RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Incoming North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley says instilling greater confidence in the judicial system is one of her top goals as she makes history as the state’s first black woman to take the position of chief justice.
“It’s a wonderful commentary on where we are as a people in North Carolina and where the state is. I think it’s a wonderful celebration of diversity,” she said in an interview with CBS17. “I think this kind of advancement for our state and for our courts really ought to be a way to show young people that they ought to dream their dreams and realize that possibilities can be real.”
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) chose her to fill the vacancy being created by current Chief Justice Mark Martin, a Republican, who will resign later this month to take over as dean of Regent University Law School in Virginia.
Beasley will assume her new role March 1.
She attended law school at the University of Tennessee. She says her mother inspired her.
“Service was expected of me as a very young person,” Beasley said.
Beasley went on to work as a public defender and district court judge in Cumberland County before being elected to the state Court of Appeals.
Gov. Bev Perdue (D) appointed Beasley in 2012 to serve on the Supreme Court.
“I’m not sure that I could have said to my very young self then that this is what my journey would have looked like, but it’s been amazing,” she said. “When you think about within the last 30 years or so how diverse the bench has become in so many ways, that is indeed progress.”
Cooper faced some criticism for choosing Beasley as opposed to the current Senior Associate Justice Paul Newby, a Republican.
In a statement, Newby wrote, “The Governor’s decision further erodes public trust and confidence in a fair judiciary, free from partisan manipulation. I look forward to placing my qualifications before the voters in 2020.”
Beasley said Newby will be the one to swear her into her new position as chief justice later this month.
“We will work well together. I’m very confident of that,” Beasley said. “As justices, we really are by our oaths we really are required not to be placed in partisan politics in the work that we do.”
The Supreme Court is currently comprised of five Democrats and two Republicans. Once Beasley takes the role of chief justice, Gov. Cooper will get to choose someone to replace her as associate justice, likely increasing the Democratic majority to 6-1.
Beasley said she plans to run for a full term in 2020.