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SACRAMENTO — Judge Richard Kramer’s ruling may take some heat off a Sacramento colleague. For the last few months, groups opposed to gay rights have been gearing up for a recall of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster, who in September upheld a new state law that gives registered domestic partners many of the same legal rights as married couples. Recall organizer Tony Andrade has collected 1,500 signatures so far and alarmed judges throughout the state and country. But Monday’s ruling from San Francisco may put that controversy to pasture. “I feel like a bucket of cold water has been poured on my head,” Andrade said Monday, a few hours after Kramer said the state can’t forbid same-sex marriages. Andrade, a Sacramento activist, said recall organizers would meet this weekend in Davis to decide what to do. But, he said, the basis of the McMaster recall now seemed “moot.” Should it move forward, it will hit heavy opposition. Representatives from the California Judges Association and the American Judges Association have taken steps to oppose the recall and to educate the public about what they see as a threat to the independence of the bench and the American legal system as a whole. “Our system depends on judges to make decisions that will sometimes be against the majority’s wishes,” said Steve Leben, an American Judges Association’s vice president who is on the AJA board charged with drafting a resolution opposing the McMaster recall. “If a judge interprets the Constitution contrary to the way the public feels, the correct step is to appeal, which is already occurring in your California courts,” added Leben, a Kansas district court judge. Indeed, the Third District is hearing arguments later this month on whether McMaster erred in upholding the new law. Andrade said last week that if McMaster were reversed, he’d drop the whole thing. “To succeed with this, you would need a cause, and the cause would not be there,” said Andrade, who also worked on the recall of former Gov. Gray Davis. In the appeal, Robert Tyler, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund who is involved in the San Francisco and Sacramento litigation, argues that McMaster’s decision circumvents Prop 22. The 2000 initiative, approved by 61 percent of the electorate, specifically defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Tyler said last week that he’s not involved in the recall effort. Andrade, who hasn’t collected any money, had planned to rely on volunteers to gather signatures in shopping malls, churches and neighborhoods. To qualify for the ballot, he needs to turn in 44,284 signatures by July 20. Despite the modest start, judges take the threat seriously. A group called the Committee for Judicial Independence Against the Recall of Judge McMaster has already raised about $30,000 to “get the word out,” said organizer Jeff Raimundo, a Sacramento political consultant. Raimundo, who is also serving as a spokesperson for McMaster, said the committee includes supporters of all political stripes, among them, longtime Sacramento attorney John “Jack” Diepenbrock and former Sacramento County Sheriff Glen Craig. The honorary chair of the effort was Robert Puglia, the conservative Third District justice who died Friday. Raimundo said the recall effort hasn’t had a “chilling effect” on McMaster. But others on the bench worry that even the threat of a recall could cause some judges to hesitate in their deliberations. “The idea of judges, even for a split second, thinking about the effects their ruling might get them is absolutely disastrous,” said California Judges Association President James Mize, who said he has been writing about the recall and has given “probably 20 speeches” to “anyone who will listen.” Nineteen years ago, state voters removed from office Chief Justice Rose Bird and two colleagues. But more recent attempts to oust state judges haven’t succeeded. In 1996, Orange County Superior Court Judge Nancy Wieben Stock was the target of an unsuccessful recall campaign after she awarded O.J. Simpson custody of his children. Two years later, Chief Justice Ronald George and Justice Ming Chin drew unorganized opposition in their retention elections because they’d voted to strike down a state law that required minors seeking an abortion to obtain parental consent. But it’s a good bet Kramer won’t face a recall in San Francisco. “I don’t think there is any way in hell people are going to support the recall of a judge who agrees with them,” said Andrade.

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