Next Chief Justice tells ABC11 her appointment a 'beautiful message' for NC

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The symbolism is simply remarkable, especially when considering North Carolina's history in the Confederacy.

On March 1, Cheri Beasley will take the middle seat on the State Supreme Court's bench as Chief Justice. It's also a seat that physically sits in the shadow of a large painting of former Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin - a former slave owner and key jurist in a case asserting a master's power over a slave.

"Isn't that amazing?" Beasley told ABC11, offering a smile she couldn't normally show when court is in session. "I think it's a beautiful message about what it means to be a North Carolinian and where we are as North Carolinians. It's important to send a message that everyone can do this work as long as they're qualified."

Beasley's extensive resume includes being an Associate Judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals and before that serving as a District Court Judge. Gov. Jim Hunt first appointed Beasley to the state bench in 1999. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and received her J.D. from the University of Tennessee College of Law.

"The beauty of the work that we do is that we all work hard to interpret the law fairly and impartially but so much of our personal and professional backgrounds are so important in terms of offering insight into the work we do," Beasley said.

Beasley will take over for Chief Justice Mark Martin, a conservative, who announced his retirement in January.

The appointment by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, did not sit well some Republicans who thought Cooper should have elevated the Senior Associate Justice, Paul Newby.

"I hope people will come away knowing I'll be a strong leader," Beasley said. "I'm ready for the task and excited about doing the work."

She won't be able to get too comfortable as Beasley will be up for election in 2020 -- against Paul Newby, who on Tuesday announced his candidacy.

"Justice Newby and I are good colleagues and we will work very well together," Beasley maintained. "We always have and I don't expect that to change."
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