Federal Court Blocks Release of Videotapes of 2010 Prop 8 Trial

Feb 2, 2012 2:31pm

ABC News’ Ariane de Vogue reports:

A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in California has ruled that videotapes of the 2010 trial regarding the constitutionality of Proposition 8 will not be released to the public. After the trial, a District Court judge struck down the California voter initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman

The panel of judges for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower court “abused its discretion” by ordering the unsealing of the recording of the trial after the trial judge – former Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California-  had told the parties involved that the recording would not be publicly broadcast.

“The trial judge on several occasions unequivocally promised that the recording of the trial would be used only in chambers and not publicly broadcast,” the Court said.

After the trial, opponents of Prop 8 had asked that the videotapes be made publically available. Supporters of the initiative argued against public release.

The appeals court judges – Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Daly Hawkins and N.R. Smith – emphasized that their ruling was unique to the circumstances surrounding the creation and sealing of the recording in the trial. They said the decision does not address policy questions regarding whether courts should allow cameras in court and it has “nothing to do with the freedom of the press to publish, describe or comment on any information to which it obtains access.”

Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., an attorney representing opponents to Prop 8, released a statement after the decision saying, “It speaks volumes that the proponents of Proposition 8 are so insistent about concealing the videotaped record of this historic trial. They know the videotape would expose their baseless campaign of fear and let the public see the powerful evidence we submitted showing that Proposition 8 flatly violates the United States Constitution. ”

Andy Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, the official proponents of Proposition 8, issued a statement praising today’s ruling. His group had been extremely critical of the use of the videotapes by Judge Walker after the trial was concluded.

“This issue here was not whether federal trials should be televised,” he said. “Instead, this is about a judge who became so obsessed with striking down traditional marriage that he found himself disregarding the law and turning the trial proceedings into a sham.”

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