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Appeals Court Judge Asked To Disqualify Himself In Prop. 8 Case

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Lesbian Wedding

Same-sex couple Amber Weiss (L) and Sharon Papo stand in line to receive their marriage license before getting married at San Francisco City Hall June 17, 2008 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Sponsors of California’s same-sex marriage ban on Wednesday asked one of the judges from the appeals court panel that will hear arguments on the measure’s constitutionality next week to remove himself from the case.

In papers filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, lawyers for Proposition 8’s supporters said Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s “impartiality might reasonably be questioned” because his wife heads the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In that role, the judge’s wife, Ramona Ripston, has been an outspoken opponent of Proposition 8 and taken part in legal proceedings to overturn the voter-approved law, the lawyers said. They cited the friend of the court brief the ACLU filed on behalf of the plaintiff’s in the case pending before her husband as an example.

“So long as a judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, recusal is required,” they wrote in a motion asking Reinhardt to disqualify himself. “The facts of this case would plainly lead a reasonable person to conclude that Judge Reinhardt’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Reinhardt, 79, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, is one three judges on a panel scheduled to hear arguments Monday in the appeal by Proposition 8’s sponsors of a trial judge’s ruling that struck down the ban. He has a reputation as one of the 9th Circuit’s most liberal jurists.

Along with the constitutionality of the 2008 measure, the appeals court panel plans to consider whether the coalition of religious and conservative groups that sponsored Proposition 8 had authority to bring the appeal once Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown decided not to challenge the lower court decision.

The lawyers for Proposition 8’s sponsors said Reinhardt has recused himself from past cases involving the Southern California ACLU.

(© 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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