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Supreme Court of North Carolina

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Supreme Court of North Carolina
Court information
Justices:   7
Founded:   1799
Location:   Raleigh, North Carolina
Chief:  $
Associates:  $
Judicial selection
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   8 years
Active justices

North Carolina  •  WikiProject North Carolina  •  North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission  •  

Seal of North Carolina.png

The Supreme Court of North Carolina is the state's highest appellate court, and is located in Raleigh, North Carolina.


North Carolina Justice Building
The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected byParty
Chief Justice Mark Martin (North Carolina)1998-2022ElectionRepublican
Associate Justice Paul Martin Newby2004-2020ElectionRepublican
Associate Justice Robin Hudson2006-2022ElectionDemocratic
Associate Justice Robert H. Edmunds, Jr.2001-2016ElectionRepublican
Associate Justice Cheri Beasley2012-2022Gov. Bev PerdueDemocratic
Associate Justice Sam Ervin2015-2018ElectedDemocratic
Associate Justice Barbara Jackson2011-2018ElectionRepublican

Judicial selection

The court consists of six associate justices and one chief justice, although the number of justices has varied from time to time. Justices are chosen in non-partisan elections to eight-year terms. If there is a vacancy in the court, a justice is chosen through the commission-selection, political appointment method of judicial selection. A justice who is appointed to a vacancy by the governor must run in an election that is at least 60 days after the vacancy occurred in order to serve a full term.[1]

In 1989, the Judicial Selection Study Commission released a report regarding judicial selection. The commission recommended that justices be appointed to a seat on the court. However, the idea did not gain enough support in the North Carolina House of Representatives to change the process.[2]


To serve on any court in North Carolina individuals must be:

  • attorneys
  • under the age of 72.[1][3]

Justices of the supreme court in North Carolina must retire before the last day of the month in which they turn 72.[4]

Chief justice

The chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court is elected by voters for eight-year terms.[1]


The primary function of the supreme court is to decide questions of law that have arisen in the lower courts and before state administrative agencies, including Court of Appeals cases that are reviewed upon petition.[5]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2013 770 779
2012 744 688
2011 762 727
2010 769 753
2009 736 736
2008 773 794
2007 785 729




For in-depth coverage of the state's high court races, see: North Carolina Supreme Court elections, 2014
Chief Justice
CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
LewisOla M. Lewis NoExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
MartinMark Martin (North Carolina) YesExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
Hudson Seat
CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
HudsonRobin Hudson Yes42.5%ApprovedAExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
LevinsonEric L. Levinson No36.6%ApprovedAExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
DoranJeanette Kathleen Doran No20.9% 
Martin Seat
CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
HunterRobert N. Hunter, Jr. YesExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
ErvinSam Ervin NoExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
Beasley Seat
CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
BeasleyCheri Beasley YesExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
RobinsonMichael L. Robinson NoExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of North Carolina was given a Campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, North Carolina received a score of -0.01. Based on the justices selected, North Carolina was the 25th most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[7]


Judicial conduct

The North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct consists of 7 canons:

  • A judge should uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.
  • A judge should avoid impropriety in all his activities.
  • A judge should perform the duties of his office impartially and diligently.
  • A judge may participate in cultural or historical activities or engage in activities concerning the legal, economic, educational, or governmental system, or the administration of justice.
  • A judge should regulate his extra-judicial activities to ensure that they do not prevent him from carrying out his judicial duties.
  • A judge should regularly file reports of compensation received for quasi-judicial and extra-judicial activities.
  • A judge may engage in political activity consistent with his status as a public official.[8]

The code can be read in full here.

Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. North Carolina earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[10]


Authority to create the body originated with the state's general assembly in the 1776 state constitution. The North Carolina State House served as the first home of the court. The state's highest court was officially named the "Supreme Court" and created in 1805, though at that time it was a group of four traveling superior court judges who reviewed the decisions made by the lower court. The modern supreme court was created in November 1818 and included a chief justice and associate judges. From 1818 until 1868, judges of the supreme court were elected by the general assembly.

  • 1799: In 1799, the first appellate true court, the "Court of Conference," was created in the state. The court sat en banc twice each year. In 1805, the court was renamed the "Supreme Court." In 1804, the court was ordered to write down their opinions and then read them out loud in court.[11]
  • 1818 to 1868: During this time, the justices on the court were selected by the General Assembly and served life terms. In the case of a vacancy, the governor appointed a replacement who would serve on the bench until the end of the next session of the General Assembly.[11]
  • 1868: The constitution of 1868 changed the judiciary in four primary ways:
  1. The court was created out of the constitution;
  2. The number of justices increased from three to five;
  3. Justice were elected by popular vote and served eight-year terms; and
  4. The "formerly separate law and equity jurisdictions of the Court into a single 'form of action for the enforcement or protection of private rights or the redress of private wrongs.'"[11]

Notable firsts

Susie Sharp was the first woman to serve as chief justice of the court. She began serving on the court in 1962 and held the position of chief justice between January 1975 and July 1979.[12]

Former justices


The supreme court is housed in the Law and Justice Building, located across from the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Northrup & O'Brien and was completed in 1940.[14]

In the news

Governor Perdue appoints Timmons-Goodson's replacement (2012)

Cheri Beasley's appointment to the state's high court sparked some controversy, since the appointment was made by former Governor Bev Perdue without the advice of the North Carolina Judicial Nominating Commission.

When Patricia Timmons-Goodson announced her retirement, effective December 17, 2012, the commission told outgoing Governor Perdue that they would not be able to vet candidates for the vacancy before the end of her term. An executive order placed by Perdue in 2011 required her to choose court appointments from a list of candidates provided by the commission. However, she decided to bypass the commission and make the appointment herself before her time as governor ran out. She named Beasley to the high court on December 12, 2012.

Some decried Perdue's decision as a political move, since she was a Democrat and the newly-elected (at that time) Governor Pat McCrory was a Republican. Sen. Phil Berger, a Republican, stated, "It is increasingly clear that Gov. Perdue’s creation of the judicial screening commission was nothing short of a deceitful political charade."[15] Others defended Perdue's right to appoint justices to court vacancies, with or without the commission, as provided in Article IV, Section 19 of the state's constitution.[16]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: North Carolina," archived October 6, 2014
  2. North Carolina Legislature, "Report of the Judicial Selection Study Commission," February 15, 1989
  3. North Carolina Courts, "The North Carolina Judicial System," 2008
  4. North Carolina General Statutes, "General Statutes § 7A-4.20," accessed September 2, 2014
  5. The North Carolina Court System, "Supreme Court," accessed September 2, 2014
  6. The North Carolina Court System, "NC Judicial Branch Annual Reports"
  7. Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
  8. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  9. North Carolina Court System, "Code of Judicial Conduct," accessed October 8, 2014
  10. Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 North Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society, "Battle Address," accessed February 3, 2014
  12. North Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society, "Justices of the Court," accessed February 3, 2014
  13. North Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society, "Justices of the NC Supreme Court," accessed October 16, 2014
  14. The North Carolina Court System, "A Brief History of the Justice Building," accessed September 2, 2014
  15. WRAL, "Perdue appoints Beasley to Supreme Court," December 12, 2012
  16. Associated Press via ABC Local, "Perdue to appoint state supreme court judge," November 29, 2012
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