Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Supreme Court Enters Stay Stopping Live Video Of California Same-Sex Marriage Trial

In a 5-4 decision today in Hollingsworth v. Perry,  558 U. S. ____ (2010) (09A648), the United States Supreme Court stayed the broadcast of the same-sex marriage trial in the Northern District of California. 

With regard to the underlying action, the Court stated:
This lawsuit, still in a preliminary stage, involves anaction challenging what the parties refer to as Proposition 8, a California ballot proposition adopted by the electorate. Proposition 8 amended the State Constitution by adding a new section providing that “[o]nly marriage between aman and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Cal. Const. Art. I, §7.5. The plaintiffs contend that Propo-sition 8 violates the United States Constitution. A bench trial in the case began on Monday, January 11, 2010, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
As for the ruling, the majority stated:
We are asked to stay the broadcast of a federal trial. We resolve that question without expressing any view on whether such trials should be broadcast. We instead determine that the broadcast in this case should be stayedbecause it appears the courts below did not follow the appropriate procedures set forth in federal law beforechanging their rules to allow such broadcasting. Courts enforce the requirement of procedural regularity on oth-ers, and must follow those requirements themselves.
The dissent, written by Justcie Breyer who was joined by Justice Stevens, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Sotomayor, stated:
The Court today issues an order that will prevent thetransmission of proceedings in a nonjury civil case of greatpublic interest to five other federal courthouses located in Seattle, Pasadena, Portland, San Francisco, and Brooklyn. The Court agrees that it can issue this extraordinary legalrelief only if (1) there is a fair chance the District Courtwas wrong about the underlying legal question, (2) that legal question meets this Court’s certiorari standards, (3) refusal of the relief would work “irreparable harm,” (4) the balance of the equities (including, the Court should say,possible harm to the public interest) favors issuance, (5) the party’s right to the relief is “clear and undisputable,” and (6) the “question is of public importance” (or otherwise“peculiarly appropriate” for such action). See ante, at 6–7; Rostker v. Goldberg, 448 U. S., 1306, 1308 (1980) (Brennan, J., in chambers) (stay standard); Cheney v. United States Dist. Court for D. C., 542 U. S. 367, 380 (2004) (noting that mandamus is a “drastic and extraordinary remedy reserved for really extraordinary causes” (internal quotation marks omitted)). This case, in my view, does not satisfy a single one of these standards, let alone all of them. Consequently, I must dissent.


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