Dear Friends and Voters:
In my last statement I indicated that from time to time I would comment on matters that I see. This is one of those occasions. Prior to the primaries, a neighbor asked for some input regarding the judicial races, as I am more familiar with that area than she and her husband. I was sorry to report to her that our judiciary is in such a sad state that it is more a choice of voting for the lesser of two evils or by voting against a particular person by casting a vote for his or her opponent. The same is true of other non-judicial races.
The following situation is illustrative of what I mean. I recently read a story in the News & Record of Greensboro that was ostensibly how a jurist was taking the "high road." As I learned from my own campaign, the News & Record is nothing more than an arm of Art Pope, Inc. I wrote during my campaign of how the NC GOP (my latest name for them is Republothugs, as demonstrated by their Tony Soprano-like tactics) is under the domination of Art Pope [http://www.rachelforjustice.com/timehas.html]. Well, the New & Record is also an adjunct. Whenever the Republothugs and Art Pope need a story, the News & Record can be counted on to provide it. Yes, once in awhile they will print something ostensibly derogatory, but by and large they can be counted on to lend assistance. It is no wonder that the paper has declining readership and is for sale. But I digress.
The News & Record's latest effort, now that the primary is over, is to promote Justice Edmunds over the challenger, Suzanne Reynolds. The piece extols the virtues of the judge and how fair and non-partisan he is. Wait a minute- time for a reality check here! Was not this the very same newspaper columnist that reported on March 26, 2008 that this non-partisan judge appeared at a Republican event in Watauga and stated:
"We're finding it very difficult to be bipartisan and nonpartisan when we're being challenged in a partisan way." And "I'm the one person standing between you and one-party government in North Carolina[.]"
Similar comments were made earlier by another of Justice Edmunds' Republican compatriots, Judge Douglas McCullough, who was previously convicted of driving while impaired, yet remains allowed to serve on the bench [http://www.rachelforjustice.com/Drunken_Judge.html] For those of who have forgotten, Judge McCullough stated to Haywood County Republicans that the "re-election of N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds is the most "critical political decision" they would have to make as their might be a dispute of the districts are re-drawn. He then insinuated that Justice Edmunds must be re-elected to ensure the Republican majority on the court as he could be counted on to vote the right way. Although Justice Edmunds did not comment and sought to distance himself, he never denounced these remarks or indicated that these comments did not represent his views.
The remainder of the article seeks to extol the fact that those poor judges have to make do with only $250,000.00 in public financing. I have previously wrote [link to Chapter 3 of my book] the evils inherent in the system as we have it. I will not reiterate, but it is blatantly unconstitutional compelled speech as I and other attorneys are forced to contribute to judicial and other candidates whether they represent my views or not. And it is nothing more than a wealth transfer from the citizens of this state to those who are doing quite well and who could fund their own campaigns like other candidates.And why is it that in judicial race after judicial race, predominantly only former prosecutors run for judicial office? Our courts are loaded with these pro-prosecution jurists who are prompt to deny whatever scrap of Constitutional rights are still left. I documented some of these cases [http://www.rachelforjustice.com/Martin_Slings.html]. Do you really believe that such individuals are going to grant them a fair hearing before an impartial tribunal? Our court systems throughout the United States and North Carolina are filled with numerous individuals who are innocent and convicted anyway based on flimsy evidence, corrupt or shoddy policework and falsified witness statements.
If the good justice was really as non-partisan as he claims that he and other judges are, then the justice and all of the other judicial candidates, Republican and Democrat alike, would do the following to really "not only talk the talk, but walk the walk." As the races are supposed to be non-partisan in theory, make them non-partisan in fact. Prohibit political parties or other 527s from getting involved and running ads, as the (un)Fairjudges did in my campaign. Stop the whispering campaigns, robo-or phone calls and cheat sheets organized by the party. Stop having partisan party thugs do the "dirty work" while pretending that the candidate is above the fray. Stop the endorsement by the parties. Stop the participation in public financing. Allow someone other than prosecutors, some of whom are little better than Nazis when it comes to Constitutional rights, to run. And have the candidates list themselves as "independent" and allow them to campaign fairly on their merits.
All is not doom and gloom, however. Yes, economic times are getting worse. The oil companies have stopped giving us lame "Blues Brothers" excuses (they just raise the gas prices with impunity now). Food prices have also risen. Foreclosures are rampant and property values are down between 20%-40% in some areas of the country. Locally, those in government appear to have their heads firmly inserted in their rectums and are oblivious to all of this as they continue to speak of tax increases. There will soon be nothing left to tax as the bulk of the citizens just cannot afford any more. People, more than ever, are crying out for leadership.
But there is one bright spot. I am encouraged that there are more and more people joining the fight or becoming candidates themselves. Slowly, the masses are waking up and realizing that neither the Republican or the Democratic parties are the answer. They are part of the problem. If we are ever to surmount our many obstacles, we need to forget about the partisan bickering and come together on the really important issues, like ending the War in Iraq, preventing King George from invading another Muslim country before he leaves office and, of course, the domestic economy. People disillusioned with the poor choices of candidates which we are given are starting to coalesce behind the idea of forming a third party, one headed by someone of stature. I am heartened by the fact that Jesse Ventura has come out of retirement and is ready to get back in the fight. Maybe he is the one to lead this movement; maybe it is someone else. I will be watching, but until that happens, I'll be voting "none of the above" come November.
Rachel Lea Hunter
State Supreme Court Justice Takes The High Road
Compliments to the Greater Guilford Republican Forum for hosting N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds at its luncheon Wednesday. Edmunds, a Greensboro resident, is running for re-election. Edmunds has an easygoing manner and clearly was comfortable with this group. He spoke mostly about campaign issues, but definitely not in the way a candidate for a political office would talk. Anyone in the audience who wanted to hear some Republican red-meat rhetoric didn't get it from Edmunds. During a Q&A period, the justice passed on opportunities to go after those liberal, activist judges that a lot of conservatives just know are wrecking our courts. Not that he's seen in his 10 years on the bench, Edmunds said.
"It's not a political philosophy that drives what we do," he said of the North Carolina appellate courts. "It's devotion to the rule of law. The more I see of the game from the inside, the more impressed I am with the people who do the job the way it should be done." North Carolina's judiciary is nonpartisan, Edmunds reminded the Republicans. That said, he noted that the parties are involved. His opponent announced her candidacy at a Democratic Party event, he said. That's Wake Forest law professor Suzanne Reynolds, who disavowed partisan politics in an interview with me a couple of months ago, but Edmunds is right -- the parties choose sides on a partisan basis. (And Reynolds wasn't invited to appear at Wednesday's luncheon.)
Edmunds said he doesn't discriminate when it comes to meeting voters: "I've been to Democratic events. If I'm invited and I can make it, I'll show up." Judicial candidates can't afford to turn down opportunities to get before crowds. Those, like Edmunds and Reynolds, who are participating in public campaign financing have only about $250,000 to work with. Does that sound like plenty? "It doesn't pay for a single mailing to all the voters of this state," Edmunds said. The judges count on voters seeing the voter's guide put out by the State Board of Elections, hope that the media will pay attention to their races and also rely on word-of-mouth endorsements, largely from lawyers. "In my race, I am delighted if people ask lawyers because I think I win that race," Edmunds said.
His experience includes work in Guilford County as an assistant district attorney, then an assistant U.S. attorney. He was U.S. attorney for this district from 1986 to 1992, then practiced law privately until his election to the N.C. Court of Appeals in 1998. Two years later, he was elected to an eight-year term on the U.S. Supreme Court. In my observation, he's been part of a centrist majority made up of Republicans and Democrats during that time. Edmunds invited listeners to read his opinions, which are available on his Web site. His earlier elections were partisan. Now all judicial contests are nonpartisan. The change, plus the shift to public financing, present challenges. Ideally, the courts will become a little more insulated from partisan politics and special-interest influence. But systemic changes can only work if the judges and judicial candidates themselves respect the initent behind them and resist the temptation to plunge into the hot-button political issues -- no matter what anybody else does. "I think we judicial candidates can't be a part of a race to the bottom. ... People expect us to be fair," Edmunds said. Edmunds did his part to elevate the discussion Wednesday. Let's hope all our judicial races can be conducted on a high plane this year.
Posted by Doug Clark on May 22, 2008