Ordinarily, getting candidates for state court races to reveal their positions on issues is about as easy as unraveling the plastic wrap that mummifies new CDs. That's because judges are charged with being fair and impartial, and candidates feel justly constrained from discussing issues they may have to consider on the bench.
But one candidate for state Supreme Court hasn't been shy about sharing his beliefs--at least with some members of the public (The Independent wasn't able to get a response to our campaign survey).
Fayetteville attorney Edward Thomas Brady says he's seeking a seat on the state's highest court as part of a "crusade" for conservative Republican values. Brady beat his Republican opponent Ralph Walker, a state appeals court judge, in the primary. After a statewide recount, Brady finished 1,536 votes ahead. He will face Democratic incumbent G.K. Butterfield--currently the only African American and one of two Democrats on the seven-member high court--in the Nov. 5 election.
In a mailing sent out by the Brady for Justice Campaign Committee, the candidate doesn't hold back in describing his political views. "I haven't the slightest reservation in declaring my fundamental conservative philosophy," Brady writes. "Our nation's decline of its core family values and traditions, abortion issues, gay rights, and the Democratic liberal partisan interpretation by the Supreme Court of Florida arising out of the 2000 Presidential Election are some of the issues of recent years which have brought me to the irreversible conclusion that I must do my part in seeking this office."
In outlining his "business oriented, conservative Republican philosophy," Brady cites his support for banning abortions except in instances of rape, incest or cases where the mother's life is in danger, and for "individual rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to keep and bear arms."
A resume attached to the mailer notes that he is a licensed gun dealer and a member since 1966 of the National Rifle Association. Brady, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, also belongs to the American Legion, the Federalist Society and The Military Order of the World Wars.
Brady notes he is seeking a seat "currently held by a liberal Democrat" and he asks citizens for "support on my crusade."
Such frankness may become more common in judicial races, thanks to a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled in June that judicial candidates can't be prevented from speaking about controversial issues such as abortion and school prayer. "We have never allowed the government to prohibit candidates from communicating relevant information to voters during an election," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg begged to differ.
"I do not agree with the court's 'an election is an election' approach," she said in a lengthy statement criticizing the decision. "Judges are not political actors and the First Amendment does not require that they be treated as politicians simply because they are elected."
North Carolina's Code of Judicial Conduct still bars candidates from commenting on pending cases, making endorsement speeches or giving campaign contributions to nonjudicial candidates. But in 1997, the state dropped a rule that had prevented judicial candidates from discussing hot-button legal or political issues.