Politics & Government

Senate hopefuls differ on judges

North Carolina's U.S. Senate candidates would bring different approaches to the approval of presidential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, a key power of senators.

Elizabeth Dole, the incumbent and a Salisbury Republican, said candidates should have an “educational and career background that demonstrates ability to reason at the highest intellectual level.”

Kay Hagan, a Democratic state senator from Greensboro, said she would pay particular attention to that person's record with regard to privacy and civil rights.

Christopher Cole, a Huntersville Libertarian, has no interest in a judge who sees the Constitution as a “living, breathing document.”

All say they want judges who as Hagan said “uphold the law,” and as Dole put it “will resist the temptation to legislate from the bench.”

They differ beyond that. Each picked a different recent Supreme Court decision that didn't sit well with them. Hagan said the court messed up in tossing out a $3 million award won by a tire company supervisor, Lilly Ledbetter, who sued Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Gadsden, Ala., after discovering that she was being paid far less than her male counterparts. The court did not dispute the facts but said she had no standing because she did not file a complaint within 180 days of when the company first started discriminating against her.

Ledbetter contends she did not realize the discrimination was taking place until much later. Critics of the decision – presidential candidate Barack Obama among them – say it effectively makes it impossible for those who receive unequal pay for the same job to seek justice because most businesses do not advertise each employee's pay.

An effort to pass legislation to overcome the court's ruling did not pass Congress. Dole voted against it.

“I strongly believe that in the year 2008 it is unconscionable that women in North Carolina are paid 78 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same jobs, and I frankly can't believe that Elizabeth Dole voted this year against legislation to give women equal pay,” Hagan said in an e-mail message.

Dole said the court erred in overturning Louisiana state law that allowed child rapists to be executed. She said the case should be revisited.

“The elected representatives of a state government chose to make capital punishment an option for these heinous offenders,” Dole said in an e-mail message. “I thought the Court was much too casual in declaring that judgment unconstitutional and failed to take into account other instances in the law where such punishment was already imposed.”

Cole said the Kelo case that allows states to condemn private property for economic development purposes is “an atrocity.”

One final difference is Dole criticized Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion, as a “poorly reasoned decision on many levels,” though she did not outright say it should be overturned. Hagan gave a simple answer as to whether Roe v. Wade should stand: “Yes.” Cole said the question of abortion should be left up to the states.