Supporters of Proposition 8, California‘s ban on gay marriage, are calling for Judge Stephen Reinhardt to recuse himself from the appeals trial, set to get underway on Monday, because his wife heads the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
In a motion filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Wednesday, lawyers for Proposition 8’s supporters said Reinhardt’s “impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” despite the fact that his wife has no significant involvement in the case, but did make a personal contribution to the “No On 8″ campaign back in 2008.
“So long as a judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, recusal is required,” they wrote in a motion asking Reinhardt to disqualify himself. “The facts of this case would plainly lead a reasonable person to conclude that Judge Reinhardt’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
Reinhardt, 79, is one three judges on a panel scheduled to hear arguments Monday in the appeal by Proposition 8’s sponsors of a trial judge’s ruling that struck down the ban. He has a reputation as one of the 9th Circuit’s most liberal jurists.
On Wednesday, Reinhardt rebuffed the motion, and declined to recuse himself, saying:
“I have before me defendants-intervenors-appellants’ motion to disqualify myself from this appeal. I have not hesitated to recuse from cases in the past when doing so was warranted by the circumstances . . . I am certain that “a reasonable person with knowledge of all the facts would [not] conclude that [my] impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” United States v. Nelson, 718 F.2d 315, 321 (9th Cir. 1983). I will be able to rule impartially on this appeal, and I will do so. The motion is therefore DENIED.”
Meanwhile, Eric Ethington at Pride In Utah reports that Judge N. Randy Smith, one of the three judges who will hear the appeal, is Mormon and a graduate of Brigham Young University.
You may recall that the Mormon church was instrumental in funding the campaign against gay marriage in California, mobilizing its followers into contributing more than $17 million to pro-Prop 8 groups, including “Yes on 8.”
Not surprisingly, there has been no call for Smith to recuse himself.