Here comes the judge

It's time again for the biennial review of confusing judicial races in North Carolina.

Orange/Chatham Superior Court
Locally, we have the first ever competitive local Superior Court Judge race featuring the following candidates: Chuck Anderson, Allen Baddour, Carl Fox, Ken Oettinger, Michael Patrick, and Adam Stein.

This race is a tough decision in that we have six really strong and well-qualified candidates, all of them with strong Democratic party history and some of them with strong progressive political backgrounds. You get to vote for two candidates in the Superior Court race.

Chuck Anderson has been a dedicated and by all reports excellent District Court Judge in Orange and Chatham Counties for many years now. Allen Baddour has diverse legal experience and was formerly an Assistant District Attorney in this area; he was appointed as Superior Court Judge by Governor Easley a few months ago. Carl Fox was also recently appointed as Superior Court Judge by Governor Easley last year; Carl was our District Attorney for Orange and Chatham Counties for many years before that. Ken Oettinger is a very experienced attorney with Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice. Michael Patrick is likewise a highly experienced attorney in private practice.

While the progressive community seems fairly split up about exactly which way to go with any of the preceding candidates, there is a lot of support for Adam Stein, who has argued cases in every court from Orange County to the United States Supreme Court. Adam founded North Carolina's first inter-racial law firm in the 1960's (now known as the Ferguson Stein law firm), and he and his law partners have won some of the nation's landmark lawsuits on racial discrimination. They represented Swann in Swann v. Mecklenberg, a lawsuit that established and defined the power of the Federal Courts to force racist school systems to integrate. And they represented Griggs in Duke Power v. Griggs, the case that abolished Duke Power's policy of giving employee promotions based on their knowledge of things like US History, rather than their job performance or other relevant qualifications, knowledge or skill (in effect, they proved that Duke's goal was to promote whites and hold back blacks, rather than to accomplish any legitimate business goal). My point is this: These are the cases that I had as assigned core reading material when I was in law school, and so does every law student across the country. We are talking about some heavy hitting stuff – and I have by no means listed all of the cases of this kind that I could.

Here is a quick rundown on the other Judicial races on the ballot (all are non-partisan races, so PARTY AFFILIATIONS ARE NOT ON THE BALLOT!):

State Supreme Court (Wainwright seat)
Justice Wainright is retiring and so this is a wide open race featuring five candidates. The most likely two candidates from the Democratic side of the aisle are Robin Hudson of Raleigh or Jill Cheek of Carrboro. Robin Hudson, who is an incumbent member of the NC Court of Appeals, has served with distinction and is perceived by many to be the progressive member of that court. Many progressives have been lining up behind her. A fair number of local folks are lining up behind Jill Cheek, who is a death penalty prosecutor for the Attorney General's office. Whiteville Democrat Bill Gore, Durham Republican Gus Gray and Morrisville Republican Ann Marie Calabria seem to have little to recommend them.

State Court of Appeals (Hunter seat)
Incumbent Democrat Judge Bob Hunter of Marion is being challenged by two republicans, Kris Bailey of Cary and Bill Constangy of Charlotte. I've talked to Judge Hunter and he seems like a good guy to me. I can't see any reason to pass him by. Area lawyers who practice in the Court of Appeals report that Judge Hunter is a fair judge and deserves re-election.

State Court of Appeals (Stephens seat)
Raleigh Democrat incumbent Judge Linda Stephens is working to ward off two Republican challengers: Chris Parrish of Oak Ridge and Donna Stroud of Zebulon. Some lawyers really object to the heavy-handed way that Judge Stephens' husband (also Judge Stephens) runs the Wake County Superior Court, but I can see no reason to hold that against Linda Stephens.


Total votes: 109



I agree with the Stein, Stephens, and Hunter recommendations.

I think Robin Hudson is the clear choice for the Supreme Court choice, and I hope Democrats will unite behind her. With three Dems and two Republicans on the ballot in May, there is a possibility that if we fragment our votes too much we are going to end up with two Republicans moving onto the runoff...bad news.

Robin is by far the most progressive candidate in the field and the only of the Democrats who is a Judge already.

In 2004 we lost because the Republicans mostly united around Paul Newby while we fragmented our votes between Jim Wynn, Betsy McCrodden, and Howard Manning.

I hope all of the progressive Orange County Dems out there will vote for Robin Hudson.

Thanks so much for this write-up, Mark. I always find the judicual races kind of impenetrable. I am definitely supporting Adam Stein, and probably Chuck Anderson as well.

I'll chime in with my endorsements, for what it's worth.

Stein and Fox stand head and shoulders above their competition. We would be extraorinarily blessed to have two such highly accomplished jurist on the bench in Orange County. I say this not to diminish the accomplishments and worthiness of the rest of the field, they are all deserving of a seat. I wish there were similar candidates running for seats in the other judicial districts I work in.

Robin Hudson is a no brainer. I hope people aren't thrown by Cheek's hometown of Carrboro. It takes a special person to work on the Attorney General's death squad, and while I respect her for the work she does, I'd rather not see a promotion from that office to the Supreme Court.

(Full disclosure alert, my office, the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, is a common adversary of Cheek's)

Mark, are endorsing the judicial
candidates whose names you wrote in boldface type?

I want to put in a good word about Carl Fox. He served us
extremely well as District Attorney, and participated in
many youth-oriented, character-building programs locally.

I agree with Mark that we have great candidates here!

Mostly I was just trying to give folks at least a little more info than is otherwise usually available on these races (though only a little, I admit). I didn't really mean for the whole thing to be an endorsement piece, but after I had written it, my biases seemed so obvious that I might as well not even pretend to be objective.

Even so, I still have to choose between Jill Cheek and Robin Hudson (that is a pick one race) and I have got one more vote to cast in the Superior Court race.

Anybody else want to share about who they like for Superior Court (and why)?

I lean toward Carl Fox for Superior Court because he's spent so much time in the trenches and thinks like a judge. Carl made a big mistake as DA last year that resulted in a false arrest. Lessons learned count toward experience.

The Superior Court race is a toughie. I've never seen such a good block of candidates, and I feel so set back by being forced to vote for personal qualities instead of issues that I feel almost Republican. (pun intended for most of us)

I am definitely supporting Chuck Anderson. Having served on the District Court for the past ten years, I think he brings valuable experience to the bench. He seems thoroughly committed to judicial independence, and has made it a major part of his campaign. He has had the experience both on and off the bench to prepare him for this job. And honestly, going back to those "personal qualities" which I so hate, he strikes me as honest, reputable, fair, and any number of other intangible things that I think a judge ought to be. Beyond that, there are probably some subliminal plus-points for running in to him at places like Weaver Street Market.

Beyond Chuck, I'm still not entirely sure where my votes will go. Adam Stein seems to be incredibly qualified, and both incumbents strike me as being better than what we're likely to find in 90% of the rest of the districts in our state.

I've heard a rumor that one of the reasons the race is so crowded this year is that a number of folks on the bar found Judge Baddour to be too young to have received an appointment of this level. That makes him MORE desirable to me, but then, that's only a rumor as far as I know - I haven't heard any candidate say anything but niceties about his opponents. Does anyone else have any insight as to why the race is so full to begin with?

Because once a Judge at this level gets in, they pretty much stay as long as they want to. There may never be an opportunity like this with two appointed 'incumbents' simultaneously running to keep their seats for a very long time.

It's hard for me to see Fox's mistake in the Dalzell case as a reason to support him, as Catherine does. I thought it indicated both an error in judgement and a failure to take responsibility. With all the other good candidates in the running, he won't be getting one of my votes.

I'm jumping in here as a first-time commenter who lives in Pittsboro. I've generally been more engaged in Chatham's political scene than Orange's, though as so often happens, the race for Superior Court throws the political lots of the two counties together. Allen Baddour is a friend of mine, I support his candidacy, and I think that this particular conversation is missing some perspective.

I haven't seen any mention from Adam Stein's supporters of the fact that, as I understand it, mandatory retirement will require him to step down shortly after the next election for governor. With all of the discussion about how incumbency and political appointment figures into this race, I think that voters should understand that the seat will open up again in 2009, and we don't know who will be governor then.

What we're celebrating when we praise Mr. Stein's record of accomplishment is the idea that the courts can be a force for progressive social change. We've seen the right wing acknowledge this fact with great resentment in the last few decades, and push for remaking the judiciary as a sharply conservative body. With that struggle in mind, you might be less dismissive when a young jurist with a progressive outlook has the gumption to challenge convention and position himself for an ongoing career on the bench.

Will - there are quite a number of reasons why there are so many Superior Court candidates. For starters, this is the first time two Superior Court seats have been on the ballot. Next, the governor didn't even appoint Allen Baddour until after the candidate filing period had opened; many of the candidates, including Adam Stein, filed to run before Allen was even appointed. Also, while I'm not a lawyer, I think the number of candidates remaining in the field might reflect some concern in the legal community that the governor has now appointed a district attorney and an assistant district attorney and that perhaps there should be a bit more balance of legal background on the bench.

Regardless of the reasons for the relatively large field, if we're going to elect judges then I'm glad we have a competitive race with lots of strong candidates so we aren't rubber-stamping the governor's picks. The governor just appoints judges to fill out terms until the next election. There should be no presumption otherwise, despite the obvious electoral advantages of incumbency. It is an elected, not an appointed, position.

As you may have seen on my other OP post, I'm four square behind Adam Stein b/c I believe his wealth of experience and keen intellect make him the best candidate on the ballot and I choose to support the best candidate before me. It is true that Adam would have to step down as Resident Superior Court judge in 2009; however, he would still serve as a Recalled Superior Court judge, because there is no age limit on that. Adam has said he'd serve at least eight years. The new governor would appoint a new Resident Superior Court judge and then in less than a year, in 2010, there would be another election, just as we are having now, and the voters would decide on the judge, regardless who the governor has appointed. Then, just as today, the voters should select the best judicial candidate. That new judge would serve a full eight-year term, beginning in 2010, thus eliminating for the future the multiple judge election we have now; one judgeship would be up for election every four years.

When the new judge is elected in 2010, instead of two active Superior Court judges living in the Orange/Chatham district, the district would have the advantage of three – two Resident Superior Court Judges and one Recalled Superior Court Judge.

To argue not to vote for Adam Stein because he can't serve the full term seems illogical to me. It seems somewhat analogous to voting against an incumbent president b/c he'll be a lame duck. I still want the best person for the job in the job for as long as I can have him/her, and I can have Adam Stein for at least eight years to boot. I'm also not going to vote against Adam out of fear that the next governor might make a bad appointment. That appointment would only last a few months before the next election and I suspect the voters of this district would promptly defeat such a judge and elect a good one.

My two cents or maybe a whole nickel... :).

Here'e a fun thing to do while you're listening to the WCHL forum today.

Check out the Family Policy Council questionnaires:

For Supreme Court neither Hudson or Cheek took the bait.
Calabria and Gray say they most identifies with Scalia, Gore with Roberts. All three disagree with Lawrence, Roe and believe that gays, because they're gay, don't have a right to adopt.

Fox was the only Superior Court candidate to respond to the questionnaire. His responses are exactly the opposite of what I suspect the FPC is looking for. The Supreme Court Justice he most identifies with: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I agree with Ruby on this one. I can't support Carl Fox because of his mishandling of the Andrew Dalzell affair. Carl Fox gave the police every indication that he was on board with their procedures in making the arrest. When the matter went public he backed off and handled the situation with poor judgment.

And 9 years later Deborah Key is still missing.

I would rather one of these other candidates get the chance to serve us.

Mark K. thanks for posting that link. Very interesting. I think Carl Fox deserves a lot of credit for a boldly and wisely completed questionaire.

By the way, Mark K, I have to say that I would have a hard time with this question:

Which of the current justices of the United States Supreme Court most closely reflects your judicial philosophy?
___Alito ___Breyer ___Ginsburg ___Kennedy ___Roberts ___Scalia ___Souter ___Stevens ___Thomas

I can't say that I am all that impressed with any of them.

Yes, Mark C, it is a tough question. I'm probably closest to some combination of Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens. I even like a little Kennedy every now and then. (He wrote the majority opinion in Lawrence). But on the whole, the days of Brennan, Marshall and Blackman -- a Republican by the way and author of Roe and the most famous words ever written on a dissent from a cert denial "From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death." -- seem so long ago... almost as if we are living in a different age and arguably under a different Constitution.

Judge Baddour is having a meet-n-greet at the American Legion, Legion Rd. Chapel Hill, NC.

Time: 5:30-7:30

BBQ will be served.

I will vote for any candidate who is willing to bribe me with barbecue.

Provided, of course, that it's eastern-style barbecue.

Is that now? A little warning on the free barbecue please - that goes to all candidates. I agree with Chris.

Sorry about the late warning folks. I'll be more prompt over the next couple weeks.

The event was well attended - so it that was great. Allen has an exciting platform, a great background in both legal and public service and some great ideas for the future.

Hey folks,

The subject of Adam Stein's limited ability to serve a full term as a Superior Court judge (he could serve a little less than 3 years of an 8-year term) has come up on another thread, the Indy Endorsements thread, and Ashley Osment has posted a thoughtful argument for why that doesn't matter. I've posted a (hopefully thoughtful) reply about why it does, and how the facts about Adam Stein's possible (or, in my opinion, unlikely) post-retirement career on the bench have been misinterpreted.

In the interest of linking up these two discussions, here's the link:

I just saw a home made sign on 54 by Meadowmont that said 'Citizens for Justice say no to Carl Fox!'

Anyone know what Citizens for Justice is?

I don't know, but I saw one of these signs today too! I was heading north on 15-501 from Chatham County.

The sign you saw Ruby, is gone. It was gone first thing this morning.

That is, if you mean heading towards Chatham County, at the intersection of 15-501 and Mt. Carmel Church Road.

How could I see a sign that was gone? I had an errand near Cole Park Plaza this morning around 9:30. I thought I remembered seeing it on the way back (north, as I said above) but I could be wrong.

There was one at the corner of Estes Ext. and Sewell at 6:15 pm.

It's back now, but in a slightly different place. I passed by it yesterday at about 7:50, so it might have been replaced after that.

Or, I could be nuts. Either way, we still don't know anything about this group, right?

Maybe it isn't a GROUP--maybe it's a personal call to all citizens who believe in justice? Is it a printed sign--or hand-lettered?


There is a letter to the editor in the CH Herald that is probably related.

I can't locate CH Herald letter to ed links on their web-site.


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