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North Carolina Supreme Court

North Carolina Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court of North Carolina is the state's
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 highest appellate court
Appellate court
An appellate court, commonly called an appeals court or court of appeals or appeal court , is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal...

. Until the creation of the North Carolina Court of Appeals
North Carolina Court of Appeals
The North Carolina Court of Appeals is the only intermediate appellate court in the state of North Carolina. It is composed of fifteen members who sit in rotating groups of three...

 in the 1960s, it was the state's only appellate court. The Supreme Court consists of six associate justices and one chief justice, although the number of justices has varied from time to time. The primary function of the Supreme Court is to decide questions of law that have arisen in the lower court
Lower court
A lower court is a court from which an appeal may be taken. In relation to an appeal from one court to another, the lower court is the court whose decision is being reviewed, which may be the original trial court or an appellate court lower in rank than the superior court which is hearing the...

s and before state administrative agencies.

History


The first North Carolina appellate court, created in 1799, was called the Court of Conference and consisted of several Superior Court
Superior court
In common law systems, a superior court is a court of general competence which typically has unlimited jurisdiction with regard to civil and criminal legal cases...

 (trial) judges sitting en banc twice each year to review appeals from their own courts. In 1805 it was named the Supreme Court, and a seal and motto were to be procured.

From the time the North Carolina General Assembly
North Carolina General Assembly
The North Carolina General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of North Carolina. The General Assembly drafts and legislates the state laws of North Carolina, also known as the General Statutes...

 created the Court as a distinct body in 1818 to 1868, the members of the Court were chosen by the General Assembly and served for life, or "during good behavior." The legislature appointed John Louis Taylor
John Louis Taylor
John Louis Taylor was an American jurist and first Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.Born in London, he is the only foreign-born Chief Justice in state history...

, Leonard Henderson
Leonard Henderson
Leonard Henderson was an American jurist who served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1829 to 1833, and an associate judge of that court beforehand....

, and John Hall as the first Supreme Court judges. The three judges were allowed to select their own Chief Justice, and they chose Taylor. The Court first met on January 1, 1819.

Since the adoption of the 1868 state constitution
North Carolina Constitution
The Constitution of the State of North Carolina governs the structure and function of the state government of North Carolina, United States; it is the highest legal document for the state and subjugates North Carolina law...

, each justice has been elected (separately, including a distinct Chief Justice position) by the people to an eight-year term. There are no term limits. Today, these races are non-partisan.

Susie Sharp
Susie Sharp
Susie Marshall Sharp was an American jurist who served as the first female Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. She was not the first woman to head the highest court in a U.S...

 became the court's first female justice in 1962 (and later, she became its first female chief justice). In 2011, the court had a female majority for the first time.

The Supreme Court is housed in the Law and Justice Building, located across from the North Carolina State Capitol
North Carolina State Capitol
The North Carolina State Capitol is the main house of government of the U.S. state of North Carolina. Housing the offices of the Governor of North Carolina, it is located in the state capital of Raleigh on Union Square at One East Edenton Street. The cornerstone of the Greek Revival building was...

 in Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh is the capital and the second largest city in the state of North Carolina as well as the seat of Wake County. Raleigh is known as the "City of Oaks" for its many oak trees. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city's 2010 population was 403,892, over an area of , making Raleigh...

. The building was built in 1940 and underwent major renovations in 2005-2007.

In 1975 a new seal was adopted. The old latin phrase Suum cuique was amended to Suum cuique tribuere.

Current Justices


The Court's current (January 2011) members are:
Name Born Joined Term Ends Mandatory Retirement Law School Attended
Sarah Parker
Sarah Parker
Sarah Parker is an American judge, currently the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.-Education and career:...

, Chief Justice
1942 1993 2014 Aug. 23, 2014 University of North Carolina School of Law
University of North Carolina School of Law
The University of North Carolina School of Law is a professional school within the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Established in 1845, Carolina Law is among the oldest law schools in the nation and is the oldest law school in North Carolina. It is consistently ranked in the top-tier...

Robert H. Edmunds, Jr.
Robert H. Edmunds, Jr.
Robert Holt Edmunds, Jr. is an American judge, currently an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.Born in Danville, Virginia, Edmunds moved to Greensboro, North Carolina at the age of 8. He attended Woodberry Forest School and Williams College before graduating with honors from...

1949 2001 2016 April 17, 2021 University of North Carolina School of Law
Robin E. Hudson
Robin E. Hudson
Robin E. Hudson is an American jurist, currently serving as an associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.Born in DeKalb County, Georgia, after studying philosophy and psychology at Yale University, Hudson earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976...

1952 2007 2014 Feb. 20, 2024 University of North Carolina School of Law
Barbara Jackson
Barbara Jackson
Barbara Jackson is an American attorney and jurist who was elected in 2010 to an eight-year term on the North Carolina Supreme Court....

1961 2011 2018 Dec. 25, 2033 University of North Carolina School of Law
Mark Martin
Mark Martin (judge)
Mark D. Martin is the Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. With over fifteen years of service in the North Carolina judiciary, Martin is the only active member of the state judiciary with experience on the Supreme Court of North Carolina, the North Carolina Court of...

1963 1999 2014 April 29, 2035 University of North Carolina School of Law
Paul Martin Newby
Paul Martin Newby
Paul Martin Newby is an American judge, elected in 2004 to a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court to an eight-year term that expires in 2012.Newby was born in Asheboro, North Carolina...

1955 2004 2012 May 5, 2027 University of North Carolina School of Law
Patricia Timmons-Goodson
Patricia Timmons-Goodson
Patricia 'Pat' Timmons-Goodson is an American judge, currently an associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court....

1954 2006 2014 Sept. 18, 2026 University of North Carolina School of Law

Former Justices


Justices are listed roughly in reverse chronological order. Note that dates in parentheses are for service as Chief Justice only. Many Chief Justices have also served as associate justices.

21st Century

  • Edward Thomas Brady
    Edward Thomas Brady
    Edward Thomas Brady is an American trial attorney and former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. He was elected in November 2002 as a Republican, defeating incumbent G. K. Butterfield. His term expired in January 2011 and he did not seek re-election in 2010. He was the last...

  • George L. Wainwright, Jr.
    George L. Wainwright, Jr.
    George L. Wainwright, Jr. is an American judge, who recently retired as an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court....

  • I. Beverly Lake, Jr.
    I. Beverly Lake
    I. Beverly Lake, Jr. is an American jurist and public official, who served as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court....

    , Chief Justice (2001-2006)
  • G.K. Butterfield

20th Century

  • Robert F. Orr
    Robert F. Orr
    Robert F. Orr is an American lawyer, formerly an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.Orr was born in Norfolk, Virginia and spent his childhood in Hendersonville, North Carolina. After earning his bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Orr served...

  • Henry Frye
    Henry Frye
    Henry E. Frye is an American judge and politician who concluded his public-service career as the first African-American chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.He was born August 1, 1932 in Richmond County, North Carolina...

    , Chief Justice (1999-2001)
  • Franklin Freeman
    Franklin Freeman
    Franklin Edward Freeman, Jr. is a lawyer and public official in North Carolina, who retired from government service in 2009 as Senior Assistant for Governmental Affairs to Governor Mike Easley....

  • James A. Wynn, Jr.
    James A. Wynn, Jr.
    James Andrew Wynn, Jr. is an American jurist, currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and formerly on both the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the North Carolina Supreme Court....

  • Willis Whichard
    Willis Whichard
    Willis P. Whichard is an American lawyer and a prominent figure in North Carolina politics and education. Whichard is the only person in the history of North Carolina who has served in both houses of the state legislature and on both of the state's appellate courts.-Legal & Civil Service...

  • Harry C. Martin
    Harry C. Martin
    Harry C. Martin was a politician in Wisconsin.-Career:Martin was Mayor of Darlington, Wisconsin from 1887 to 1889. After serving as District Attorney of Lafayette County and as a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Martin was a member of the Wisconsin State Senate from 1899 to 1914...

  • Louis B. Meyer
    Louis B. Meyer
    Louis B. Meyer was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.Meyer was born in Marion, North Carolina but spent most of his youth in Enfield, North Carolina, where his mentor was local attorney and politician Joseph Branch...

  • Burley Mitchell
    Burley Mitchell
    Burley Mitchell, Jr. is an American jurist and former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. At age 15, Mitchell dropped out of high school to join the United States Marine Corps, only to be kicked out when his age was discovered...

    , Chief Justice (1995-1999)
  • John Webb
    John Webb (jurist)
    John Webb was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court...

  • James G. Exum
    James G. Exum
    James G. 'Jim' Exum, Jr. is an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice and Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.After earning his law degree at the New York University School of Law, Exum clerked for North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Emery B. Denny...

    , Chief Justice (1986-1995)
  • Rhoda Billings
    Rhoda Billings
    Rhoda Bryan Billings is an American lawyer and a former justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.Billings earned her law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law in 1966. She served four years as a state District Court judge . Governor James G...

    , Chief Justice (1986)
  • J. Phil Carlton
    J. Phil Carlton
    J. Phil Carlton is an attorney who currently serves as chief executive officer of State Capital Group, a network of law firms. According to the group's website, "he and 17 former state governors formed the organization in 1989 when he was a partner at North Carolina member firm Poyner & Spruill LLP...

  • Joseph Branch
    Joseph Branch
    Joseph Branch was an American jurist who served as Associate Justice and then Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. He was a native of Halifax County, North Carolina and earned his law degree from Wake Forest University.Branch served in the state House of Representatives from 1947...

    , Chief Justice (1979-1986)
  • David M. Britt
    David M. Britt
    David Maxwell Britt was a North Carolina politician and jurist who served as Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, as one of the original judges of the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and finally as a justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court...

  • Daniel K. Moore
  • Susie Sharp
    Susie Sharp
    Susie Marshall Sharp was an American jurist who served as the first female Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. She was not the first woman to head the highest court in a U.S...

    , Chief Justice (1975-1979)
  • William H. Bobbitt
    William H. Bobbitt
    William Haywood Bobbitt , was an American jurist and Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Bobbitt was born in 1900 in Raleigh, North Carolina and earned his law degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Bobbitt was elected a Superior Court judge and served with...

    , Chief Justice (1969-1974)
  • J. Frank Huskins
    J. Frank Huskins
    J. Frank Huskins was an associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1968 through 1982.Huskins was born in the Toledo community near Burnsville, Yancey County, North Carolina to Joseph Irwin Huskins and Mary Etta Peterson Huskins. Huskins attended Mars Hill Junior College from 1927...

  • R. Hunt Parker
    R. Hunt Parker
    Robert Hunt Parker was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice and Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court....

    , Chief Justice (1966-1969)
  • I. Beverly Lake Sr.
    I. Beverly Lake Sr.
    Isaac Beverly "Bev" Lake Sr. , was a North Carolina jurist, law professor at Wake Forest University and Campbell University, and politician. He was born in Wake Forest, North Carolina.-Early Government Career:...

  • Emery B. Denny
    Emery B. Denny
    Emery Byrd Denny was an American jurist who served as an associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1942 until 1962 and as chief justice of that court from 1962 until 1966....

    , Chief Justice (1962-1966)
  • J. Wallace Winborne
    J. Wallace Winborne
    John Wallace Winborne was an American jurist who served on the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1937-1962, including service as chief justice from 1956-1962....

    , Chief Justice (1956-1962)
  • M.V. Barnhill
    M.V. Barnhill
    Maurice Victor Barnhill was an associate justice and chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.Barnhill was born in Halifax County, North Carolina on December 5, 1887 and attended the University of North Carolina Law School...

    , Chief Justice (1954-1956)
  • William B. Rodman, Jr.
    William B. Rodman, Jr.
    William Blount Rodman, Jr. , also known as William B. Rodman, III , was a North Carolina lawyer and politician. He served as a state Senator , a state representative , North Carolina Attorney General and as a justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court .He was the grandson of William B...

  • Jefferson D. Johnson, Jr.
  • Carlisle W. Higgins
    Carlisle W. Higgins
    Carlisle Wallace Higgins was a North Carolina attorney and jurist. He was a native of Alleghany County, North Carolina.Higgins served in both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly before being appointed U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina by President Franklin D....

  • Sam Ervin
    Sam Ervin
    Samuel James "Sam" Ervin Jr. was a Democratic Senator from North Carolina from 1954 until 1974. A native of Morganton, Burke County, North Carolina, he liked to call himself a "country lawyer", and often told humorous stories in his Southern drawl...

  • Aaron A. F. Seawell
    Aaron A. F. Seawell
    Aaron Ashley Flowers Seawell was a North Carolina politician and jurist. The son of A. A. F. and Jeannette L. Seawell, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1884 and later studied law there....

  • Michael Schenck
  • George Whitfield Connor
  • Heriot Clarkson
  • W. J. Brogden
  • William J. Adams
  • William Reynolds Allen
  • James S. Manning
  • Walter E. Brock
  • William A. Devin
    William A. Devin
    William Augustus Devin was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice and Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court....

    , Chief Justice (1951-1954)
  • Walter P. Stacy
    Walter P. Stacy
    Walter Parker Stacy was chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1925 until his death in 1951.Stacy was a 1908 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where a scholarship for law students was later established in his memory...

    , Chief Justice (1925-1951)
  • William A. Hoke
    William A. Hoke
    William Alexander Hoke was a North Carolina politician and jurist who served as an associate justice and chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court....

    , Chief Justice (1924-1925)
  • George H. Brown
  • Platt D. Walker
  • Charles A. Cooke
    Charles A. Cooke
    Charles Alston Cooke, or Cook was an American politician and jurist in North Carolina and later in Oklahoma.Cooke served as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives and the North Carolina Senate, representing Warren County, as U.S...

  • Henry G. Connor
    Henry G. Connor
    Henry Groves Connor was a North Carolina politician and jurist, and a United States federal judge.Born in Wilmington, North Carolina, Connor read law to enter the bar in 1871. Connor was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. He read law . He was in private practice in Wilson, North Carolina from...

  • Walter Clark
    Walter Clark (jurist)
    Walter McKenzie Clark was a North Carolina politician and jurist who served as an associate justice and chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.-Biography:...

    , Chief Justice (1903-1924)
  • David M. Furches
    David M. Furches
    David Moffatt Furches was a North Carolina politician and jurist who served as an associate justice and chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.Furches read law under Chief Justice Richmond M...

    , Chief Justice (1901-1903)
  • Earl W. Vaughn

19th Century

  • Robert M. Douglas
    Robert M. Douglas
    Robert Martin Douglas was a North Carolina Supreme Court justice and political figure. At the beginning of his career, the young attorney served the Republican governor of the state and President Ulysses S...

  • Walter A. Montgomery
  • Armistead Burwell
    Armistead Burwell
    Armistead Burwell lived in the early 19th century in Dinwiddie County, Virginia as a planter. Burwell owned over fifty slaves, one of whom was Elizabeth Keckly, who is best known for being the modiste and close friend to Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln.Armistead Burwell was the...

  • James C. MacRae
  • William T. Faircloth
    William T. Faircloth
    William Turner Faircloth was the chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1895 until his death on December 29, 1900.According to his New York Times obituary, Faircloth had become one of the wealthiest men in his hometown, Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he served on the board of...

    , Chief Justice (1895-1901)
  • Alphonso C. Avery
  • James E. Shepherd
    James E. Shepherd
    James Edward Shepherd was a lawyer and jurist who served on the North Carolina Supreme Court.Shepherd was born at Mintonville, near Suffolk, Virginia, the son of Thomas Swepson Shepherd and his first wife Ann Eliza Browne...

    , Chief Justice (1893-1895)
  • Joseph J. Davis
    Joseph J. Davis
    Joseph Jonathan Davis was a nineteenth century politician, lawyer and judge from North Carolina.-Biography:...

  • Augustus Summerfield Merrimon
    Augustus Summerfield Merrimon
    Augustus Summerfield Merrimon was a Democratic U.S. senator from the state of North Carolina between 1873 and 1879....

    , Chief Justice (1889-1892)
  • William Nathan Harrell Smith
    William Nathan Harrell Smith
    William Nathan Harrell Smith was a United States Representative from North Carolina; born in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, September 24, 1812; attended the common schools in Murfreesboro, N.C., Kingston, Rhode Island, and Colchester, Connecticut and East Lyme, Connecticut; was graduated from Yale...

    , Chief Justice (1878-1889)
  • Thomas Ruffin, Jr.
  • John H. Dillard
  • William P. Bynum
  • Thomas Samuel Ashe
    Thomas Samuel Ashe
    Thomas Samuel Ashe was a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina between 1873 and 1877. He had previously served in the Confederate Congress.-Early years:...

  • Nathaniel Boyden
    Nathaniel Boyden
    Nathaniel Boyden was a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina between 1847 and 1849 and later between 1868 to 1869....

  • Thomas Settle
    Thomas Settle (judge)
    Thomas Settle was an American judge and politician in North Carolina.Born in Rockingham County, North Carolina, Settle received a A.B. from the University of North Carolina in 1850 and read law to enter the bar in 1854. He was a private secretary to North Carolina Governor David S...

  • Robert P. Dick
    Robert P. Dick
    Robert Paine Dick was an attorney, North Carolina Supreme Court justice , and United States District Court judge . Originally a Democrat, Dick served as United States attorney for the District of North Carolina from 1853 to 1861...

  • William B. Rodman
    William B. Rodman
    William Blount Rodman was an American lawyer and politician from North Carolina. He was a justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1868 to 1878.-Life:...

  • Edwin Godwin Reade
    Edwin Godwin Reade
    Edwin Godwin Reade was a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina between 1855 and 1857. He later served in the Confederate Congress during the American Civil War.-Biography:...

  • Matthias Evans Manly
    Matthias Evans Manly
    Matthias Evans Manly was a jurist who served as a justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1860 to 1865. He was the brother of North Carolina Governor Charles Manly....

  • Richmond Mumford Pearson
    Richmond Mumford Pearson
    Richmond Mumford Pearson was an American jurist who served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1858 to 1878. He was the father of Congressman Richmond Pearson and the father-in-law of North Carolina Governor Daniel Gould Fowle.Pearson lived much of his life in what is now...

    , Chief Justice (1858–1878)
  • William Horn Battle
    William Horn Battle
    William Horn Battle was a North Carolina jurist and law professor who served on the North Carolina Supreme Court. He was also the father of Kemp P. Battle....

  • Frederick Nash
    Frederick Nash
    Frederick Nash was an American lawyer and jurist from Hillsborough, North Carolina. He served on the North Carolina Supreme Court and was its chief justice from 1852 until his death....

    , Chief Justice (1852-1858)
  • Thomas Ruffin
    Thomas Ruffin
    Thomas Ruffin was an American jurist and Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1829 to 1852 and again from 1858 to 1859. He was Chief Justice of that Court from 1833 to 1852.-Biography:...

    , Chief Justice (1833-1852)
  • William Gaston
    William Gaston
    William J. Gaston was a jurist and United States Representative from North Carolina. Gaston was born in New Bern, North Carolina, the son of Dr. Alexander Gaston and Margaret Gaston. He entered Georgetown College in Washington, D.C., at the age of thirteen, becoming its first student...

  • Joseph J. Daniel
    Joseph J. Daniel
    Joseph J. Daniel was a North Carolina jurist. He was a cousin of John R. J. Daniel.Born in Halifax County, North Carolina, Daniel studied law under William R. Davie. He became a respected lawyer and was elected to represent Halifax in the North Carolina House of Commons in 1807, 1811, 1812, and 1815...

  • Leonard Henderson
    Leonard Henderson
    Leonard Henderson was an American jurist who served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1829 to 1833, and an associate judge of that court beforehand....

    , Chief Justice (1829–1833)
  • John D. Toomer
  • John Hall
  • John Louis Taylor
    John Louis Taylor
    John Louis Taylor was an American jurist and first Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.Born in London, he is the only foreign-born Chief Justice in state history...

    , first Chief Justice (1818-1829)

External links