Federal Judge Unseals Digital Recordings of Prop 8 Trial

A federal Judge in California has unsealed  the digital recordings of the Prop 8 trial  in California held in 2010. Defenders of Prop 8 did not want the tapes released in part because they believed that it would have a “chilling effect” on expert witnesses who testified about the controversial ballot measure that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. Transcripts of the court proceedings had been publicly available.

At trial the Judge Vaughn Walker, who has since retired,  ordered the digital recording,  but did not release the tapes. The judge later struck down Prop 8 , and the ruling is currently on appeal.

In ordering the release of the digital recordings, Judge James Ware of the US District Court for the Northern District of California said,  “Foremost among the aspects of the federal judicial system that foster public confidence in the fairness and integrity of the process are public access to trials and public access to the record of judicial proceedings.”

Ware noted that there had to be “compelling reasons” for keeping such a record of judicial proceedings secret. His decision is stayed for September 30 to give parties a chance to appeal.

Chad Griffin, the Board President of The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) a group challenging Prop 8 released a statement praising the decision  “This is a significant victory for the American people, who will soon be able to see the evidence put forward by both sides in this historic federal trial.”

AFER could not have asked for better timing of the judge’s order. Tonight the group is holding a fundraiser in New York with Hollywood actors reading parts of the transcript on stage. The “cast” includes Ellen Barkin, Anthony Edwards, Morgan Freeman, Cheyenne Jackson, Christine Lahti, John Lithgow, Rob Reiner, Yeardley Smith and Bradley Whitford.


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