Washington, DC – The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is calling on Justice Stephen Reinhardt, one of the judges in the Prop 8 trial scheduled for hearing next week in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, to recuse himself because his wife, Ramona Ripston, has been intimately involved in the case including advising the plaintiff’s counsel before the case was even filed. NOM is asking their 800,000 supporters to file official complaints with the Ninth Circuit court. The oral arguments for the Prop 8 case before the Ninth Circuit will take place on Monday, December 6.
“Judge Reinhardt’s wife, Ramona Ripston, has been involved in this case on numerous accounts, and what we’ve learned from Ed Whelan’s highly informative Bench Memo yesterday, posted on National Review Online (and updated here) is that there is no way Judge Reinhardt can rightfully remain a member of this hearing without making a mockery of the federal judiciary,” said Brian Brown, president of NOM. “We are demanding that Judge Reinhardt to step down immediately and call Californians to write an official complaint to the Ninth Circuit demanding that Judge Reinhardt be disqualified.”
Federal law and the Code of Conduct for United States Judges provide a non-exhaustive list of circumstances in which a judge must disqualify himself on the ground that his “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Those circumstances “includ[e] but [are] not limited to instances in which … the judge’s spouse … is (i) a party to the proceeding, or an officer, director, or trustee of a party; or (ii) acting as a lawyer in the proceeding.” Ripston is the Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. The Whelan Bench Memo makes it clear that Judge Reinhardt must disqualify himself because of the intimate involvement of his wife on behalf of participants in this case. This involvement includes:
According to an article in California Lawyer cited by Whelan, Ripston consulted with the plaintiffs' lawyers about the decision to bring this very case.
The entity that Ripston heads took part as counsel to an amicus in this very case in the district court.
According to media reports including those in the Los Angeles Times and respected legal blog Volokh.com, Reinhardt has a policy of recusing himself from cases involving the ACLU of Southern California.
In addition to the clear legal reasons that Judge Reinhardt is required to disqualify himself from this case, there are other circumstances that clearly call his impartiality into question:
· Ripston, Reinhardt’s wife, contributed money to the NO on Proposition 8 campaign. It is not known if these funds were joint or separate funds.
· Ripston publicly cheered the decision by the District Court to declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional. In a media statement, she said, “We rejoice at today’s decision but there’s a long road ahead toward establishing true marriage equality for same-sex couples.”
“The long road to determine the constitutionality of Proposition 8 cannot be allowed to go through the courtroom of the husband of one of the key participants in the case,” Brown said. “If our federal courts are to have any credibility, Judge Reinhardt cannot be allowed to sit as a judge in a case in which his wife is involved. Judge Reinhardt is already one of the most overturned judges in American history. If he does not remove himself from this case, he risks the validity of the entire proceedings.”
To schedule an interview with Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, please contact Mary Beth Hutchins (x105), [email protected], or Elizabeth Ray (x130), [email protected], at 703-683-5004.