Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Write in your candidate.

I went to vote this morning and had jury duty yesterday, so I've definitely been involved in participatory governance this week. Judges Linda Hunter and Antonio DelCampo gave very moving addresses to the jury pool on Monday morning. Everyone was hoping to get on a trial after listening to them. I particularly liked that Judge DelCampo mentioned the opportunity to interact meaningfully with people different from oneself as an advantage to serving on a jury. They're both running for reelection this year, though DelCampo is unopposed.

DelCampo told a story about how he was unopposed during a previous election but was a bit shocked and disturbed to get several hundred votes against him. But he was humored and relieved after seeing that most of the other votes were for Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the like. But that got me thinking - it made me realize that even when someone is unopposed your vote matters. If you take the time to write in someone else, especially a real person, the unopposed candidate may take that as a vote of no confidence. This is particularly the case with incumbents, who may be running on a lackluster record.

So this morning when I voted (I was only in line 45 minutes - woo hoo!), I thought hard about my votes for unopposed candidates. Those I supported, I voted for. In the past I just ignored unopposed candidates I did not support and didn't vote at all for that office. But today, I considered people I know who would do a better job than the unopposed candidate on the ballot and I wrote those names in. For example, I've been unimpressed with my state representative for many years. I haven't run against her, and no one else has either, but wouldn't she get an meaningful message if more people voted against her than for her, even if those folks were write-ins.

Now I know the people I wrote-in this morning won't win the election, but if more of us write in real people in a vote of no confidence, maybe the unopposed candidates who could do a better job will start doing so.

"A man can't ride on your back unless it's bent." -Martin Luther King, Jr., civil-rights leader (1929-1968)


Karama said...

And no, I didn't get on a trial. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Anonymous said...

I am Tom Stubbs, the person opposing Judge Hunter. I am writing because Judge Hunter is misusing the jury addresses as thinly veiled campaign stump speeches. If the posting above is any indication, her work has been effective. However, neither Judge Hunter nor the stories she told are as she described. This post is in the vein of an "Eddie Haskell" warning: don't believe things are the way they appear to be. (Eddie Haskell was a character in the television show Leave It To Beaver who was always overly courteous in front of the Cleaver adults, but was a devil when he got out of their sight.) Judge Hunter is an articulate, intelligent person. However, her temperament is quite different on the bench. Don't take my word for it. Despite her years of experience, or, more correctly, because of the years of experience of so many attorneys before her, I was rated in two separate polls of attorneys (the Atlanta Bar Association and the DeKalb Bar Association) as the best qualified candidate. In fact, more than a third of the 300+ attorneys who rated Judge Hunter in the Atlanta Bar Assn. poll rated her as unqualified. What does that tell you about a sitting judge when that many attorneys feel so strongly that not only do they not rate her as the best candidate, they rate her as absolutely unqualified?
So, when you hear her talk to the jury pool, know that she is up for reelection and is using the juror talks as a campaign stump speech. Among other things that you should investigate is her version of her jailing of prospective jurors. First, note that she is the only judge who has ever done that in DeKalb County, and she's done it twice. All judges deal with reluctant prospective jurors; none of them have had to jail anyone. In the one case, the prospective juror worked in a rape crisis center as a victim's advocate, accompanying and assisting rape victims in court. When the woman learned that the trial was for a sexual assault, she rightly and honestly stated that her work on behalf of rape victims probably would make her somewhat biased. That is precisely the kind of answer jury voir dire is supposed to elicit. The woman was not trying to evade jury service; she was prepared to be re-assigned to a different courtroom for another trial. Judge Hunter, however, went after the woman, questioning her honesty. By the end of the exchange, the prospective juror was sentenced to three days in jail.
Four months later, another woman who came for jury service was sentenced to 10 days in jail when she said she did not want to serve. While she gave no good reason for not wanting to serve, Judge Hunter did little more than verbally push the woman into a corner instead of calming the situation as other judges do. Keep in mind that DUI defendants usually do not serve 2 days in jail.
While that second juror was still serving her 10 days, Judge Hunter sentenced two other women to 48 hours in jail for supposed contempt. The women had attended a post-divorce hearing before Judge Hunter. One of the jailed women was a grandmother who was there to watch the kids during the hearing, and the other woman was a friend of the ex-wife who was in the hearing. The grandmother had to serve 48 hours for speaking sharply to her ex-son-in-law in the hallway. The friend who was also sentenced to 2 days in jail knew an attorney. She got the Court of Appeals to release her after 1 day, and the appellate court later issued a full ruling in stating that Judge Hunter was completely out of line in sentencing these women to jail.
Judge Hunter also violated judicial ethics when she set the bond for a family member who was arrested. As you might imagine, a judge cannot be involved in any legal matter that involves their family. She intervened, and allowed the family member to leave jail without posting any bond 4 hours after he was arrested. Anyone else would have had to wait in jail for at least 36 hours, post at least a $2500 bond, and appear before an independent magistrate.
She also violated judicial ethics by chastising a jury in private after a divorce trial. According to affidavits submitted by jurors, the judge disagreed with their ruling and went into the jury room and talked rudely to them. She told them they should have made the husband pay all of his disposable income each month to the wife. When the jurors said that was contrary to the judge's own instructions, Judge Hunter told them he came from a rich family and that family could take care of him.
There are many other stories in the history of Judge Hunter that should be consulted before you choose her. After investigating, make your selection. Feel free to check out my website at , as well as googling on "Linda Warren Hunter" and me. Whatever you do, don't just swallow whole the pablum being improperly fed at the jury pool room.
Judge del Campo, by the way, has no opposition because he is a fair judge and treats people well. He will not rule your way all of the time, but he gives you every opportunity to make your case. You cannot ask for more from a judge.
-Tom Stubbs

Karama said...

Hello Mr. Stubbs,

Thank you so much for reading. Let me be perfectly clear:

Judge Linda Hunter did not mention the current campaign or the upcoming election at all.

The election was mentioned only by Judge DelCampo who is, as you mention running unopposed. It was Judge DelCampo's comment about running upposed that inspired this post. Again, Judge Warren made no mention of the election dury her address to the jury pool on Monday. 300 of my potential juror colleagues can confirm this. I recognize that you are running against Judge Warren, but this is not an appropriate tactic, because it is wrong.

Let me also state that other that attending jury duty on Monday and repsponding to this email, I have never had any interaction with the judicial candidates mentioned here.

Thanks again for reading.

Karama said...

Two more things:

* It should be clear that I am not trying to initiate a write-in campaign again either Judge DelCampo or Judge Warren.

* I will not speak to the allegations made by Mr. Stubbs but encourage readers to do as I do and research the candidates before voting

Karama said...

Also, Judge Warren's speech about jury service seemed intended to make the pool value the idea and process of serving on a jury. I doubt anyone in the jury pool would have characterized it as a "thinly veiled campaign stump speech."