Mike Morgan, a former Wake County Superior Court judge, became the newest member of the state Supreme Court on Wednesday, being sworn in as the 99th associate justice in front of family, friends, new Gov. Roy Cooper, N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein and many others who watched in the stately wood-paneled courtroom or from the overflow room.
Not only does Morgan’s presence on the bench swing the court to a 4-3 Democratic majority, it brings more racial diversity to the seven-member court, something that Morgan, an African-American man, and the chief justice noted.
Chief Justice Mark Martin welcomed Morgan to the bench after a ceremony that married tradition with pomp.
Morgan took his oath with his mother Barbara Morgan, daughter Marissa, and wife Audrey by his side.
He then stepped briefly into chambers to don the black robe he will wear while hearing cases, returning to a standing ovation and invitation to make remarks.
Morgan thanked the many who had influenced his life and path along the way to being a decision-maker on North Carolina’s highest court — “from that classmate of mine in the sixth grade that punched me in the stomach for no reason because of how he saw me all the way to that 93-year-old woman who I had the pleasure to meet in Greensboro this past year who told me that she needed me to get here because of how she saw me.”
He noted other black justices who had served on the state Supreme Court before him and included Cheri Beasley, a black associate justice elected to an eight-year term in 2014.
“It just reminds me of the strength of diversity that this bench is able to enjoy and has enjoyed for the many decades that it has been in existence,” Morgan said. “I am happy and proud and humbled to be able to add to that great diversity, that richness, that fullness that this court now even more reflects. North Carolina, indeed, is stronger and greater and better because of its diversity.”
Morgan has served as a judge for almost 27 years — five as an administrative law judge, 10 as a Wake County district court judge and 11 as a Wake County Superior Court judge. He told all assembled on Wednesday that his experiences at the various levels had prepared him for the work ahead.
The 60-year-old North Carolinian won the election in November, unseating incumbent Justice Robert Edmunds with 54.45 percent of the vote. Morgan touted himself as a judge who would be “fair and impartial” at a time when many have raised concerns about politics infecting the courts.
“North Carolinians want out of their court system what anyone would want, no matter where they live in this state, whether it’s Charlotte or whether it’s Shallote, they want justice,” Morgan said. “Whether it is from the Crystal Coast to the Outer Banks to the Sandhills to the Triad or the Triangle, they want fairness. Whether it is the coastal plains, the piedmont or the mountains, they want equality. Whether it is Salisbury or Gumberry or all those little towns reminiscent of Mayberry — what they want is consistency.”