I hope the answer to the question in our headline is no. But based on Paseur's recent speech before the Birmingham chapter of the Federalist Society, I'm afraid the answer is yes.
According to a report in The Birmingham News, Paseur made a number of excellent proposals:
* She supports the appointment of appellate judges. (I would expand this to include appointment of all state judges.)
* She would push for an increase in oral arguments heard by appellate courts;
* She would push for more opinions that explain rulings. (I would call for abolishment of the no-opinion affirmance rule, which allows appellate courts to affirm trial-court findings without issuing an opinion.)
But she evidently said nothing about the Alabama Supreme Court's infamous ExxonMobil ruling. Paseur was speaking before a conservative organization, and perhaps she didn't want to raise the ExxonMobil case in that forum. But I'm not aware of her raising the issue in any forum.
According to a report at Left in Alabama from November 2007, a Paseur supporter used a sign to mock the Republican jurists who sold out to ExxonMobil. But Paseur herself has shied away from spotlighting the case, and I think that's a mistake.
Here is the background on the ExxonMobil case: In an 8-1 ruling last fall--with the court's lone Democrat, Sue Bell Cobb, providing the dissenting vote--the Supreme Court overturned most of a $3.6 billion verdict against the oil giant and in favor of the state of Alabama. The ruling was a devastating hit to the state's financial picture, but more important it was a violation of clear procedural and legal precedent.
In other words, the ruling was corrupt, and Cobb had the cojones to pretty much say that in her dissent. Paseur is going to have to show similar cojones if she is going to win in a state where a major proportion of the white population reflexively votes Republican--particularly in judicial races.
The ExxonMobil story is not complicated. Republicans on the Supreme Court violated the law and cheated the citizens of Alabama. Most citizens understand that kind of language, and they don't like cheaters, by and large.
Paseur needs to take that message, put it in a short, sweet, simple package, and let it loose on a regular basis between now and election day. Former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman has publicly pushed for such a campaign, but Paseur seems unwilling to do it.
I don't think there is any question that Paseur is a far superior candidate to her GOP opponent. She has strong support from law enforcement and from women's groups. But that will not be enough for her to win. The Republicans on the Supreme Court gift wrapped a winning campaign issue for her, and if she is not bold enough to use it, she probably doesn't deserve to win the race.
Perhaps someone close to Sue Bell Cobb, or some of Paseur's own advisors, can convince her that she has to come out swinging between now and election day. Playing nice in judicial races is not going to get it done with the snakes who back GOP jurists.
If Paseur doesn't toughen up, I'm afraid we are in for more 8-1 rulings in the future.