Yesterday, Governor Roy Cooper made an historic appointment when he named Cheri Beasley the first black woman to serve as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Beasley has been on the Supreme Court since 2012 and has been a judge for a more than 20 years. We should all be proud of the appointment and Beasley’s accomplishments.
Unfortunately, Republican Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby is not. Newby released a statement blasting Cooper for putting “raw partisan politics over a non-partisan judiciary.” If he wants to blast anybody for that charge, it should be the GOP leadership for making the non-partisan judicial races partisan ones. That’s the definition of raw partisan politics.
Newby also tried to create a tradition that’s not one. He says Cooper broke with a long-standing practice of appointing the most senior member of the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy of Chief Justice. That’s not a tradition. What’s a tradition is the Governor appointing someone of his or her party to fill a vacancy on the court.
Newby cites Mark Martin’s appointment by Pat McCrory when former Chief Justice Sarah Parker had to resign because she reached mandatory retirement age. Let’s get real. Had Martin been a Democrat, he never would have gotten that appointment. As somebody on twitter pointed out, Republican Governor Jim Martin appointed fellow Republican Rhoda Billings to be Chief Justice despite her having served only a year on the court.
Newby’s statement showed a lack of class and judicial temperament while revealing the exact type of partisanship he condemned. Such a public meltdown shows he doesn’t deserve to be on the court at all, much less serving as chief justice. A bigger man would have congratulated Justice Beasley and noted the progress North Carolina has made in race relations during his lifetime. But that’s not who Paul Newby is.
But we should forget the puny Paul Newby and celebrate the new Chief Justice as not just an honor for Justice Beasley but tangible evidence that North Carolina has made progress in diversity and inclusiveness at the highest reaches of power. Beasley brings to the court experience and perspective that’s needed. She was the first African-American elected the North Carolina Court of Appeals who was not appointed first. She also won elections to the district court, so she brings political skills as well. We’ll be well served by her class, experience and leadership.
Congratulations, Justice Beasley. North Carolina is proud to call you Chief Justice.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >