Some people may wonder how Judge Vaughn R. Walker is holding up under the brutal, often homophobic tirades to which he is now being subjected for his recent ruling on gay marriage. At a Stanford drug policy forum about a decade ago, we were seated together at the closing dinner. The interaction that evening makes me confident he will bear up well under one of those waves of vilification that the current U.S. political environment, 24 hour news cycle, and the Internet can combine to generate.
The profile in New York Times captured something of Judge Walker, but Maureen Dowd did it better I think in much less space when she remarked off-handedly that in a 1940s movie, Judge Walker would be played by Clifton Webb.
At the time of our dinner, he had recently announced publicly that he favored the legalization of drugs, for which as a Reagan appointee he was being vilified by many conservatives. Soon afterwards, he would hand down a ruling stating that the public had no power to stop banks from charging ATM fees, for which he would be vilified by many liberals and populists.
During that dinner, I asked this clearly erudite and intelligent man how he dealt with all the public denouncement of his abilities and character. He shrugged and didn’t say anything, but across his face spread an impish Clifton Webb-esque smile that seemed to say “Well, isn’t a bit of fun to stir the pot now and then?”.