Dear Friends & Voters:
I recently was asked to speak at the NC Association of Defense Attorneys (NCADA) as were all of the other judicial candidates. I saw some old friends and some new faces and it was a very worthwhile event.
Unlike the last occasion, this time the group directed different questions to each pair of candidates running for a particular seat. Below is the essential text of my speech. As I have said, the written word differs a bit from the spoken word, but it is essentially the same.
If my speech seems angry to you, it is because I am angry over what has occurred in this race. It is ok to be angry. It means I feel in addition to think. It means I am as human as the rest of you. I feel the anguish of the father who spent over $50,000 and ran out of money to pay legal fees just to try and get custody of his child. I feel the heartache experienced by a mother whose son is in jail for a crime she believes he did not commit.
I am angered because this race is insane and has been made so, not by me, but by outside intervention and by Justice Martin. I am angry that Connie's past has been dragged into this even though he is not running for any office. Speaking of him, it seems that the News & Observer has issued a retraction indicating that he can vote for me after all.
I am angry that bar complaints have been filed against me, even by attorneys, and that such complaints relate not to the practice of law, but to this election which is not within the purview of the state disciplinary board to regulate, regardless of what their canons and rules say. I am angry that I have been called unprofessional and names that are unfounded, all of which have tarnished my ability to practice law in this state. And I am angry that Justice Martin has "played politics" by re-printing the lies and derogatory comments as if they were the truth and that he is passing out these articles as his campaign materials. Visit his website and it is more about me than him. He even has the NC GOP dutifully send out articles attacking me and doing his work for him. No candidate, regardless of their position or their political persuasion, should have had to endure such abuse. Once again, I implore him to stop the insanity, stop the lies and take the political parties out of this race.
If I sound passionate, it is because I am. And if I have made the other members of the bar feel uncomfortable, so be it. If I were completely off base, they could readily dismiss me as being loony or all of the other unkind things that have been said and they would feel no discomfort. The fact that they do feel unease suggests that I speak the truth. That is why they feel uncomfortable. Nobody likes having their dirty laundry exposed.
Justice Martin was asked the same question as I was. Although I listened to his answer, it struck me as strange because it was a non-answer in that he never really answered the questions. Instead, he spoke about how he has been a Superior Court judge and how he relies on lawyers to get the word out. In contrast, I don't rely exclusively on lawyers to get my message out. I rely on my email list, my speaking appearances and on the little people out there to help spread the word.
And in his final comments, Justice Martin did something else. He said that regardless of the outcome of the election he had served the citizens. He almost sounded defeatist, as if he knew what the outcome would be. However, I'm not uncorking the champagne and celebrating yet. We still have a little over a month to go in this campaign and given how it has been, anything can happen. But this was still an odd speech.
I will be on the campaign trail next week and for most of October. I am looking forward to meeting you or seeing you again.
P.S. Here is the text of my speech:
NCADA JUDICIAL CANDIDATES' FORUM
Q: What do you feel is the most effective way for voters to become aware of your qualifications? Do you believe there should be limits on what judicial candidates can say or do?
Thank you for inviting me. Since I last stood before you, I was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumor in 2005. I underwent surgery to remove the tumor. Because of the paralysis, I could not close my right eye and I had a second surgery to implant a gold weight in my right eyelid. Unfortunately, the tumor recurred and I recently underwent radiation. The surgery left my face paralyzed, but it did not affect me cognitively. I am just not as pretty as I once was.
B. Judicial Appointment
Before I answer the questions, I want to address the issue of judicial appointment. Judicial appointment/merit selection of judges is a bad idea. I am not saying that just because I'm a candidate. I'm saying that because it is a bad idea. Here's why:
(1) People do not want appointment as they do not want to give up their constitutional rights. Attorneys and especially criminal defense attorneys should know and cherish our constitutional rights. Once our constitutional rights are taken from us, they will never be restored. Ordinary people understand this and are not willing to give up their rights.
(a) Removal from office - Lately there has been a hue and cry regarding "activist" judges, particularly those in the federal courts. Those are lifetime appointments and there is no remedy to remove a judge from office other than impeachment. With election, people still have the power to remove a bad judge at the ballot box.
(b) No say in appointment - We have a representative republic and get to elect our leaders. But with judicial appointment, the average citizen will have no say in who gets appointed. Undoubtedly the governor will select a "blue ribbon" commission. What this will mean in theory is that the governor will appoint his or her people to the commission. How will the commission be accountable for their decisions if they choose unwisely?
(3) Better qualified candidates? A third fallacy is that appointment will lead to only "qualified" candidates being selected. In reality, it will offer no better guarantees than our present system. Candidates for office may seek to ingratiate themselves with those in charge or be just as corrupt or abusive of power as they are under the present system.
(4) Voter stupidity - You say that the voters are "stupid" or are not informed. It is elitist and arrogant to say so. They are not. And can you blame them for being uninformed?
II. How does a judge get their message out?
This leads to the question as to how a candidate gets their message out. Before 2002, a judicial candidate could offer the voter little more than his or her résumé and record in running for election or re-election which tells a voter nothing about a candidate. That changed in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White in 2002.
Now a judge is free to speak out, although some judges choose not to. I have acted differently and have had an overwhelmingly positive response. People have found my candidacy "refreshing" and "like a breath of fresh air." Voters want information so that they can make an informed and intelligent choice.
(1) Old fashioned campaigning - people usually speak to groups or attend political party functions, but meet the same people, so this is of limited effect;
(2) Judicial voter guide - this is mailed to people, but only contains a brief statement about a judge and while useful, does not provide much information;
(3) The internet - Allows a judicial candidate can get his or her message out without relying on the media or expensive mailings. A judge can discuss many things that will not touch upon how he or she will rule in a particular case, but it will provide valuable insight into how he or she would decide a case and what kind of judge that person would be. And it is cost effective way to reach a great number of people.
III. Should their be limits on what a judge can say?
A. Acceptable things - It is acceptable for candidates to discuss how a judge has ruled in a particular case. It is acceptable to comment on those things that relate to a judicial candidate's character or behavior.
B. Unacceptable Behavior - no one should have to endure the kind of personal attacks to which I have been subjected. There have been allegations that I am fat, ugly or a racist; that I am a member of the KKK, that I am a communist, that I am a "n----r lover;" that I am insane, that I am loony, that I am a crackpot and they have gone after my husband and discussed events relating to him of 10 or 20 years ago.
C. Should there be limits? No, there should not be limits. The remedy for false speech is more free speech of the truth and for more citizens and lawyers to condemn truly inappropriate behavior.
Thank you again.
Rachel Lea Hunter