In last week’s paper, Sarah Willets profiled a slate of Durham judicial candidates who are running on a reform platform. Retired District Court Judge Nancy Gordon is alarmed: “As of this year, North Carolina finds itself back in the mess of elected judges designated by political party. I suggest that, after making significant progress and being the leader in nonpartisan judicial elections, the reason we are here is clear: We are embroiled in political factionalism that has nothing to do with ideology or, in the case of judges, qualification, but that reflects a desire for control and power.
“The Constitution doesn’t support the notion that any one of the three branches of government should completely dominate or control our governance. Why? Because the executive and legislative branches are beholden to constituencies. They represent the people who elected them. Not so with the courts. Judges don’t represent any constituency or individual. So how have we gotten to a place where we are examining the personal political ideology of the people seeking judgeships?
“When I think of what qualities make a good judge, I think of integrity, independence and the courage to be independent, intellect, and legal training, plus commitment to fairness and access to justice. The job of being a judge begins and ends in a courtroom so that everyone should have access to the courts, have a fair and prompt opportunity for his or her grievance to be heard, and then have a reasoned decision that is consistent with the law of the jurisdiction. That’s it. Judges are not lawmakers. They are not policymakers.
“Just as you and I are members of our community, everyone who seeks a judgeship has an opportunity to be part of the conversations surrounding our court system. For example, what do we mean when we incarcerate people? How can we ensure fair treatment and access to justice for everyone regardless of wealth, race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender or political persuasion?
“In short, when you’re deciding who to support for a judicial seat, you should ask these kinds of questions: Has the individual demonstrated substantial work in any one or more fields of law? Do they teach other lawyers or students? Do they participate in any professional groups? Legal organizations? Are they leaders in those groups? Are there actions or commitments they can point to in their past that demonstrate integrity and a commitment to community? Have they participated in any important public service efforts? What civic clubs, associations, or political groups are they involved with? What do those affiliations tell you? Can they point to activities or experiences that demonstrate advocacy to something bigger than themselves? These are the inquiries that will help us evaluate who will do the best job on the bench.”
On the subject of a different kind of judge, Rick Bivens is rather upset with Patrick Wall’s assessment of emo-prog rockers Coheed and Cambria in last week’s music calendar: “If Patrick Wall wants to be taken seriously as a music journalist, then he would know Coheed and Cambria are releasing their ninth album (not seventh). Also, if he had any taste in music, he would know that the band’s music and lyrics transcend what passes as music today.
“By saying Coheed and Cambria have no substance, I believe Mr. Wall has never listened to an album of theirs in its entirety. Perhaps the only way Mr. Wall can stay relevant is tearing down others’ works. Mr. Wall is merely jealous that he will never reach the level of respect that Coheed and Cambria has rightfully earned. Move aside and let the big boys play.”
Finally, on Friday, we reported that a Raleigh man in solitary at an immigration facility in Georgia had apparently committed suicide. Alex M. Pruteanu writes: “As an immigrant with refugee asylum and now citizenship for over thirty-five years, I can tell you: We immigrants have always known the U.S. doesn’t welcome us. It’s a loosely kept secret around our dinner tables.”
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