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Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears used a speech before Atlanta writers and broadcast journalists Wednesday to decry what she views as the distortion of language in today’s political culture. “There are really two kinds of news today — real news based on fact, and spin masquerading as fact,” she told about 85 members and guests of the Atlanta Press Club. “You do your job best when you help your readers and listeners understand that there is a difference between the two,” added Sears, who became chief justice at the beginning of the month. Sears said the word “activist” has become a “dirty name.” “Anyone really serious about discussing the role of the judge in this country has to first come to terms with the primordial urge of 21st century man to stamp inane labels on the complex issues of modern life,” she said. “The code word ‘activist’ really means that any time a judge rules against you, he is automatically an activist,” she said. “For people who define ‘activist’ in this way, Terri Schiavo, for example, was sentenced to death by activist judges who were assaulting religion and thwarting the public will in furtherance of their own ideological agendas,” Sears added. “The word ‘activist’ was once reserved for those who were the voice for the powerless,” she said, suggesting that, “in his day, Jesus Christ would have been an activist.” Sears’ critics have called her a “liberal activist,” combining two terms she said have been twisted over the years. Last year, her election opponent, G. Grant Brantley, accused her of supporting gay marriage and of weakening statutory rape laws, charges she vigorously rejected. Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue supported Brantley, while Sears benefited from an expensive ad campaign sponsored by the state Democratic Party. In her speech, Sears insisted that judges are not politicians because they do not take positions on important issues of the day, propose laws or represent traditional constituencies. Asked what she expects from future judicial races, Sears said she expects the rough-and-tumble nature to continue. “We might see some crazy campaigns,” but she said Georgia voters “just won’t buy it.” She said her campaign polling last year showed that 80 percent of the state’s voters did not want the executive and legislative branches to interfere in the judiciary. Asked about who might fill the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sears said, “I would hope not for an ideologue, from the left or the right.” Sears declined to comment on the U.S. high court’s recent decision allowing local governments to use eminent domain to condemn homes in favor of private property that will generate more tax revenue. Sears said the Supreme Court’s decision is the law of the land, but she said her personal views were something she would “whisper to my husband.” Noting the possibility of litigation that could come before her, Sears also would not discuss her views on the state’s new laws regarding child support. But she used the question about the new laws to emphasize the importance of people getting married before having children, adding she was involved in a group called The Marriage Movement. While lauding the work of single mothers, Sears lamented the shortage of two-parent families. “Fathers are becoming somewhat expendable,” she said. She added that statistics show that 30 percent of children in the United States — and 70 of African-American children — are born out of wedlock. That situation contributes to juvenile courts being overcrowded, she said. The event was sponsored by the Daily Report, John Marshall Law School and attorney Ralph I. Knowles.

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