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Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has decided that he will allow court employees to tape the Prop 8 hearings that will decide on the constitutionality of California's ban on gay marriage. ABC News reports that Judge Walker felt it was very important for the court to control the broadcast of the hearings. He is quoted by ABC News as saying, "[I]t's important for the transmission to be absolutely within the court's control." These will be the first federal hearings in a Western state with cameras in court and which is aired in public.
Judge Walker's decision shortly follows a decision made by the 9th Circuit to approve cameras in court for the nine Western states within the circuit's jurisdiction. The pilot program was announced by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. We wrote about this program in our Law and Daily Life Blog here. This Prop 8 hearings will be the first federal hearings taped that will decide on whether refusing gay individuals the right to marry is discriminatory. Judge Walker has stated that the Prop 8 lawsuit's significance is one of the reasons why it should be taped and released via Youtube broadcast video. He feels it would make citizens more aware of the judicial process. Judge Walker told ABC News: "I always thought that if people could see how the judiciary really works, they would take a somewhat different view of it."
In order to actually broadcast the hearings, Judge Walker will need approval from Chief Judge Alex Kozinski from the 9th Circuit. Since Chief Judge Kozinski announced the pilot program, it seems likely that he will approve Judge Walker's request.
Prop 8 supporters oppose the Youtube broadcast video of the Prop 8 hearings because they claim that making the hearings accessible to the public will cause intimidation or harassment of witnesses. As a result, Judge Walker has said that he will black out witnesses in the broadcast if they do not wish to be recorded.
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