Breaking: Walker to leave the bench
by Matthew S. Bajko
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who ruled that California's same-sex marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution, announced late Wednesday that he intends to leave the bench early next year.
In a press release from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Walker announced he plans step down as chief judge effective December 31 and that he notified President Barack Obama by letter today that he would leave the court in February.
District Judge James Ware will assume the post of chief judge of the Northern District on January 1. Upon leaving the federal bench, Walker plans to return to the private sector.
In his letter to the president, Walker wrote, "Concluding 21 years of judicial service, I leave the bench with the highest respect and regard for the federal judiciary, its judges and their staff and the essential role they fulfill in our constitutional system."
Walker was outed as being gay in February by San Francisco Chronicle amid overseeing the federal lawsuit known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger. He has yet to publicly discuss his sexual orientation.
While the backers of Proposition 8, the anti-gay state constitutional amendment California voters passed in 2008, never raised the judge's sexual orientation as an issue during the nearly monthlong trial in January of this year, it has become an issue as the anti-gay Protectmarriage.com group appeals Walker's ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Walker has been a United States district judge since February 5, 1990 and has served as chief judge of the court since September 1, 2004. Before becoming a federal judge, Walker was a litigation partner at the firm now known as Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.
He led the successful litigation against what was originally known as the Gay Olympics, which resulted in the LGBT sports event changing its name to the Gay Games.