Chief Justice Paul Newby signals intention to reopen courts at swearing-in ceremony

A virtual ceremony was held to install three Supreme Court justices on Jan 6, 2021.

An investiture ceremony in the Law and Justice Building in downtown Raleigh this morning concluded the installation of three North Carolina Supreme Court justices who won seats in the 2020 general election: Chief Justice Paul Newby and new associate justices Phil Berger, Jr. and Tamara Barringer.

Newby, the most senior member of the court, defeated his predecessor Cheri Beasley — appointed by Gov. Cooper in 2019 — by a margin of just 401 votes. 

“By God’s grace, I hope to fulfill your trust in me,” Newby said in remarks in which he also stated that members of the judicial branch strive for “equal justice for all.”

Newby appeared to signal a shift in policy by expressing an intention to open courts in the near future. “An open courts available for all U.S. citizens is not a luxury, it is a mandate,” he stated.

The chief justice has the authority to issue and extend directives for up to 30 days on how state courts conduct businesses, just as Beasley did on multiple occasions in placing limitations on court proceedings

At this morning’s event, Newby said he would work for court personnel to be included on the priority list for COVID-19 vaccinations to “open the courts to fulfill our constitutional mandate.”

Newby was first elected to the state’s highest court in 2004 and served as an assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina in Raleigh for 19 years prior to that.

Newby then administered oaths for Phil Berger, Jr., who ran for and won a Court of Appeals seat in 2016. He is the son of state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. 

After being sworn in by Newby, Barringer has become the most junior member on the bench. Barringer taught Law and Ethics at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill, after representing District 17 in southern Wake County in the state Senate from 2012 to 2018. 

Berger and Barringer put on their robes and entered their chambers to deliver their remarks, thanking their families, clerks, aides and colleagues. They applauded the nation for a wealth of opportunities for people regardless of their backgrounds. 

You can find biographies of Associate Justices Berger and Barringer on the Judicial Branch’s website. The ceremony was streamed on YouTube.

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