10/30/08 — It's about trust: There are true concerns about Superior Court race

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It's about trust: There are true concerns about Superior Court race

Both candidates running for Superior Court judge have the training they need to sit on the bench and make good decisions based on the rule of law.

A vote for Judge Jerry Braswell or challenger, attorney Arnold Jones, won't need to be decided on their qualifications. Both are well-suited to the post.

But what should help make the distinction -- and what voters should consider as they head to the polls Tuesday -- or before -- is something much deeper than that.

Two of the most important qualities for a judge are integrity and trust.

We have to believe that when a defendant comes before the man or woman sitting on the bench that he or she will receive a fair shake as determined by the rule of law -- and nothing else.

Fair or not, we have to believe that our judges are above reproach, that they do not dabble in anything that compromises their ability to remain untouched, unaffected by what goes on around them. We want to be sure there could be no reason for a defendant to have a "leg up" with a judge -- or that he or she would let an outside influence affect a ruling.

We have to believe that he or she has earned the respect and has the impeccable character that is required to preside over a court and to make decisions that change the course of people's lives.

High standards? Absolutely. That's what you sign up for when you decide to become a judge and then seek to keep the job for eight years.

There is no direct evidence that Judge Jerry Braswell cannot live up to this charge. There is only one actual sanction filed against him -- and it was not a strong hit from the Judicial Standards Commission. And other questions raised do not make removing him as a judge even a consideration.

But that is not what concerns us about Braswell and the thought of another eight years of him in the Superior Court.

There simply are too many questions, too many times when this judge has acted within the law, but has left a nasty taste in the mouth of those who dealt with him.

There have been too many times Braswell has had to explain himself -- or that someone has asked for an outside opinion on a decision he has made or a case he has been involved in.

There are too many times when his outside dealings have been news and that someone has asked if the way he conducted his business affairs was within the confines of what we expect from a judge.

And each time a question is raised, a smidgeon of doubt is left behind, eroding at the confidence of the community.

There are concerns raised about Braswell that are worrisome -- undue influence, mishandling of his business, skirting the boundaries of election law, pressure on workers and others for support and now, claims that one of his campaign workers is saying that he is being endorsed when he is not.

And while most of the time he has been able to stay under the radar, it makes us wonder if there will not be many more questions over the next eight years.

And that simply is not acceptable for someone who wants to be a judge over one of the county's most important courts.

So, for that reason, it is time for a change.

We recommend you make that choice when you head to the polls and elect Arnold Jones.

Published in Editorials on October 30, 2008 10:52 AM