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North Carolina’s First Black Female Chief Justice Wants to Bring ‘Hope and Promise’

North Carolina, a state with its own long history of racism, has just sworn in Cheri Beasley, the first female Black Chief Justice on the State Supreme court. Beasley hopes her appointment will bring “a lot of hope and promise” to the state and to young people, since the bench elected its first Black Chief Justice just 20 years ago, in 1999.

“It is not lost on me — this historic fact,” Beasley said. “I know that the work we do is hugely important, but the other thing I think about are the little girls along the way, who ought to have a sense of promise and hope for their futures, and so I hope that in some way my service inspires young people especially, but really I hope it is a show of symbolism for where we are in North Carolina.”

Since Beasley was appointed to the position on March 1 after Chief Justice Mark Martin announced his retirement in January, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper stepped on the state’s tradition and right over Senior Associate Justice Paul Newby, who quickly voiced his anger on Twitter.

“Sadly, today Governor Cooper decided to place raw partisan politics over a non-partisan judiciary by refusing to honor the time-tested tradition of naming the Senior Associate Justice as Chief Justice. The Governor’s decision further erodes public trust and confidence in a fair judiciary, free from partisan manipulation. I look forward to placing my qualifications before the voters in 2020.”

Other North Carolina Republicans said that Beasley’s appointment was purely political, since both she and the governor are Democrats, and that the “tradition” has been to appoint the most senior member of the court as Chief Justice, which coincidentally was a white male Republican.

Beasley has plenty of experience on the State Supreme Court, having been first appointed to the state bench in 1999. Beasley was previously an Associate Judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and before that served as a District Court Judge. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and received her J.D. from the University of Tennessee College of Law.

Based on the current and past North Carolina state bench, Beasley’s perspective as a Black woman could be a welcome change. Three white men, two white women, a Black man and now Beasley represent the current bench and North Carolina.

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