Supreme Court blocks YouTube broadcast of Proposition 8 trial

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 that the trial on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 [JURIST news archive] same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] ban may not be broadcast because the court did not follow proper procedure when enacting a rule permitting the broadcast. Last week, Judge Vaughn Walker of the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the trial could be broadcast live to five federal courthouses and posted to the court's YouTube [website] channel. In staying the broadcast, the Supreme Court ruled that there was a significant likelihood that the district court had not allowed enough time for the public to comment between proposing and enacting the rule, which ended a ban on recording court proceedings in certain cases. The Court also found that the high-profile nature of the trial might intimidate witnesses and cause irreparable harm if the rule were not stayed. In an unsigned opinion, the Court stated:


The District Court attempted to change its rules at the eleventh hour to treat this case differently than other trials in the district. Not only did it ignore the federal statute that establishes the procedures by which its rules may be amended, its express purpose was to broadcast a high-profile trial that would include witness testimony about a contentious issue. If courts are to require that others follow regular procedures, courts must do so as well.

Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor. The Court's order will be in effect until it hears an appeal relating to televised court proceedings.

Wednesday's order continues a temporary stay ordered by the Supreme Court Monday, the same day the trial began [JURIST reports]. Supporters of Proposition 8 have objected to the controversial decision to broadcast the trial proceedings, claiming it would result in witness intimidation. The YouTube broadcast of the case, Perry v. Schwarzenegger [case materials], was to be allowed under an experimental program approved by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] last month that allows cameras in civil, non-jury cases. Proposition 8 was approved [JURIST report] by California voters in November 2008.


 

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