'Justice' moniker stings lawyer

Staff writerMarch 21, 2009 

— A local lawyer who unsuccessfully lobbied the State Board of Elections three years ago to be called "Madame Justice" on a ballot found herself in more trouble Friday with the N.C. State Bar.

Rachel Lea Hunter, a Cary woman who practices law in Durham, received a public reprimand for continuing to use the moniker from a three-person disciplinary panel of the State Bar, the agency tasked with monitoring lawyers' licenses in North Carolina.

The reprimand is merely a permanent mark on her record.

"We don't find a dishonest motive; we find a selfish motive," said Tommy Jarrett, a Goldsboro lawyer who served on the disciplinary panel.

According to a complaint filed by Bar staff attorneys, Hunter had a question-and-answer section on a campaign Web site titled "Ask Madame Justice" until at least November, as well as other references to the self-imposed nickname. The site, www.rachelforjustice.com, has since removed any Madame Justice references but details the tangles between Hunter and the State Bar.

Hunter, who has never been a judge, made headlines in 2006 when as a candidate for the N.C. Supreme Court she asked the State Board of Elections if she could appear on the ballot as Madame Justice. The request was denied.

Madame Justice is usually a term used for female members of higher courts and using it would falsely give the impression that Hunter was a sitting justice, according to Leanor Bailey Hodge and Brian Oten, the attorneys for the Bar who handled Friday's hearing.

But Hunter said after being publicly reprimanded Friday that she wasn't trying to continue using the name.

"I didn't have time to go back and change the Web site," Hunter said.

sarah.ovaska@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4622

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