Judge who overturned Prop 8 may have had a close relationship with lawyer who argued the case

A legal expert said newly discovered e-mails “suggest a cozy relationship between Walker and Olson that some observers may find revealing.”
Thu Mar 28, 2013 - 9:51 pm EST

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 28, 2013 ( – A recently discovered cache of e-mails raises the question of whether Vaughn R. Walker, the judge who blocked California’s Proposition 8 which protected traditional marriage, had an inappropriately close relationship with the attorneys who argued the case before him.

The legal blog Patterico’s Ponderings has published an e-mail exchange between Vaughn R. Walker, the judge who blocked California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, and the law partner of Ted Olson, an attorney who argued against the bill during the trial in 2010 and is currently arguing against it again before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The e-mails portray a close relationship between the two men, with Walker seeking to avoid harming Olson’s case, even accidentally, and discussing plans for a Christmastime gathering.


According to the e-mails posted by, Walker, who is gay, wrote to Olson’s law partner in December asking whether it would be all right with Olson if he attended the Supreme Court hearings in Washington, D.C. “[A]sk Ted if he thinks my attending the argument would be an unwanted distraction,” he directed the lawyer, whose name was redacted by Patterico.

The reply reads in part: “Vaughn, Ted and I have discussed this over the weekend and, reluctantly, we do think it would be a potential distraction for you to attend the argument, now scheduled for March 27. There will be a heavy press turnout and you are very likely to be recognized and asked to comment. Even if you refuse, your attendance will likely be covered and your personal situation, even though now irrelevant, again reported on.”

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Walker’s “personal situation” is that he has been in a romantic relationship with a man for more than 10 years, something he never disclosed publicly until after he had already declared California’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional. At the time, supporters of the ban argued he should have recused himself since he potentially had a personal stake in the case.

Patterico wrote of the exchange, “Although the e-mails likely breach no ethical rules — Walker retired in 2011 — they do suggest a cozy relationship between Walker and Olson that some observers may find revealing.”

Patterico points out: “Walker seeks Olson’s opinion regarding attending the argument, defers to Olson’s judgment, and praises Olson’s legal skills.”

“Walker’s demeanor in the e-mails is that of a well-wisher who wishes to make sure Olson’s argument is not disrupted, rather than that of an impartial former jurist,” he wrote.

For more on this story, and to read the e-mails, click here.

  proposition 8, same-sex 'marriage', vaughn walker

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