North Carolina Supreme Court

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North Carolina Supreme Court
North Carolina Supreme Court seal.png
Seal of the Supreme Court of North Carolina
Established 1818
Country North Carolina North Carolina, United States United States
Location Raleigh, North Carolina
Authorized by North Carolina Constitution
Decisions are appealed to Supreme Court of the United States
Judge term length 8 years
No. of positions 7
Website Official website
Chief Justice
Currently Mark Martin
Since Sept. 2014
Lead position ends January 2023

The Supreme Court of the State of North Carolina is the state's highest appellate court. Until the creation of the North Carolina Court of Appeals 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 courts and before state administrative agencies.


Justice Building in Raleigh, NC

The first North Carolina appellate court, created in 1799, was called the Court of Conference and consisted of several Superior Court (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.[1]

From the time the North Carolina General Assembly 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, Leonard Henderson, 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, 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. The General Assembly made Supreme Court elections non-partisan starting with the 2004 elections, but later made them partisan again after the 2016 elections.[2]

Susie Sharp 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 (that majority ended in 2014 with the retirement of Chief Justice Sarah Parker).[3]

The Supreme Court is housed in the Law and Justice Building, located across from the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina. The building was built in 1940 and underwent major renovations in 2005–2007.[4]

In 1975 a new seal was adopted. The old Latin phrase Suum cuique was amended to Suum cuique tribuere.[5]


Current Justices[edit]

The Court's current (January 2017) members are:

Name Born Joined Term Ends[6] Mandatory Retirement[7] Law School Attended Party
Mark Martin, (Chief Justice) 1963 (age 53–54) 1999 2022 April 29, 2035 University of North Carolina School of Law Republican
Cheri Beasley 1966 (age 50–51) 2013 2022 February 14, 2038 University of Tennessee College of Law Democratic
Sam J. Ervin, IV 1955 (age 61–62) 2015 2022 November 18, 2027 Harvard School of Law Democratic
Robin E. Hudson 1952 (age 64–65) 2007 2022 February 20, 2024 University of North Carolina School of Law Democratic
Barbara Jackson 1961 (age 55–56) 2011 2018 December 25, 2033 University of North Carolina School of Law Republican
Michael R. Morgan 1955 (age 61–62) 2017 2024 2027 North Carolina Central University School of Law Democratic
Paul Martin Newby 1955 (age 61–62) 2005 2020 May 5, 2027 University of North Carolina School of Law Republican

Chief Justices[edit]

Note that dates are for service as Chief Justice only. Many Chief Justices have also served as associate justices.

  1. John Louis Taylor (1818–1829)
  2. Leonard Henderson (1829–1833)
  3. Thomas Ruffin (1833–1852)
  4. Frederick Nash (1852–1858)
  5. Richmond Mumford Pearson (1858–1878)
  6. William Nathan Harrell Smith (1878–1889)
  7. Augustus Summerfield Merrimon (1889–1892)
  8. James E. Shepherd (1893–1895)
  9. William T. Faircloth (1895–1901)
  10. David M. Furches (1901–1903)
  11. Walter Clark (1903–1924)
  12. William A. Hoke (1924–1925)
  13. Walter P. Stacy (1925–1951)
  14. William A. Devin (1951–1954)
  15. M.V. Barnhill (1954–1956)
  16. J. Wallace Winborne (1956–1962)
  17. Emery B. Denny (1962–1966)
  18. R. Hunt Parker (1966–1969)
  19. William H. Bobbitt (1969–1974)
  20. Susie Sharp (1975–1979)
  21. Joseph Branch (1979–1986)
  22. Rhoda Billings (1986)
  23. James G. Exum (1986–1995)
  24. Burley Mitchell (1995–1999)
  25. Henry Frye (1999–2001)
  26. I. Beverly Lake, Jr. (2001–2006)
  27. Sarah Parker (2006–2014)
  28. Mark Martin (2014–present)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ NC Policy Watch: McCrory signs Senate Bill 4
  3. ^ News & Observer: Newest Madam Justice makes supremely female majority
  4. ^ News & Observer: Renovated Law and Justice Building now open
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ Term ends Dec. 31 of the year listed.
  7. ^ North Carolina judges must retire on the last day of the month in which they turn age 72 if they are still in office (see also

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°46′46″N 78°38′19″W / 35.779412°N 78.638479°W / 35.779412; -78.638479