|Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California|
October 30, 2004 – December 31, 2010
|Preceded by||Marilyn Patel|
|Succeeded by||James Ware|
|Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California|
November 27, 1989 – February 28, 2011
|Appointed by||George H. W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Spencer Williams|
|Succeeded by||Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers|
|Born||Vaughn Richard Walker
1944 (age 68–69)
Watseka, Illinois, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Vaughn Richard Walker (born 1944) served as a district judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California from 1989 to 2011.
Walker was born in Watseka, Illinois, in 1944. He graduated from the University of Michigan (1966) and Stanford Law School (1970). During 1966–67, he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in economics at the University of California, Berkeley.
After clerking for United States District Court for the Central District of California Judge Robert J. Kelleher (1971–72), he practiced in San Francisco at Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro.
Walker was originally nominated to the bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. However, this nomination stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee because of controversy over his representation of the United States Olympic Committee in a lawsuit that prohibited the use of the title "Gay Olympics". Two dozen House Democrats, led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, opposed his nomination because of his perceived insensitivity to gays and the poor.
On September 7, 1989, Walker was re-nominated by President George H. W. Bush to the seat on the federal district court vacated by Spencer M. Williams. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on November 21, 1989, on unanimous consent and received his commission on November 27, 1989.
On September 29, 2010, Walker announced he would retire at the end of 2010 and return to private practice. He retired at the end of February 2011. On April 6, 2011, Walker told reporters that he is gay and has been in a relationship with a male doctor for about ten years. He was the first known gay person to serve as a United States federal judge, though he did not publicly confirm his sexual orientation until after retiring from the federal bench.
Since retiring from the bench, he has operated a private practice in San Francisco focusing on arbitration and mediation services, as well as lecturing at Stanford University Law School and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.
Walker has been called an "unorthodox" and "independent-minded conservative" judge; he has called for policies including the auctioning of lead counsel status in securities class action suits and the legalization of drugs. In a 2003 case, United States v. Gementera, as a condition of supervised release, Walker required a defendant who had pled guilty to mail theft to stand in front of a San Francisco post office wearing a sandwich board that read: "I stole mail. This is my punishment." The condition was upheld on appeal.
A San Francisco Chronicle columnist and reporter wrote in a commentary that Walker has an "aversion to harsh sentences for well-educated, well-heeled criminals and, in particular, perpetrators of securities fraud."
Walker has presided over such notable cases as lawsuits over NSA warrantless surveillance; the Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation copyright infringement case; and Oracle's merger/hostile takeover of PeopleSoft, which was approved despite Justice Department opposition.
On January 11, 2010, Walker began hearing arguments in Perry v. Brown. The case was a federal-constitutional challenge to California Proposition 8, a voter initiative constitutional amendment that eliminated the right of same sex couples to marry, a right which had previously been granted after the California Supreme Court found that Proposition 22 was unconstitutional. On August 4, 2010, Walker ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional "under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses" and prohibited its enforcement.
Following Walker's decision in Perry, proponents of Proposition 8 raised the issue of Walker's homosexuality, already discussed in the press during the trial. Discussing his sexuality after retiring from the bench, Walker said he did not consider recusing himself from the Perry case because he thinks using characteristics like sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin or gender as the grounds for recusal is "a very slippery slope." On April 25, 2011, supporters of Proposition 8 filed a motion in district court to vacate Walker's decision, citing Walker's own post-trial statement that he has been in a long-term relationship with another man. They argued he should have recused himself or disclosed his relationship status, and unless Walker "disavowed any interest in marrying his partner", he had "a direct personal interest in the outcome of the case". District Court Judge James Ware heard arguments on the motion on June 13 and denied it the next day, writing that "the presumption that Judge Walker, by virtue of being in a same-sex relationship, had a desire to be married that rendered him incapable of making an impartial decision, is as warrantless as the presumption that a female judge is incapable of being impartial in a case in which women seek legal relief." Legal experts noted that similar efforts to remove Hispanic judges from immigration cases or female judges from gender-discrimination cases have also failed in the past.
- Vaughn Richard Walker – California Bar profile
- Federal Judicial Center page on Vaughn Walker.
- "The Honorable Vaughn R. Walker". Board of Advisors. Stanford University Rock Center for Corporate Governance. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- Egelko, Bob (September 1, 2004). "Walker becomes chief district judge". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-02-04.
- Anthony, TJ (January 1988), "Homophobic Judicial Nominee Opposed", Stonewall Democratic Club, San Francisco Chapter Newsletter, retrieved 2012-06-01
- "Gay judge has proven record of impartiality" (editorial). The San Francisco Chronicle. February 9, 2010. Retrieved February 21, 2010.
- Dolan, Maura (September 29, 2010). "Federal judge who ruled Prop. 8 unconstitutional plans to step down". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 17, 2011.
- Levine, Dan (April 6, 2011). "Gay judge never considered dropping Prop 8 case". Reuters. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
- Geidner, Chris (April 16, 2010). "Breaking Barriers". Metro Weekly. Retrieved April 7, 2011. "DuMont would only be the third known LGBT judge serving in the federal judiciary.... The others are U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Batts, who was nominated for her judgeship in 1994..., and U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, who sits in San Francisco and was not publicly known to be gay when nominated in 1989."
- Johnson, Chris (April 7, 2011). "Federal judge who struck down Prop 8 comes out: report". Washington Blade. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
- "Honorable Vaughn R. Walker (Ret.) Honored by The Bar Association of San Francisco’s Barristers Club at 27th Annual Judges Reception". The Bar Association of San Francisco. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
- Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer (September 14, 2004). "Aaron Director – profoundly influential law professor". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-05-16.
- U.S. v. Gementera, 379 F.3d 496 (9th Cir. 2004).
- Holding, Reynolds (May 13, 2001). "White-collar crooks' suite-heart deals". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-05-16.
- Philip Shenon (January 14, 1988). "Battle Looming Over a Nominee For U.S. Court". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-06. "Mr. Walker, a 43-year-old partner at the law firm of Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro who has been active in Republican politics..."
- Ryan Singel (November 17, 2006). "NSA Case Becomes Lawyer Junket". Wired. Retrieved 2010-02-24.
- Charlie Savage, James Risen (March 31, 2010). "Federal Judge Finds N.S.A. Wiretaps Were Illegal". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-26. "A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency’s program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration’s effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush."
- Examiner Staff and Wire Reports (February 21, 1995). "High Court rejects final Apple appeal". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- Pimentel, Benjamin (September 10, 2004). "Oracle wins antitrust suit in bid for rival / Ruling lifts major obstacle to takeover of PeopleSoft". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- Michael B. Farrell (January 11, 2010). "Gay marriage trial begins with tough questions for both sides". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2010-02-07.
- Vaughn R. Walker (August 4, 2010). "Opinion and Order". PACER. Retrieved 2010-08-04.
- Dwyer, Devin (August 4, 2010). "Unconstitutional: Federal Court Overturns Proposition 8, Gay Marriage Ban in California". ABC News.
- The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Walker's homosexuality was "the biggest open secret in the landmark trial over same-sex marriage." Those interviewed for the article said Walker had "never taken pains to disguise—or advertise—his [sexual] orientation" and they thought it would not influence his decision in the case.Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross (February 7, 2010). "Judge being gay a nonissue during Prop. 8 trial". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-02-08.
- New York Times: "Judge's Partner Cited in Prop 8 Case," April 25, 2011. Retrieved April 25, 2011
- MetroWeekly: Chris Geidner, "Motion to Vacate Prop 8 Decision Is Denied," June 14, 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2011
- "Wall Street Journal".[dead link]
- Wood, Daniel B. (June 14, 2011). "Prop. 8 ruling: gay judge didn't need to recuse himself". csmonitor.com. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
- Vaughn Walker at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
|Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers
|Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California