Under the Dome

O'Connor says judges shouldn't be elected

March 10, 2010 

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said she'd like to see the state move away from electing judges.

"We are the only nation in the world that elects its judges," O'Connor said at the Elon University School of Law on Monday. "We are just way out in left field on this."

O'Connor, who retired in 2006 after 25 years on the high court, said that in her home state of Arizona, the quality of judges improved after the state stopped electing them.

"You still do that in North Carolina, I'm sorry to say - very sorry to say - that's not a good way to go," O'Connor said, according to a news release from the university.

Noting that the U.S. Constitution requires federal judges to be selected and appointed by the president, with advice and consent by the Senate, O'Connor said the states originally used similar systems.

The visit Monday was O'Connor's second in four years. In 2006, she dedicated the university's law school in Greensboro.

O'Connor noted North Carolina's recent efforts to improve its elections process for judges, but she said those steps are not sufficient.

"I know you have some public funding of elections, and it's nonpartisan, but that doesn't do enough," O'Connor said. "I hope that someday you'll think about something else in North Carolina."

State wants gamblers to call for help

A new ad from the state lottery urges problem gamblers to get help.

The spot features animations depicting lottery, card and slot games. Lottery Executive Director Tom Shaheen provides the voice over.

"It can be a lot of fun, but when you play too often, the fun can quickly fade," Shaheen says. The ad concludes by encouraging anyone who is playing too much to call the problem gambling help line at 877-718-5543.

The ad is the only one the lottery is running this week, which is National Problem Gambling Awareness Week, said Pam Walker, a spokeswoman for the lottery. The spot cost $21,465 to produce. It replaces last year's spot in which Shaheen used hot sauce as a metaphor for problem gambling.

In 2009, the help line received more than 7,132 calls, according to a report by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Of those, 576 reported problem gambling.

Of those, 45 percent (260) called after seeing the number on the back of a lottery ticket, and 186, or 43 percent, said their primary problem activity was the lottery. Video poker and slot machines were respectively, the second and third most-cited problem activities.

Perdue visits Samaritan's Purse

While in the western part of the state, Gov. Bev Perdue visited the Rev. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse.

Perdue spent the weekend in Asheville with her husband, Bob Eaves, and delivered a speech about the economy Monday to a meeting of western chambers of commerce. She then stopped by Samaritan's Purse in Boone, which provides international disaster relief and community development. Perdue met with Graham and about 300 of the organization's employees, spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said.

"She spoke about how much the Graham family means to North Carolina and to her personally growing up," Pearson said.

Graham noted that Perdue is the first governor to visit his Boone facility.

ben.niolet@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4521

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