Georgia Supreme Court Election
I have been writing to everyone I know this week to urge them to vote to reelect Justice Carol Hunstein to the Supreme Court of Georgia. The future of an independent judiciary in Georgia is at stake. We cannot afford to stand by and allow the financial assassination of our judiciary by big business.
The first in her family to attend college, Carol Hunstein built a distinguished career as a moderate conservative during her 22 years as a judge. Unaffiliated with any political party, she has wide support among both Republicans and Democrats who respect her skill, independence and fairness.
However, a largely anonymous group of billionaires and large corporations acting through "independent" committee have funneled $1.8 million into aiding the campaign of her opponent, Mike Wiggins, through "independent expenditures" that are not subject to the limits on campaign contributions. One Washington-based committee whose donors have not been identified is spending $1.3 million to defeat one nonpartisan Georgia judge.
One must ask what promises Mike Wiggins made about what he would do on the bench in return for such extremely generous financial support for his campaign. The folks who are willing to pump $1.8 million into a state judicial race have to have a financial motive and an assurance of a financial payback.
Carol Hunstein was forced at an early age to learn the value of hard work, discipline and dedication. Born into poverty, she contracted polio when she was two, survived her first bout of bone cancer at age five, and lost her mother at age 11. Her father did not think girls needed a college education, so she married at 17 and had a child at 18. When she was 22, her husband abandoned her, she lost a leg to cancer, and doctors told her she had only a year to live. Struggling to support herself and her child, she entered a community college on a vocational rehabilitation scholarship. She made her way through college and most of law school while raising her son on less than $200 per month. After remarrying she had two daughters. Her kids are all grown, and she has one grandson.
In 1977, Carol opened a law practice in Decatur, where she represented ordinary people in a wide variety of domestic, criminal and civil cases. Spurred by a county judge who repeatedly called her “little lady” in court, she ran for Judge in 1984, defeating four men to become the first woman elected to DeKalb Superior Court.
In 1992, then-Governor Zell Miller appointed Carol to the Supreme Court of Georgia. During 14 years on the Supreme Court, Carol has participated in more than 5,000 cases and authored more than 600 published opinions. She has ruled against me more than for me, but I respect her integrity and independence. She is widely regarded as one of the hardest working members of the Court, a model of impartiality and fairness, and a judge who strictly adheres to the rule of law. She is particularly known for being hard on repeat criminal offenders, deadbeat dads, purveyors of domestic violence, and lawyers who violate ethical rules.
Justice Hunstein has achieved national stature based on her work and her character. In 1999, the American Bar Association gave her an award given to less than 90 women in history. Other winners include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
No matter what her well-funded opponent’s TV ads may tell you, Justice Hunstein is not a “liberal activist judge” and she is not “soft on crime.” I have read hundreds of her published decisions and have found absolutely no such pattern. Any judge who has ruled fairly on thousands of cases, based on the facts and the law, is vulnerable to having a few individual decisions taken out of context and misrepresented by a political opponent in slick TV ads.
She has struck back with a tough but truthful ad about the fact that her opponent’s mother sued him and his sister gave an affidavit saying he threatened to kill her. I don’t know about his family dynamics, but I have seen copies of the court documents and the statements in the Hunstein ad are as true as they are tough. Now I have seen a statement released by Mr. Wiggins’ sister’s lawyer in Alabama, confirming that she stands by the statement in her 1997 affidavit that Mr. Wiggins threatened to kill her.
The extremely well funded campaign against Justice Hunstein is part of a coordinated nationwide assault on judicial independence that seeks to overwhelm with big money state Supreme Court justices around the country, and thereby intimidate all other state judges. In state after state, these campaigns have used very similar TV ads to misrepresent judges’ records and mislead voters. In this instance, the candidate running against Justice Hunstein is an academically bright ideologue and has been a political appointee in Washington, but he has never tried a case in any trial court and has never argued a case in a Georgia appellate court. The one published court decision in which he was lead counsel was a federal case several years ago in which he unsuccessfully argued that a drug dealer’s sentence was too harsh. That sounds like a prescription for a politically active judge who would legislate from the bench, rather than simply applying the law to the facts in each case.
It appears to me that folks who don’t like independent judges simply picked out someone they thought looked vulnerable – a non-political, one-legged woman with a Jewish-sounding name (though she is a Christian) — raised a few million dollars, and recruited an ambitious candidate to try to knock her off.
Please don’t fall for that. Please vote to re-elect Carol Hunstein, and urge your friends and family members to do likewise.