Federal appeals court rules Prop 8 trial recordings to remain under seal


SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday granted a stay to a federal judge’s ruling that the video recordings of the Prop 8 trial would be released this Friday unless a higher court intervened.

The temporary stay is “pending consideration of appellant’s emergency motion for stay pending appeal,” and is likely to be renewed while the appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court review the dispute.

The sponsors of Proposition 8 — who were defendants in the case — argued that making the recordings public would endanger witnesses and damage the “credibility and integrity of the federal judiciary.”

U.S. District Court Chief Judge James Ware, in his Sept. 19 ruling, wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court had prohibited only a telecast during the Prop 8 trial. He went on to express that the high court made no provisions that the recordings, which are part of the trial record, be permanently sealed.

Ware acknowledged that the attorney’s for the plaintiffs, the city of San Francisco and various media organizations were justified in requesting that the videos be made public.

In arguing for the stay, Prop 8 supporter’s lead attorney Charles Cooper said Ware’s ruling “threatens deep and lasting harm” to the federal judiciary, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

Unsealing the recordings would expose pro-Prop. 8 witnesses to “a serious and well-substantiated risk of harassment or worse” and would cause them to refuse to testify at any future proceedings, Cooper said.

He did not present any supporting statements from the witnesses. Prop. 8’s opponents, on the other hand, are circulating a comment from the sponsors’ chief witness, traditional marriage advocate David Blankenhorn, who said in an online exchange last week that he “never felt physically threatened” by the presence of cameras at the trial.

“The anti-marriage Proponents of Prop. 8 are fighting tooth and nail to keep the public from seeing what really happened,” said Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), in a Sept. 19 statement following Ware’s ruling.

“Americans should be able to see for themselves what happens when discrimination is put on trial,” Griffin said.

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