2010 Archive 2

Judge Vaughn Walker to Co-Teach New Class During Spring Semester

Judge Vaughn Walker
Judge Vaughn Walker

Judge Vaughn Walker, who in August ruled that California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, will co-teach a new course at Berkeley Law next semester. Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Walker will team with visiting professor Francis McGovern from Duke University of School of Law for a three-credit class entitled “Strategic Decisionmaking in Aggregate and Complex Litigation.”
To identify and address the strategic dilemmas that arise during complex litigation, the course will use a mix of lecture, discussion, and problem-solving methodologies. Students will be asked to focus on specific substantive and procedural aspects of recent pending litigation, and to assume roles in that litigation in order to apply decision-making tools in a realistic setting.

Litigation topics will include multi-district litigation, class actions, alternative dispute resolution, electronic discovery, Daubert hearings, settlement, and trial. These topics will span myriad subject areas: environmental, consumer, employment, health care, products liability, antitrust, securities, and public interest litigation.

Walker, who will retire from the bench at the end of 2010 and enter the private sector, has been a federal district court judge since 1989. He has presided over several high-profile cases, including lawsuits over National Security Agency warrantless surveillance, the breach of TD Ameritrade’s customer information database, the Apple v. Microsoft copyright infringement case, and the Hearst Corporation’s purchase of the San Francisco Chronicle.
On January 11, 2010, Walker began hearing arguments for Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the case that mounted a federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8. The voter initiative banned same-sex couples from marrying—a right that had been granted by the California Supreme Court. On August 4, Walker ruled that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional under the constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses and barred its enforcement.
His 136-page decision noted that a state is obligated to treat its citizens equally and not to create its own moral code. Walker’s ruling will almost certainly will be appealed to the U.S. Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

McGovern was among the first in the nation to write about and use alternative dispute resolution techniques to avoid or to improve the litigation process. Serving as a court-appointed special master and as a neutral expert, he has developed solutions in most of the significant mass claim litigation in the U.S.

Recognizing that such mass claims would take years to progress through trial—at great expense to both the parties and courts—McGovern pioneered new roles for special masters as case managers and settlement masters. To expedite these efforts he created sophisticated computerized models of the valuation of these massive claims, which narrow the range of reasonable settlement amounts and help parties settle more quickly.