June 17, 2004
GUEST COMMENTARY - Paul Carrington for State Senate
by Nathan Chapman
Rare is the political candidate for state legislature who combines legal acumen with a career of sensible and compassionate community service. Rarer still is the candidate who possesses these attributes and remains unencumbered by years of political dirty work and ambition.
Paul Carrington, professor of law here at Duke, is just such a candidate. He is running for State Senator in Senate District 18, which encompasses Lee, Chatham and Southwest Durham counties. Since the general election is likely to be won by the Democratic nominee (as history and voter registration numbers indicate), the Democratic primary weighs heavily on the immediate horizon: July 20.
Carrington is the only candidate who actually lives in the Durham portion of the Senate district, which alone makes up over forty percent of the constituency. His two Democratic opponents both hail from northern Chatham County. If Carrington is not elected to the Senate, Durham will lose one half of its voice in the State Senate next term. While Carrington does face opposition in the primary, it is difficult to imagine a candidate more ideally suited to represent the district in general and the Durham and Duke communities in particular.
Carrington's primary motivation for running for this particular office is his interest in helping forge a stronger commitment to fairness throughout North Carolina government. His interest is evidence of his long standing belief that the legal profession is not primarily about exploiting the necessity of lawyers inherent in democracy but in sensibly practicing law to preserve and enhance democracy, demanding that political institutions serve all citizens efficiently and effectively. His platforms are consistent both with this ideal and his previous work as an academician and advocate. He hopes to work to bring about more stringent lobbying regulations, campaign finance reform, a moratorium on the death penalty and more money allocated to the overwhelmed and largely under-financed court system. He is also committed to protecting those most likely to be unfairly exploited. In particular, he wrote the first draft of the Fair Bargain Act, now enacted in New Mexico and before the legislature in several states including North Carolina. The act protects consumers and employees from being victimized by unfair contracts that strip employees and consumers of their state and federally granted procedural rights. An extreme example of commercial exploitation that Carrington would like to disarm is the practices of payday lending institutions. In short, his goal is to demand institutional and legislative changes that would create a healthier democratic and commercial environment for all North Carolinians.
His vision of fairness is backed by an outstanding career as a legal scholar and educator that has led to his membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Science committee. Since graduating from Harvard Law School in 1955, he has been a member of the faculty at five law schools and was dean at Duke Law School from 1978-1988. In addition, he held visiting appointments at ten other American law schools and five foreign universities and has authored seven books and over hundred major articles in academic legal journals. His writings have spanned numerous legal topics, including civil procedure, constitutional law and the history of the legal profession. His experience in the realm of judicial reform would make him an insightful and particularly knowledgeable advocate for improvement. He directed the American Bar Foundation study of the United States Courts of Appeal from 1967-1969, served as Reporter to the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1985-1993, and directed a program in judicial independence and accountability for the American Bar Association, organizing a national conference on that subject in 1999.
Paul Carrington's political experience bespeaks his determined public service rather than self-promoting ambition. In fact, the only elected public position in which he has served is trustee of the Ann Arbor Board of Education from 1970-1973.
Throughout the entirely of his career, however, he has played a leading role in the formation and passage of important and responsible legislation. He was instrumental in the enactment of the Uniform Commercial Code in Wyoming in 1960 and brokered the enactment of a 2001 North Carolina statute that provides for public finance of judicial campaigns (thereby encouraging a broader spectrum of qualified judicial candidates).
He hopes his presence in the State Senate will influence the enactment of the Fair Bargain Act in North Carolina. Paul Carrington's lack of elected experience is more than superseded by his life-long dedication to applying his legal expertise to the task of realizing democratic ideals.
It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to elect Paul Carrington to State Senate--not because Duke's own reputation would be strengthened by adding a notch to the resume of one of her own, but because Duke would miss the opportunity to have a true representative in State government. Paul Carrington has spent his life embodying that to which Duke faculty and students ought to aspire: Brilliant academic and intellectual leadership that affects positive and far-reaching results for individuals and society. Paul Carrington's commitment to excellence in the classroom are sidelights to what students should learn from his dedication to put to use his talents and education outside the classroom for the good of society. To capitalize on our rare opportunity to be truly represented at the State level and therefore enjoy some level of the best democracy has to offer, don't forget to vote in the July 20 Democratic primary.