Olson responds to Prop 8’s “hide the tapes” motion
April 15th, 2011
Surely, surely, the Proponents of Proposition 8 are not dumb as a bag of hammers. Surely the elevator goes all the way to the top, the lights are on and someone is home, they have enough bricks for a load, and their combo plate does not need another taco. It is simply inconceivable that a box of rocks might, indeed, have a higher IQ.
But they are doing their best to convince us otherwise.
On Wednesday, they fired up an indignant motion for the courts to put all video of the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial under lock and key, signed by none other than lead counsel Chuck Cooper. I noted that this was but part of their desire to keep any evidence of their testimony locked in the closet, where they think gay people should be.
On Thursday, Judge Walker (an advocate for accountability) used their motion as an opportunity to give them – and the court – a little advice about the wisdom of denying the public access to its government.
But today is when we see how, as a strategic image effort, their motion was a colossal error in judgment. Today Ted Olson responded.
Olson’s opposition to the motion had four components. The first of these is obvious: the plaintiffs oppose the rounding up of the visual record of the trial. No surprises there. But it was interesting to discover that the ruling on the televising of the trial was not as expansive as the Proponents claim it to be:
That decision was explicitly limited to “the live streaming of court proceedings to other federal courthouses” and did not address other uses, such as the “broadcast of court proceedings on the Internet,” let alone the very limited use challenged here.
Olson’s second use of his filing was to point out the motivations behind their motion (this should sound familiar).
Through the present Motion, the Proponents of Proposition 8 seek to sequester and forever conceal from the American people video that accurately and without adornment depicts the testimony and argument each party presented at trial, and that the trial court considered when reaching the decision that Proponents now challenge. … Proponents’ fierce determination to shield access by any member of the American public to the actual compelling evidence which demonstrated the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 and the paucity of evidence that Proponents presented in its defense directly conflicts with this Nation’s constitutional commitment to public and open judicial process and serves no legitimate public end.
The third response was stronger: not only should they not return the tapes, but they should be made public.
In addition to the First Amendment interest, the public has a common law right to view judicial records. Nixon v. Warner Commc’ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978) (“It is clear that the courts of this country recognize a general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.”) (footnote omitted). This right cannot be abridged absent “a showing that the denial serves an important governmental interest and that there is no less restrictive way to serve that governmental interest.” Publicker Indus., 733 F.2d at 1070. Where, as here, the subject of the trial is a matter of great public importance, the public’s right to see the trial is heightened. Moreover, Proponents cannot and do not argue that the subject of the trial was in any way confidential or contained sensitive, proprietary information of any party, given that the live proceedings were themselves public.
But it was Olson’s clever fourth stroke that made me laugh out loud. Knowing that the media follows and reports every facet of this case, Olson used his opposition to the motion to remind everyone that there is record available – some of it video – and they should go check it out.
There was no reason to keep the video of this trial under the cover of darkness in the first place. Indeed, videos of two of the Proponents’ experts and one of the official Proponents of Proposition 8 are already available on the district court’s website. https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cand/09cv2292/evidence/index.html. The 13-volume trial transcript is part of the public record and widely available on the internet. So too are reenactment videos of actors reading those transcripts widely available, including on YouTube. Accordingly, this Court should not only deny Proponents’ motion, it should order the video’s immediate release to allow the public to see the rest of the actual witnesses rather than being limited to actors’ portrayals.
And there ain’t no chance in hell that the Prop 8 Proponents wanted anyone to ever remember this guy:
I can see the Proponents thinking that they had a gotcha and could go whining to the courts in order to make Judge Walker look bad. But they had to know that Olson would respond. And by now they most certainly should be aware that you should never ever ever give Ted Olson an opportunity to speak when you don’t know where he’s going to go.
They can’t be unaware of that, can they? I mean, they aren’t just flat out stupid. Right?