  NOMbies are gonna be yelling now that he was forced to step down, and they will be dancing on his "bones," so to speak, saying that's what's gonna happen to every “judicial activist.”

    However, Vaughn R. Walker has done a wonderful job for us, and this might be one of the most important things he's done as a judge in his career.  We are absolutely grateful.

    — β™‚KFβ™‚

    P.S.  I still did not get a notification about this post, ergo I'm so late to reply: just found out.

  • 38. BK  |  October 1, 2010 at 11:14 pm


    I'm a few days late, but the spin from Citizenlink just arrived in my mailbox. (rolls eyes)

    I wish they had a comments page. πŸ™‚

  • 39. Kate  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:46 am

    We need straight heroes, too, who defend our rights. I'd like to see him thumb his nose at the haters and announce that he is straight. Then let them scurry around like the cockroaches they are, trying to find something else to pin on him to minimize his decision.

  • 40. Kate  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Anyone know why some of the location/tour stop stars on the Vota [sic] Bus are white and others are yellow?

  • 41. Owen  |  September 29, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Gay, straight, or whatever – Judge Walker did a fantastic job with the case, and I could never thank him enough for what he's done for me and the rest of the queer community.

    Enjoy your retirement, Judge Walker. You've earned it.

  • 42. Lesbians Love Boies  |  September 29, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Some days there are Gems in the news:

    Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput told a conference of 150 religion reporters on 24 September that the mass media seems more hostile to Christian values. He called upon journalists “to understand believers and religious institutions as they understand themselves.” Indeed, this is wonderful advice right out of the pages of Sun Tzu’s Art of War “know your enemy as you know yourself.” Of course, this is not what he is urging because what he is actually upset about is the fact that the media has not done things like ignore the fact that Senatorial candidate from Wisconsin Ron Johnson’s testimony in order to destroy a bill that would have extended the statute of limitation in pedophile cases aimed at the Roman Catholic Church or the fact that Roman Catholic priests actually rape children.

    He went on to say “Freedom of the press clearly includes the right to question the actions and motives of religious figures and institutions. But freedom doesn’t excuse prejudice or poor handling of serious material, especially people’s religious convictions. What’s new today is the seeming collusion –or at least an active sympathy — between some media organizations and journalists, and political and sexual agendas hostile to traditional Christian beliefs.”

    um…if you weren't so in my face I might sympathize…NOT – The end of the article:

    Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, which has donated a large amount of money to the National Organization for Marriage, Carl Anderson also shared his thoughts on religion and Americans by noting that eight-four percent of Americans believe in God, three quarters of Americans believe religion is somewhat important in their lives, and two-thirds look to religion help define their morals. He stated “It’s almost as if we have two Americans. There is a moral center to America.” Of course, the author of the book “Beyond a House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored by Washington, Wall Street and the Media Divided” wants Americans to follow a Christian morality that follows the Catholic Church’s beliefs without noticing that the morality that many people support includes people who support LGBT rights and even same-sex marriage.

    Of course, the Catholic Church would really like the media to stop taking on their failings including the fact that they have a history of shielding child molesters instead of protecting child abuse victims.

    Read More:

  • 43. DrPatrick1  |  September 29, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Question: If the ninth circuit finds prop H8 advocates lack standing to appeal, would they also find they lacked standing at the district level as well? If this came to pass, wouldn't they then send this back to district court (Walker) to change the whole trial. Prop H8 would be gone (no small victory mind you) but wouldn't the trial then disappear from a precedent standpoint? Anyone?

  • 44. Kate  |  September 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    No. The requirements for standing are different at the appellate level.

  • 45. Kathleen  |  September 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    As to the question of whether it was proper to allow Proponents to defend in district court, there was no issue of standing at the district court level because there were parties on both sides with standing — namely, the plaintiffs (who were harmed by Prop 9) and the California state officials (governor, AG, et al) who were enforcing Prop 8. Thus, there was a proper "case or controversy" as required for Article III standing. In district court, the Proponents were merely defendant-intervenors in a case which already existed.

    However, in order for this case to be appealed, there must be a party with Article III standing who is willing to appeal it. Without that, there can be no appeal. If there is no one with standing who is willing to appeal this, the most likely scenario is simply that the case will not be appealed, Walker's ruling will stand and Prop 8 will become unenforceable. The trial in district court won't disappear, but it doesn't establish binding precedent in other courts because only decisions at the appellate level do that and then only for those lower courts within a specific appeals court's jurisdiction.

  • 46. Kathleen  |  September 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Of course the above should read "… the plaintiffs (who were harmed by Prop 8)…"

  • 47. Kate  |  September 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    What she said. πŸ™‚

  • 48. Kendall  |  September 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Appellate courts sometimes send things back down (with instructions), right? If this happens and Walker's not there, is it pot luck again?

    Or when this happens, is it always pot luck–does the re-decision at the lower level always involve a different judge?

    I always figured it was always the same judge, otherwise it's like starting from scratch, but…?

  • 49. Lesbians Love Boies  |  September 29, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    He's not planning to retire until Feb. 2011, so it's safe to say all is good.

  • 50. Kathleen  |  September 29, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    When a case is remanded, I think it generally goes back to the same judge. If that were to happen here after Walker's gone, I'm not sure what procedure would determine the judge. It could be that all of his cases would be assigned to a specific judge, or it might be just random pick of the draw who would take it.

    However, it's hard for me to imagine why this case would be remanded. Remand generally happens when additional fact-finding is necessary to conform with an appeals court interpretation of the law.

  • 51. Kendall  |  September 29, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks, Kathleen (and LLB)!

  • 52. Kenny  |  September 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    sounds like he's gonna cash in!

  • 53. Sydney  |  September 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Unrelated to Walker, but did anyone else see this story?

    Assistant attorney general blogs against student body president

  • 54. Carpool Cookie  |  September 30, 2010 at 2:06 am

    Yes. That is a weird, horrible story.

    I have a sense of deja vu, because I thought I had heard about that freakazoid Assistant District Attorney in Michigan last week, but people are posting about it on Huffington Post as if it were new.

    Whatever the case, that guy's employer MUST get him counseling, as he is clearly deranged.

  • 55. Alex  |  September 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    I am getting some harassing phone calls from a Christian Wedding Planner company claiming I have called them inquiring about a wedding reception. Which I have not. Twice so far I had the same conversation with them telling them my right to marry was eliminated. I think ask them where they got my number and they hang up. The last time they called I called them back trying to ask again where they got my number. Yet some guy answers the phone and says "this is the police department put your hands behind your back, we are coming to get you". I really don't know where these people got my number, but I have traced their number to a Christian Wedding Planner Company in Orange.

  • 56. Kathleen  |  September 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Some potentially useful information here:

  • 57. Alan E  |  September 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Just subscribing. May he live the rest of his days in peace.

    PS Giants won!

  • 58. Slade  |  September 29, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Also unrelated, but another tragic suicide caused by a Dorm Roommate broadcasting a Gay Student's private sexual encounter over public streaming site iChat.

    Disgusting. Wish any harassment that ended in suicide was treated as murder.

  • 59. RebeccaRGB  |  September 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    While we're waiting for the report from P8TT, I thought I'd post a more detailed account of what I experienced at the Fuller Park stop in Napa.

    I arrived in Fuller Park around 10:10, twenty minutes before the time posted on the Vota tus Valores site. There were a handful of Barbara Boxer supporters standing in the middle of the park. More supporters trickled in as 10:30 came and went. I counted 27 people, including me. Someone received a text message saying that VtV had been kicked out of the Jelly Belly Factory. It was 10:40 when the organizer for the protest announced they'll only wait ten more minutes. Then we moved from the center of the park to near the street. A white van pulled up and someone told us the bus was coming, but it was running late.

    The bus came around 10:50. The bus driver waved to us as he drove by (Hi Thomas!). They parked the bus on the northwest corner of the park. The P8TT van was in front of them. The VtV staff came out and tried to start a speech about Carly Fiorina, starting with something about "intolerance is unamerican." All the Boxer supporters drowned them out with calls of Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! and Get Out of Napa!. I yelled Gay Marriage! Gay Marriage! Gay Marriage! while I held up my "God Loves Gays" sign.

    I heard someone yell "you're wasting your time!" and I yelled back "nobody's showing up to your bus tour and you say we're the ones wasting our time?!" (Though I must admit I have no idea whether the person yelling that was with us or with them.)

    Arisha approached me and asked me for an interview, which of course I accepted! She asked me who I am and why I was there. I said I am Rebecca, I am here because of the Prop 8 Trial Tracker, and like they said, intolerance is unamerican, and I'm here to show them what tolerance really is! She thanked me and then started talking to some of the other people. I heard her tell someone about Just before she left I told her I post here as RebeccaRGB. I told her it was great meeting her! The VtV and P8TT people got back into their bus and van respectively to leave for the next stop.

    The Boxer supporters started singing, Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye! We saw the bus turn the corner, go around the park, and go back the opposite way it came.

    All the other signs were Boxer-related. One girl had a sign saying "Boxer rocks my socks!"

    My sign said:

    DIOS AMA a los GAYS
    Matthew 19:12 Isaiah 56:4-5
    1 Samuel 16:7 Acts 8:26-39
    Acts 10:34 Galatians 3:28

    I had been up the night before downloading bible apps onto my iPod and Droid and bookmarking these and the "clobber passages," just in case I had to use them. But I didn't. πŸ™‚

  • 60. Dpeck  |  September 29, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Awesome !! Sooo great to see how these jerks are striking out again and again because people are showing up and protesting. Well done!

  • 61. RebeccaRGB  |  September 29, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Pictures of the action in Napa:

  • 62. Judy  |  September 30, 2010 at 1:04 am

    This took me to a blocked page, but let me go to the profile of Joe Sottile. Is this the right address?

  • 63. Kathleen  |  September 30, 2010 at 2:09 am

    RebeccaRGB, are you a facebook friend of the person whose photo you're linking to? If so, that would explain why you can see it and the rest of us just get a "content unavailable" message.

  • 64. Dave P.  |  September 30, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Can we get a link for those of us who are not on Facebook?

  • 65. RebeccaRGB  |  October 1, 2010 at 10:27 am

    I'm not friends with Joe Sottile, but I can see his album. However, Joe and I have a friend in common, so maybe that's why I can see it? That's the only thing I can think of.

    Here's the same album but I uploaded it somewhere else so people could actually see it:

  • 66. Gregory in Salt Lake  |  September 30, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Thank you Rebecca!

  • 67. Dpeck  |  September 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    NEW DEVELOPMENT – CHECK THE TOUR WEB SITE – They just put up a photo of their bus in front of the Jelly Belly factory, with text about how they had a great tour of the facility – clearly "implied endoresment".

    Everyone – call and email the Jelly Belly public relations office again, and send them links to this photo on the BUSted tour web site. Ask them if they are OK with these people implying that Jelly Belly supports their message of discrimination.

    And anyone who is tech savvy, please save the image that is on their site in case they take it down!

  • 68. ChrisB  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I snagged and saved a screenshot of the whole page. If I can figure out how to upload it here, I will. People should really check ouy the pictures if they haven't already. It's just sad.

  • 69. ChrisB  |  September 29, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    OT from the original post, but a continuation of the above comment, they have links to the first and second "Vota Bus spotting."

    The first one says,

    The Vota Bus has begun its trek across America, heading towards our first stop in California next Monday.

    Our new friend "Donnie" sent us this email last night:

    "Just admiring your bus as it pulled into the RV Park at Diamond Jacks in Bossier City, La. You will definitely get attention when you roll into town. Bless you for your stand on life, marriage and America."

    Thanks, "Donnie". We sure hope so!

    And the second one is,

    I have a feeling these are going to become more frequent:

    "Saw your bus in Fort Worth, Texas today! You go get em in California we are pulling for you. The bus is great!!!" – Dottie

    Be on the look-out for the VotaBus! Check the schedule to see where we will be and if you manage to snap a photo – send it in to us! Of course, it goes without saying that you should always be safe when trying to capture a photo of the Vota Bus, especially if it is moving.

    I thought the bus originated in Cali. Where did they start from if they are cruising through Bossier City and Dallas? And how come no one noticed them in Longview, Abilene, Midland, Odessa, El Paso, Las Cruces, Deming, Lordsburg, Tucson, Phoenix, Blythe, Indio, Palm Springs, etc, etc, and commented. Assuming that was their route. I'm pretty sure there are some folks of Hispanic descent in those areas, although they can't vote for Carly, so they don't count.

    Could it be that they're making up these emails as well?

  • 70. Judy  |  September 30, 2010 at 1:12 am

    I see they finally corrected their spelling of On The Border (was 'on the boarder', no caps).

    And, I see they now have two stops listed as "rallies", San Diego and East LA. They are admitting the rest of these stops are not rallies.

  • 71. Rhie  |  September 29, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Wow why did this not show up in my e-mail? Good thing I follow on twitter too…

    This is sad news indeed. Thank you, Judge Walker!

  • 72. Josh wilson  |  September 30, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Can someone please explain this to me. Why is NOM trying to get the latino vote, yet tell them that they support immigration reform? Especially when the victims of Immigration reform who are generally Latino.

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