Walker’s critics making same arguments used against black judges hearing cases on civil rights

I was wondering if this was true. Sherrilyn A. Ifill at The Root answers the question:

Rumors about Judge Walker’s sexual orientation were well-known to attorneys for the state of California long before the trial concerning Prop 8. Why, then, didn’t the State of California file a motion seeking the recusal of Judge Walker? The simple reason is that Judge Walker’s sexual orientation — whether gay or straight — is not an appropriate basis for a recusal motion. In fact, the suggestion that Judge Walker’s sexual orientation is evidence of bias is the kind of argument that was firmly discredited in a series of cases challenging the impartiality of black judges to decide civil rights cases.

Under federal recusal statutes, judges should be disqualified from hearing cases in which they are actually biased, but should also withdraw from cases in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned. In the late 1970s and early 1980s — as a bumper crop of minority federal district judges appointed by President Jimmy Carter presided over employment-discrimination cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — recusal motions were filed by defendants seeking to remove black judges from hearing these cases. Black judges pushed back firmly against attempts to question their impartiality and framed what has become the universally accepted understanding among the bench and bar: that judicial bias cannot be assumed based on the racial, gender or other status of the judge.

In perhaps the most famous of these cases, lawyers representing the New York law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell requested that federal district judge Constance Baker Motley recuse herself from hearing a case brought by women lawyers at the firm who charged discrimination in hiring and promotion. The law firm’s motion for recusal was based on Judge Motley’s status as a black woman and her professional experience as a former civil rights lawyer.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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