North Carolina’s Supreme Court Chief Justice announced his resignation to become dean of Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Chief Justice Mark Martin’s resignation is effective February 28th and will begin his new role March 1, 2019.
It has been the highest of honors to serve the people of North Carolina as their Chief Justice,” Martin stated in a press release. “I will forever cherish the memories of serving with so many amazing and capable people. It is now time to direct my focus to helping prepare the next generation of leaders.”
“On behalf of the Regent University Board of Trustees, I welcome Chief Justice Martin to the Regent University School of Law,” said Phil Walker, Regent University Chairman of the Board in a press release by Regent University. “His career and legal abilities are extraordinary. I have known Chief Justice Martin for many years and know the Regent community will greatly benefit from this outstanding leader.”
Chief Justice Martin is the 28th Chief Justice and has served as a judge in North Carolina for 26 years, over twenty of which were on the state’s supreme court.
Martin, a Republican, has been a judicial ground breaker during that time by being the youngest judge in North Carolina history on each court level he’s served on.
1998 – Youngest justice in the history of the Supreme Court of North Carolina at age 35.
1994 – Youngest judge in the history of the N.C. Court of Appeals at age 31.
1992 – Youngest superior court judge since colonial days at age 26.
In the North Carolina 2014 General Election, Martin garnered the highest percentage of the statewide vote ever achieved by a registered Republican with 72%.
While Chief Justice Mark Martin made history being the longest serving and youngest elected to the state’s high court, this past year the North Carolina Supreme Court celebrated its 200th anniversary.
The Tar Heel state’s highest court was formed in 1818 and held its first session in January 2019 with only three justices: John Louis Taylor, Leonard Henderson, and John Hall Taylor was the Chief Justice.
North Carolina’s judicial vacancies are appointed by the Governor. In the case of Martin’s successor, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper would do the honors.
"Leading the state’s highest court and its court system is a critically important job, and I will carefully consider his replacement in the coming days.” – Gov. Cooper. (2/2)
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) January 25, 2019
North Carolina Supreme Court Justices are elected to eight-year terms and have no term limit cap.
Martin was only half-way through his current term as Chief Justice and rapid departure leaves in its wake the possibility of an extreme shift left of a 6-1 Democrat court. Currently, five of the seven Supreme Court members are registered as Democrats. Chief Justice Mark Martin and Associate Justice Paul Newby are the two Republicans on the court.
Tradition would dictate appointing the next most senior associate justice to this type of vacancy, which would make Associate Justice Paul Newby the heir apparent.
Newby’s current term will end in 2020 and he will likely seek re-election and the Chief Justice position in 2022.
Hudson is currently in her second term on the court. Beasley was appointed to the court in 2012 by former Governor Beverly Perdue and was elected to the seat in 2014 after narrowly beating Republican Mike Robinson by less than a quarter of a percentage point.
Who Governor Cooper chooses to appoint to the vacancy could create more open seats for the 2020 election cycle.
Depending on whether Cooper chooses to elevate a current justice or choose someone from outside the court, one, two or possibly even three seats may be up for grabs in the November 2020 state elections.
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A.P. Dillon is the North Carolina Bureau Chief for The Tennesee Star and a reporter at Battleground State News. Follow A.P. Dillon on Twitter. Email Tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mark Martin” by Elon University. Background Photo “Regent University” by Debatelord. CC BY-SA 3.0.