October 2006


Judge Anderson, after Monday’s forum, kindly gave me a brochure from the American Judicature Society (AJS), a non-partisan group created to “secure and promote an independent and qualified judiciary and fair system of justice.”

He handed me the tract just minutes after I discussed my call for candidates in both the Superior Court District 15B and Board of Commissioner races to voluntarily disclose their campaigns current financial status by Weds. Oct. 24th. Why the 24th? It is 3 days after the Board of Elections July 1st to Oct. 21st campaign report closes, 6 days before the report has to be sent in and 14 days before the election. More on my call for campaign transparency later…

The AJS’s primary interests are: judicial independence, conduct and ethics, selection; the jury; the criminal justice system – convictions of the innocent;public understanding of the justice system;”pro se” litigation and assistance.

The brochure had a few eye-popping factoids: thousands of folks go to court without legal assistance, 1 of 10 inmates – as many as 200,000 prisoners – are factually innocent, %78 of Americans believe that judges’ decisions are influenced by campaign contributions and, to me, a really shocking tale of our failing democracy – overall 1 in 5, in some areas as many as 9 in 10, people ignore jury summons.

As you might guess, I’m a bit starry-eyed on the old democracy shtick. Heck, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington still stirs my heart.

Four decades in, I’ve worked on campaigns, done “get out the vote” drives (GOTV), publicly written and ranted about our republic’s founding principles, even run for office, but, somehow, I’ve never been called for one of the most intimate of civic responsibilities: jury duty.

Sounds like the AJS is trying to figure out why more citizens don’t participate – maybe it’s cynicism borne of too many years of rushed and ready justice.

It has been quite encouraging to see candidates like Anderson and Baddour propose specific remedies to address local disparities. That said, whatever the outcome of our current judicial race, I’m confident the winning candidates will strive to diminish that cynicism and work to strengthen our confidence.

By the way, the American Judicature Society (AJS) and citizen’s of Orange County aren’t the only folks wondering about money and its affect on judicial races

Although heavy interest-group spending on judicial elections is a relatively recent phenomenon in Washington, it’s well-established in other states, he said.

“Special interests that pick a judge based on ideological considerations are automatically not picking an impartial judge: They’re picking somebody who they think is going to vote their way,” said Wiggins, who has donated to the campaigns for Alexander and another incumbent, Susan Owens. “That’s the antithesis of what we should be doing.”

And, Alexander said, “When you start getting huge amounts of money coming in, then I think the public has every right to be skeptical of our system, and that, I think, would be a terrible blow to our society if people no longer have faith in our judiciary.”

Alexander’s only challenger is Groen, and the winner in the non-partisan primary will appear alone on the November ballot. A Bellevue property-rights lawyer, Groen has benefited from more than $1.5 million either raised in contributions directly to his campaign or shelled out in so-called independent expenditures by political action committees working for him or against Alexander — a sum greater than the total spent by all candidates for three Supreme Court seats in 2004.

Seattle Post Intelligencer, Sept. 15, 2006

ps. You can see Judge Anderson waving that pamphlet and highlighting judicial reform in this video.

PleadTheFirst’s PotatoStew documents the unfolding drama of Greensboro’s Chief Wray RMA report debacle.

PotatoStew is an excellent political cartoonist with a great sense of humor (his ‘blogs tagline is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of an unnecessary blog, or prohibiting the free posting therein.”).

There were 20+ folks tonight – with a couple from the media – maybe 4 or 5 organizers – some town staff and the balance being interested citizens. I was already convinced that District 15B voters have a heck of slate of candidates before them – tonight I was more impressed than ever.

Very simply – we can’t lose. Of course, we have to pick and the candidates did a good job differentiating their philosophies, approaches, procedures and performance.

Due to what turned out to be poor placement of the camera and some technical issues I botched Adam Steins opening statement. In my defense, I set my camera up early – on a tripod as per BrianR’s excellent recommendation – well away from onlookers and the moderator. But then “dancin’ Doyle” decide to move stage right. By that point, my bobbing photographic nemesis for the night had taken the high ground.

Opening statements in reverse order appearance on the ballot. Essentially, Adam Stein reviewed his service before the bar, his work on the Mel Watt and Daryl Hunt cases and laid out his career as per the first forum.

I apologize for cutting Judge Fox off during question on political parties influence: essentially he gave a reprise of his answer on parties and politics from the 1st forum.

Some interesting highlights.

  • Anderson on reforming the system for selecting judges – especially the perception of the public about what the effect of money has on jurisprudence.
  • Anderson on keeping current with the law.
  • Stein taking up the transition challenge with his closing statement.
  • Stein on why he’s punctual now – great story of his youth.
  • Fox on managing high profile cases.
  • Baddour on how a short term can hurt our system of justice.
  • Baddour on direct outreach and keeping the “common Joe” in the picture.

Again, I apologize to the candidates for weaving around, botching the focus, not anticipating “dancing Doyle” and, in Mr. Stein’s case, completely zapping a segment. I’m working to get better at this vLog business.

And to my readership, thanks for the feedback. I wasn’t sure if these videos would have any utility.

Opening statements. I botched Mr. Stein’s statement. Later this week I hope to retrieve a video copy from the cable telecast.

youTube link to opening statements.

Closing statement.

youTube link to closing statements.

This was one of the most interesting questions of the evening. Essentially, what did the candidates think if Mr. Stein was elected to serve only 2+ years of an 8 year term.

Judge Anderson dodged and weaved. Judge Fox left it to the people. Mr. Stein defended the propriety. Judge Baddour, in the most direct and thoughtful response, spoke of how a short-term can harm the system around justice – that beyond the public interest, litigants and court personnel alike will be impacted.

youTube link to video on Mr. Stein’s “built-in” obsolescence – a pre-determined exit less than 1/3 of a way through his term.

youTube link to video on electing Superior Court judges.

youTube link to video on judicial temperament.

youTube link to video on staying current with the law, the legal profession and trends thereof….

youTube video on handling of high profile cases.

youTube link to video on punctuality and work ethic.

Hey fabuloso sports racers, ZeFrank lays out the voting gig:

Via Ed Cone, the consultant’s report (RMA) I posted on earlier is in the wild. An anonymously redacted and posted version is available on Greensboro101.

Guarino has a nice precis of the report – says that the report is “remarkable because of its relatively narrow scope”.

Now, the big question, at least for blogactivists: will Greensboro101 need the services of the Electronic Frontier Foundation?


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Support Bloggers’ Rights!

Even the forward looking journalists at this weekend’s ConvergeSouth could learn a trick or two from our local university’s Daily Tar Heel.

What a great mashup of raw data on drinking violations and mapping technology to simply demonstrate an evolution of a problem.

Well done Tar Heel.

A quick reminder of tonight’s Superior Court District 15B forum. This one will be telecast, so I’ll probably not create a bazillion youTube clips like Oct. 11th’s forum.

From the N&O calendar:

The 15B Judicial District Bar will hold a forum for District 15-B Superior Court judge candidates at 7 p.m. Monday in the Chapel Hill Town Hall. The forum will be broadcast live on Time Warner Cable channel 18 in Orange and Chatham counties. George Doyle will moderate with questions coming from lawyers Barry Winston, Nat Smith, Ed Holmes and Sam Williams. You may submit questions by e-mail beforehand to Winston at btw@winstonandmaher.com.

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