Cheri Beasley will be the next chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Feb. 12.
Beasley will succeed Chief Justice Mark Martin, who announced Jan. 25 that he would be resigning to become the new dean of Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Martin’s resignation is effective Feb. 28.
Beasley has been an associate justice on the Supreme Court since 2012. Before that she was a judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and previously a district court judge. She will become the first African-American female chief justice in the state’s history.
The decision to elevate Beasley to chief justice creates a vacancy for an associate justice’s seat. Cooper did not immediately announce who he would tap to fill that position.
The appointment also means that Beasley will have to run for a full eight-year term as Chief Justice in 2020. Her term as associate justice would have expired in 2022.
Associate Justice Paul Newby has already announced that he will run for chief justice next year. Cooper bucked tradition by not appointing Newby, the most senior associate justice, to replace Martin; Newby bucked tradition by publicly angling for the job and then blasting Cooper on Twitter after the announcement was made.
As a result of the chair-shuffling, there will be at least three seats on the Supreme Court on the ballot next fall. Court of Appeals judges Phil Berger Jr. (R) and Lucy Inman (D) and former state senator Tamara Barringer (R) have all announced plans to run for the seat Newby is vacating, although one of the Republican candidates may now pivot to challenge whomever Cooper appoints to replace Beasley.
“Chief Justice Mark Martin has admirably served our state for years, and I wish him well in his new role,” Cooper said in a press release. “Justice Beasley is a well-respected jurist, and I know her to be fair and deeply committed to viewing all North Carolinians equally through the eyes of the law. I appreciate Justice Beasley’s willingness to serve the people of our state in this critical role.”