Comments of Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks
Judges have a duty not only to apply the law without bias, but also to do so in a way that avoids even the mere appearance of impropriety. This idea is a cornerstone of the judiciary. Thus, the Supreme Court has long been clear that “no man can be a judge in his own case and no man is permitted to try cases where he has an interest in the outcome.” Against the backdrop of these bedrock principles, it is clear that the ruling of Judge Walker must be vacated.
Over eight months after declaring unconstitutional the democratic decision of over 7 million Californians to reaffirm traditional marriage, Judge Walker publicly revealed that he has been in a committed same-sex relationship for over 10 years. Instead of revealing these facts to the parties and their counsel, Judge Walker kept them to himself even though the subject matter of the case presented an issue in which Judge Walker and his partner had a direct interest. Judge Walker's course of conduct in this case heightens the appearance of partiality. Indeed, on two separate occasions, for example, his orders in this case have already been reversed, including a dramatic intervention by the United States Supreme Court to stop his effort to televise the trial.
While parties have the option to request that a judge recuse himself, they can only do that when they possess the information necessary to make such a request. When judges rule on cases in which they possess a direct and substantial personal interest, there can be no justice. And when judges fail to disclose all relevant facts concerning their potential personal interest in the outcome of a case and permit the appearance of partiality, the entirety of our judicial process is undermined.
Judge Walker’s decision must be vacated and reconsidered by a neutral judge who has no direct and substantial personal interest in the outcome and whose impartiality cannot reasonably be questioned, as required by federal law. Only then can the court ensure that this case will be decided in accordance with the high standards that apply to the judicial process.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.