RECALL UNDERWAY AGAINST
CALIFORNIA SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE
November 20, 2004
1:08 AM Eastern
A recall effort is underway in Sacramento, California to oust Superior Court Judge Loren E. McMaster. The Campaign for California Families filed a formal request to election officials to begin the recall process, which is the first legal step in removing Judge McMaster for upholding a new state same-sex domestic partners law. McMaster made his ruling following the 2000 election passage of Proposition 22 in California which defines marriage between a man and a woman. The voters of California passed Prop. 22 by a margin of 61% - 39%.
"The judge has trampled upon traditional family values," said Tony Andrade, recall committee chairman, who was one of the leaders of a group that successfully recalled Gov. Gray Davis.
There are formidable legal requirements and deadlines that must be met before signatures can be collected. Once these requirements have been met, the recall committee must collect 44,284 signatures to get the recall on a ballot. Opponents complain that since this isn't an election year, this recall effort will require a special election with estimates of around $2.4 million.
Randy Thomasson who is the executive director of Campaign for California Families accuses McMaster of playing politics on the bench instead of sticking to the law. "He was donor to Gray Davis," Thomasson said. "This is a Gray Davis judge. This is a political issue, not a judicial issue. People in California want to protect marriage, and those who get in the way will face the people's wrath," said Thomasson, who also appealed McMaster's ruling.
Judge McMaster's six year term on the bench doesn't expire until January 5, 2009, but organizers and supporters of the recall maintain that the so-called domestic partner law violates the people's will mandated in Proposition 22. A lawsuit was filed to stop this new law enacted by the legislature to give financial benefits to same sex partners. The presiding judge was McMaster who ruled that the state Legislature does have the right to extend homosexuals and lesbians the same financial benefits as married people, they just couldn't claim they are married.
Supporters of the recall maintain that the people of California, by an overwhelming margin, voted to permanently stop any further efforts for same-sex marriages. Supporters of the recall claim that for political reasons and self interests (many California legislators are openly homosexual or lesbian), the state legislature used the back door to give the same financial benefits as married couples to "domestic partners" who are not married, thereby overriding the intention of Proposition 22 and thumbing their noses at the voters of California.
Homosexual and lesbian lobbyist, Steve Hansen is opposed to this recall effort saying the organizers are suffering from sour grapes. Other lawyers and politicians maintain that the people should not have the right to recall a judge over one decision, "To recall a judge on the basis of a single decision is a bad idea," stated Clark Kelso, who teaches government and legislation at the McGeorge School of Law. "We need to have judges that are impartial, independent, not playing favorites, not influenced by political considerations or fear," he said.
Democrat State Attorney General Bill Lockyer is against this recall saying, "When a group threatens to recall one judge because they disagree with a ruling, they threaten all judges. They threaten the independence of the judiciary. McMaster was appointed to the bench by former California Governor Gray Davis, also a Democrat who was removed from office by a recall in October 2003. Davis is only the second Governor in the history of this country ever to be recalled.
In another related political upheaval, the Nevada State Assembly voted on November 12, 2004 by a vote of 42-0 to impeach their State Controller, Kathy Augustine, for using state paid office employees and equipment to run her 2002 reelection campaign out of the State House. Three articles of impeachment were sent by the Assembly to the State Senate where a trial will be held to make a determination whether or not Augustine will be removed from her elected office.
In September, Augustine did admit to three violations of Nevada's state ethics laws. She was fined $15,000 by the State Ethics Commission which then referred her case to the legislature. After the unanimous vote by the Assembly, the two-term Republican State Controller had to temporarily step down from office. Estimates for the Senate to hold the trial range from late November to early December. Augustine's impeachment is the first of any public official in Nevada's 140-year history.
Augustine's attorneys don't believe she got fair and equal treatment by the Assembly and should the impeachment process remove their client, they might appeal it in the courts. Gerald Gardner, Nevada's Deputy Attorney General testified in front of the Assembly that Augustine's actions constituted malfeasance and were backed up by computer records and other irrefutable evidence.
The State of Nevada decided not to pursue criminal charges against Augustine, but Governor Quinn stated in October 2004, "If she's still there and hasn't resigned as a controller in the second week, I will call a special session." As Augustine chose not to resign, she has now gone through the first humiliating step of impeachment proceedings.
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