Proposition Eight Trial Tape Might Be Shown on Web

Pending approval by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the public will be able to see delayed tapes of the high-profile federal trial on Proposition 8 that begins Monday in San Francisco.

On Wednesday, a court spokeswoman told The Bee, federal Judge Vaughn Walker decided to let court cameras capture the trial daily and post the tapes, via YouTube, on the Web site of the U.S. District Court of Northern California.

Joan Anyon, a court media liaison, said the decision to post proceedings must be approved by 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski.

The unprecedented action, Anyon added, also depends on whether the technology will work.

Normally, federal trials are not televised. But if the experimental plan is approved, the idea would be to release, in waves, the historic trial on gay-marriage rights as it unfolds.

For example, Anyon said, a morning session of the trial might be released the same day after a lunch break, followed by the afternoon’s proceedings after they are over.

No media would be allowed to tape. The plan would be to focus court-provided stationary cameras on the judge, witnesses and the counsel lectern in the courtroom. Those three shots would be merged into a single multicamera view with audio.

The federal trial, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, will showcase arguments on whether Proposition 8, which outlaws gay marriage, violates federal constitutional rights to equal protection.

In addition to the implications for gay marriage nationwide, the case has captured national interest because of the identities of two of the attorneys making the case for gay couples.

One attorney for gay plaintiffs is Ted Olson, a conservative who represented George Bush before the U.S. Supreme Court in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Olson later became Bush’s solicitor general.

To challenge Proposition 8, Olson has joined up with another high-profile attorney and strange bedfellow: David Boies, who represented Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore before the high court after the razor-close election.

Controversy erupted last month when a change in court policy opened up the possibility that the federal Proposition 8 trial could be broadcast live.

On Dec. 17, the Judicial Council of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco approved a pilot program allowing judges within the nine-state circuit to choose to televise certain non-injury civil trials. Kozinski would have the final say over which trials could be televised.

Media organizations and gay rights groups mounted a campaign to urge televising the Proposition 8 trial, arguing that public interest in the proceedings is strong.

But attorneys defending Proposition 8 opposed broadcasting it, arguing that broadcasting the trial could make witnesses feel intimidated and lead to reprisals against them for their views.