Vaughn Walker, the 68-year-old former federal judge who declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional in 2010, is no stranger to major legal battles and controversy in his career. Here are some highlights of his judicial legacy:

  • A native of Illinois, Walker earned his law degree from Stanford University and was a Republican and longtime partner in the San Francisco law firm Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro.

  • Walker -- first nominated to the federal bench in 1988 by former President Ronald Reagan -- had his confirmation opposed by civil rights advocates who called him insensitive to gay rights because he represented the U.S. Olympic Committee in a lawsuit against the Gay Olympics over the use of the Olympics brand. President George H.W. Bush renominated Walker and he was confirmed to the San Francisco court in 1989.

  • Walker stirred controversy at one point in the 1990s for publicly favoring legalization of drugs.

  • He presided over numerous high-profile cases, including the Hearst antitrust trial, the Oracle antitrust trial, a major technology feud between Apple and Microsoft and a lawsuit seeking media access to all stages of a lethal injection execution. He also handled a series of legal challenges to the federal government's national security wiretapping program.


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  • In addition to striking down Proposition 8, finding it violated the equal protection rights of same-sex couples, Walker also sought to broadcast the trial live on the Internet but was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court. As a going-away gesture, he was given a copy of the video, which had been kept for the trial record but placed under seal. When he used excerpts in speeches, Proposition 8 backers asked the courts to order Walker to relinquish his copy, which he did when an appeals court found the video should not be made public.

    Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236. Follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz.