Visiting Guilford While Lake
Spills Over Judicial Salaries

Paul Mengert is the chairman of the Guilford County Democratic Party.
Madame Justice had the pleasure of attending a dinner held by the Guilford Democrats.

September 2, 2005

Some individuals have asked me what I think of Judge John Roberts' nomination to the US Supreme Court. I have not met him and can neither speak ill or good of him.

I now know how people are chosen for positions and how politics raises its ugly head. I think that despite the posturing, he will be confirmed. But the effort by both factions is deplorable. The abortion and anti-abortion groups are using his nomination to rouse support for their respective sides.

The U.S. Supreme Court is not going to overturn Roe v. Wade anytime soon. So for those on the right, do not get your hopes up that he will be a panacea. Nor will he be as destructive of the abortion and other rights as those on the left portray him to be. What remains to be seen is what kind of justice he will be. For that, we will have to wait.

CAFTA passed by a narrow margin of only two votes. Had two of our own congressman done the right thing, it would have been defeated. I am speaking of Representative Charles Taylor and Representative Robin Hayes. Both, in their own way, engaged in craven and cowardly acts. Mr. Taylor did not vote and was not even on the floor. Mr. Hayes had said he would vote against it, but after some arm-twisting by the leadership, he changed his vote. He is now claiming it's because his constituents contacted him. If his constituents wanted it, then well and good. But I suspect that they didn't and that it had more to do with promises of reward by this administration.

It proves once again that our leaders are more concerned with getting themselves re-elected than they are with doing what is best for America and our interests. I hope that when both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Hayes are up for re-election, that their constituents will remember accordingly and get some new people in office.

Two weeks ago, I was invited to attend the Democratic Women of Guilford County's annual dinner. It was my first time out in public, and I was very tired after the event. However, women did exceptionally well in Guilford County last year, including myself. I placed first there, in Charlotte , and in other counties as well. But Guilford was nearby and I decided to make my official kickoff there.

What struck me about the event is that Republicans do not have a monopoly on matters of spirituality, patriotism and family. Democrats are just as concerned about these things as Republicans. Two women, Joyce Njoroge and Cheryl Douglas, were there. They are not "welfare moms", but hard working business women.

Several luminaries were in attendance - Congressman Brad Miller, County Commissioner Kirk Perkins, Judge Pete Hunter, state Senator Katie Dorsett, state Representative Pricey Harrison, Superintendent-to-be of Public Instruction, June Atkinson, Commissioner-to-be John Parks and others.

Speaking of Ms. Atkinson and Mr. Parks, I remember when Britt Cobb and Steve Troxler were arguing over the agriculture commissioner's race. There were howls and cries from the media and some citizens that Mr. Cobb should give up and concede the election. He fell on his sword and did the right thing. Not so with Ms. Atkinson's opponent. He looks like what he is - a sore loser. Mr. Parks is also going through his own travails, as his opponent likewise has continued her challenge. It's now August. This is a travesty. Regardless of which side one stands on, Ms. Atkinson and Mr. Parks should assume their rightful places.

Also in attendance were Guilford County Democratic Chairman Paul Mengert, whose mother, Sue Mengert, has long been active in the Democratic Women's group, 1st Vice Chair Joan Schlaginhaufen, Special Advisor Tom Coley, President of the Democratic Women of Guilford County, Ossie Edwards, 2nd Vice Chair BJ Gerald-Covington, and others. If I left anyone out, it was not intentional!

Ossie Edwards and Ms. Gerald-Covington made me feel welcome. Ms. Edwards was firmly in control of the meeting, but she took time out to wish me well during my recovery, as did many others. I can see why women did so well in Guilford County thanks to the hard work of Ms. Edwards and others in her group. They are dedicated and passionate.

We may not agree on all issues. I don't expect everyone to agree with me or I with them on all matters. But we can disagree without being disagreeable, as the neo-cons in charge of the NC GOP have yet to learn. And we can agree on many things. We can agree that the war in Iraq is wrong. We can agree that CAFTA is bad for America . We can agree that our liberties and our property have been jeopardized by the neo-cons in the administration.

As a result, I am going to join the Democratic Women of Guilford County.

This week Chief Justice Lake called for an increase in judicial salaries and he made some preposterous statements. While the court budget needs an increase and judges should be adequately compensated for their work, he said that individuals earn $250,000 in private practice whereas judges at the appellate level only earn in excess of $100,000, so we need to raise judicial salaries to obtain more qualified candidates.

I do not know too many practitioners who earn such amounts. Even if some do, there is no shortage of judicial candidates. Raising the amount will not bring in more candidates who are better trained. It will just bring in more candidates.

People want to be a judge for the prestige. But people also want to be a judge for the hours and the salary. Even if someone is earning $250,000, such person has to work for it. And such a person does not earn that kind of money working 9-to-5. Not to demean our judiciary, but there are some members out there who do not work very hard. I did not believe it until I saw a judge's comment in a transcript about how he was too busy to hear a case in between his golf outing and going to the beach. Too busy to do the work one is paid to do?

Judges have steady jobs for four years or eight years, depending on their term of office. They make in excess of $100,000, whereas most of those in private practice do not. And they do not have to work much more than a 9-to-5 day to earn it. Who would not want to be a judge? We do not have to encourage them by raising the salaries. Maybe it's a good thing Chief Justice Lake has to retire.

What is a bar to qualified people seeking judicial and other office is politics. People do not like the mud-slinging. People do not like the minutiae of their lives scrutinized. People don't like the games that are played. People don't like having to be a party loyalist in the hope of being rewarded when it is their turn. Funding is also a problem. It cost money to run every campaign, especially a conventional one.

That is why I am running. I am here to demonstrate that little guys like me can fight back against the entrenched establishment. I'm here to demonstrate that campaigns can effectively be run for a fraction of the cost. I am here to speak out about what is wrong with the system and the administration. I am here to bring integrity and scholarship on our court. I am here to win.

Best wishes,

Rachel Lea Hunter
Candidate for NC Supreme Court Associate Justice

Paid for by Rachel Lea Hunter for Supreme Court
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