BREAKING NEWS: Ninth Circuit names judges who will hear Prop. 8 appeals case

SAN FRANCISCO – The names of the three judges who will hear the Proposition 8 appeals case were revealed this morning by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Two of the judges were appointed by Democratic presidents and one by a Republican president.

They are:

-- Judge Stephen Roy Reinhardt. He was confirmed in 1980 after being nominated by President Jimmy Carter. He served in the Air Force. On Nov. 18, 2009, the judge ruled in favor of a gay couple who were having their spousal health care benefits denied - Brad Levenson and Tony Sears were married during the period gay marriage was legal in California during 2008, and was seeking benefits for his partner while working as a public defender for the federal government. Judge Reinhardt also wrote an opinion relating to “standing” in a 1997 case relating to Arizona voters amending the state Constitution to make English the state’s official language. In that opinion written by Judge Reinhardt, the court held that the sponsors of the ballot initiative could intervene. But later that year, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously thought the Ninth Circuit had "lost sight" of the limitations of federal courts to decide definitively on the meaning of state legislation.

-- Judge Michael Daly Hawkins. He joined the court in 1994 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. He was U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona from 1977 to 1980 and then as Special Prosecutor for the Najavo Nation from 1985 to 1989.

-- Judge Norman Randy Smith. He was confirmed in 2007 after being nominated by President George W. Bush. Born in Logan, Utah, Smith graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in 1974, and received his J.D. from Brigham Young University's J. Reuben Clark School of Law in 1977.

The three-judge panel will be hearing arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger in the appeals court at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 6.

On Aug. 4, district Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional, and the decision was appealed.

The three-judge panel will hear arguments on the legal standing related to the groups that appealed Judge Walker’s decision, including Imperial County, as well as the merits of whether Prop. 8 is unconstitutional.

“I am hopeful that the 9th circuit court panel will affirm equality and fairness,” said Samuel Chu, executive director of California Faith for Equality, which filed an amicus brief to the court supported by 700 clergy and congregations urging the panel to affirm Judge Walker’s ruling.

“Marriage is a right that every Californian deserve and this is another critical moment for the justice system to add momentum to winning full equality. Our state and our government should never be in the business of discrimination.”

Snapshot opinion

Reinhardt and Hawkins historically have ruled in favor of liberal causes, according to court observers. Smith has trended toward conservative in his rulings. The 2-1 split seems typical of the Ninth Circuit panels.

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