The problem is that where there may not be a conflict of interest, there may be the appearance of conflict -- and that matters, too. Many California voters already are fed up with imperious judicial rulings -- and a majority of California voters approved Proposition 8. While Walker certainly did not have a legal obligation to recuse himself, it might have been better if he had let some other judge decide this case. It ultimately will be determined in higher courts anyway.
Walker didn't help himself when he ordered Yes on 8 campaign strategists to release their internal memos to plaintiffs seeking to overturn the measure -- a decision that flabbergasted many. A three-judge federal panel unanimously tossed out the order, noting that it "would likely have a chilling effect on political association and the formulation of political expression." There are limits to what the courts should do.