Cheri Beasley took the formal oath today at her investiture ceremony, becoming the 29th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and the first African-American woman to hold the post.

As over a thousand spectators looked on—in person in the Supreme Court courtroom and by video feed in the Court’s History Room, the State Capitol building, and First Baptist Church—Chief Justice Beasley accepted the mantle to lead our third branch of government.  Judging by the extensive roster of judges and dignitaries in attendance, as rattled off by ceremony emcee Associate Justice Paul Newby, the entire government of North Carolina must have ground to a halt at 2 p.m. to witness this momentous event.

After remarks by Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein, Justice Newby administered the oath to the new Chief Justice.

In a dramatic moment and in accord with tradition, Chief Justice Beasley left the room, only to re-emerge in her judicial robes, taking the empty seat at the center of the bench–the seat left vacant when Chief Justice Mark Martin resigned effective February 28, 2019.

Chief Justice Beasley praised the strength of the entire judiciary across the State—from judges to clerks to everyone else who helps citizens “navigate the system to come away with the answers they need.”

Chief Justice Beasley spoke about the centrality of justice in helping all of us find “answers and solutions to the things that ail us in our lives.”  She told the crowd that in advance of the ceremony today, she had watched a video—on a VCR, no less—of Henry Frye’s investiture as Chief Justice, some twenty years ago.  Chief Justice Beasley referenced Chief Justice Frye’s judicial philosophy as announced on that day: “My philosophy is full of problems. I believe we should treat our problems as challenges and opportunities to do what is right and good.”  Chief Justice Beasley accepted the charge, stating, “I’m prepared to treat our problems as challenges.”

A few of those in attendance also had the chance to express remarks befitting the occasion. Winston-Salem attorney Walter Holton tied Justice Beasley’s appointment back to the admission of North Carolina’s first female lawyer—his great aunt—in 1878. Former NCBA president Catherine Arrowood spoke eloquently on professionalism. And Raleigh attorney Jocelyn Mitnaul Mallette praised Justice Beasley’s service to the bar and empowerment of the next generation of lawyers.

By law, Chief Justice Beasley will serve as head of the judiciary at least through the general election of 2020.

We wish Chief Justice Beasley great success as the new leader of our judicial branch, and look forward to seeing her vision come to pass.

–Matt Leerberg