Supreme Court Rules 5-4 to Stay Prop 8 Trial Broadcast Ban
The U.S. Supreme Court has voted 5-4 to block the broadcast of the federal challenge to Proposition 8:
"The high court's five conservatives formed the majority. They said federal judge Vaughan Walker didn't follow court rules when he ordered proceedings broadcast by closed circuit to federal courthouses in several cities. The Supreme Court's four liberals joined a dissent written by Justice Stephen Breyer."
"The Supreme Court earlier issued a stay against the closed-circuit broadcasts as well as an order by Judge Walker for the proceedings to be shown on the Internet site YouTube. Wednesday's high-court ruling didn't touch on the Internet posting, saying it was premature. A federal appeals court hasn't yet ruled on the Internet aspect."
The Court, chastizing the trial court for attempting “to change its rules at the eleventh hour,” issued an unsigned 17-page opinion. The ruling came out nearly 40 minutes after an earlier temporary order blocking TV had technically expired.
The Court gave the supporters of the Prop 8 ban two options to seek a final order against the television coverage: they could (as they have indicated they would) file a petition for review from the lower courts’ orders), or they could file a petition seeking what is called a “writ of mandamus” — that is, an order from a higher to a lower court to take, or not take, some action. The Court did not indicate whether it would grant review of either approach, although Wednesday’s order was a fairly strong hint that it would.
And, in fact, the main opinion seemed to indicate that the Court, in the last analysis, would not permit the coverage in any event. The television viewing of the Prop 8 trial was to be done as part of a “pilot program” in the federal courts in the Ninth Circuit. The Court majority wrote: “This case is…not a good one for a pilot program. Even the studies that have been conducted thus far have not analyzed the effecdt of broadcasting in high-profile, divisive cases.”
As a practical matter, the ruling almost certainly dooms any broadcast coverage of the trial as it goes on.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights released a statement in response to the ruling:
“Proposition 8 attacks the core of what our nation stands for — that all of us are entitled to equal protection under the law and equal treatment from the government. A trial on constitutional rights should be accessible to as many people as possible,” said Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. “Given the powerful evidence against Prop. 8 presented in court today, we are not surprised the initiative’s defenders sought to keep this trial as private as possible.”