Politics & Government

Democrats gain 6-1 majority on NC Supreme Court as Roy Cooper names a new justice

Mark Davis named to NC Supreme Court by Governor Roy Cooper

Mark Davis will become North Carolina’s newest Supreme Court justice, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced Monday as he appointed Davis to fill the seat vacated when he named Cheri Beasley as the court’s newest chief justice.
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Mark Davis will become North Carolina’s newest Supreme Court justice, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced Monday as he appointed Davis to fill the seat vacated when he named Cheri Beasley as the court’s newest chief justice.

Mark Davis will become North Carolina’s newest Supreme Court justice, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced Monday as he appointed Davis to fill the seat vacated when he named Cheri Beasley as the court’s newest chief justice.

In a news conference at the governor’s mansion, Davis said he’s the happiest man in the state today because it has been his “lifelong dream” to join the state’s highest court.

“I’ve always had such a tremendous, tremendous respect” for the court and the work it does, Davis said.

The Supreme Court has seven members, and after Davis takes the oath of office on April 8, six of them will be Democrats. But that could change by 2021, since unlike in the federal court system judges in North Carolina are elected, and the Supreme Court will have three seats up for election in the 2020 elections.

One of the state’s top Republican politicians, Senate leader Phil Berger, criticized Cooper for not appointing a Republican to the court so that there would be a less lopsided political balance.

“It seems that Governor Cooper’s primary criteria for appointing judges is their political affiliation,” Berger said. “For years, Governor Cooper has called for a nonpartisan judiciary and partisan balance to government. By expanding the Democratic supermajority on the Supreme Court, he has shown that it was just empty rhetoric. Governor Cooper is the hyper-partisan he has long condemned.”

The Supreme Court had a Republican majority as recently as 2016. But due to election wins by Democrats, followed by former Republican Chief Justice Mark Martin retiring last month to take over a law school in Virginia, the lone Republican left on the court is Paul Newby. Newby plans to run for chief justice in 2020 and publicly criticized Beasley’s temporary appointment to that job instead of him, since he is the court’s most experienced judge.

As for the court’s newest member, Davis, he worked for Cooper a decade ago when Cooper was the state’s attorney general and Davis was a special deputy attorney general. Davis then went on to serve as former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s general counsel, and he has been on the North Carolina Court of Appeals since 2012.

“I believe that as a Supreme Court justice, Judge Davis will continue to serve the people of North Carolina with distinction,” Cooper said Monday.

The appointment Monday was deja vu for Davis, who originally joined the NC Court of Appeals because Perdue appointed him to fill Beasley’s seat there after she was appointed to the Supreme Court. He then went on to win election to another term on the court in 2014.

In his new job on the Supreme Court, Davis will serve until 2020, when there will be an election to an eight-year term.

Cheri Beasley talks about the being the first African-American woman to be Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court during a press conference with NC Gov. Roy Cooper Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019.

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Will Doran reports on North Carolina politics, with a focus on state employees and agencies. In 2016 he started The News & Observer’s fact-checking partnership, PolitiFact NC, and before that he reported on local governments around the Triangle. Contact him at wdoran@newsobserver.com or (919) 836-2858.


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