RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Gov. Roy Cooper is elevating current North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley to become the next chief justice.
The Democratic governor announced Tuesday that Beasley is his choice to succeed current Chief Justice Mark Martin, who is resigning at the end of the month to lead a Virginia law school.
Beasley will be the state’s first female African-American chief justice. She’s been an associate justice since late 2012.
The 52-year-old Beasley is one of the five registered Democrats on the seven-member court. She previously served as a trial judge and Court of Appeals judge before then-Gov. Beverly Perdue appointed her to the Supreme Court.
North Carolina Republicans are unhappy with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to elevate a sitting state Supreme Court justice to become chief justice over two other justices with more experience on the court.
The criticism of Cooper after Tuesday’s pick of Associate Justice Cheri Beasley also came from one of the justices he didn’t choose.
Associate Justice Paul Newby said Cooper refused to honor what he says is the tradition of naming the senior associate justice as chief justice. That would have been Newby, who accused Cooper of deciding to place “raw partisan politics over a nonpartisan judiciary.”
Newby confirmed that he’ll be running for that chief justice’s position in the 2020 elections as a Republican.
Cooper said earlier Tuesday that he picked Beasley simply because she is “the right person at the right time.”
Robin Hayes, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, released a statement about Cooper’s choice:
“Today Governor Cooper decided to skip over two more experienced justices and elevated a justice with less Supreme Court experience to the open post of Chief Justice.
One can only believe the reason Cooper decided to ignore the longstanding, nonpartisan tradition of the Court was purely politics. Cooper’s constant calls to keep our courts free from political interference rings hollow with this decision.”
Beasley’s appointment goes through the end of 2020. The chief justice’s seat will be on next year’s ballot for a full eight-year term.