Local News

N.C. Court Hopeful Loses Bid To Get On Ballot As 'Madame Justice'

Posted February 28, 2006

— The state elections director has rejected the request of a North Carolina Supreme Court candidate who wanted to appear on the ballot with the nickname "Madame Justice."

  • On The Web:

    Rachel Lea Hunter Campaign Web Site

    Elections director Gary Bartlett wrote Durham attorney Rachel Lea Hunter on Tuesday to tell her that the name would mislead voters.

    "The use of the title 'Madame Justice' clearly implies that you are currently a female justice of a Supreme Court," Bartlett wrote. "The fact is that you are not."

    His decision can be appealed to the full State Board of Elections.

    Raleigh attorney Michael Weisel filed a complaint with the board, arguing that Hunter's request to use the nickname didn't convey respect for the state courts. The name also doesn't give voters useful information and "may tend to mislead them as to Ms. Hunter's qualifications," Weisel wrote.

    He also questioned whether Hunter is violating ethics rules for judicial candidates.

    Hunter filed for office Friday, asking to have the nickname on the ballot along with her full name. It's the first request by a North Carolina candidate in recent history to use a nickname that refers to the position being sought, election officials said.

    "This started off as a funny thing," said Hunter, who said she adopted the nickname in 1998 for use on the Internet. "I've never tried to misrepresent myself to the voters. I can see where they're coming from at first blush really. But that was not my intent at all."

    Hunter, who has never been a judge, is challenging incumbent Associate Justice Mark Martin in a nonpartisan race for an eight-year term.

    "I do not want voters to be distracted from what really matters," Martin said. "What matters is the qualifications, experience, temperament and demeanor."

    Martin said this is especially true in a year when voters will elect the majority of the court.

    Under state law, a candidate must sign an affidavit stating the nickname has been in use at least five years. Hunter used the name on her campaign Web site when she first ran for the court in 2004.

    Hunter said very few people who have contacted her through the Web site assume she's a judge.

    Nine people are running for four spots on the seven-member state Supreme Court. Once the race is over, all four winners will have earned the title of "Justice."

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