Four judges who won statewide elections in 2020 (along with former state Rep. Darren Jackson who was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to fill the seat vacated by Justice Phil Berger Jr. when he won a seat on the Supreme Court) were sworn in to the state Court of Appeals at an investiture ceremony Thursday.
It is the first time the appellate court (which has 15 judges in all) has welcomed so many new judges at the same time since its formation in 1967. The court, which normally sits in panels of three, hears on the order of 400 appeals of trial court rulings each year. For the four newly-elected judges, their seniority on the bench is determined by their age.
At Thursday’s investiture, each new judge was sworn in individually and then offered brief remarks.
Judge Jeffery K. Carpenter was a Superior Court judge before winning defeating Reuben Young in November, who was the Democratic incumbent at the time. Carpenter summarized his remarks with a pledge to “serve in this role with gratitude and humility, and my only loyalty being to the law, and to see that is fairly and justly applied.”
Judge April C. Wood served as a District Court since 2002 in Judicial District 22B (Davidson and Davie). As a certified juvenile court judge, Wood said, “I am going to miss it particularly the juvenile courts and the civil courts because those are the courts where I felt like I could make the most difference in people’s lives.”
Judge Fred Gore also heard many cases in juvenile courts. He thanked his forefathers for setting examples for overcoming hardships in their backgrounds and working toward their goals, “I want to make sure that we’re correcting some of the cultural wrongs that kind of set us aside and make sure that I’m an example to be able to be a beacon for hope for some of these children,” he said.
Judge Jefferson Griffin, who was a North Carolina Army National Guard JAG Officer before his tenure on the bench served in the military and was dispatched overseas. He successfully challenged then-incumbent judge Christopher Brook, who was appointed to the court by Gov. Cooper in 2019. “We live in the greatest and most freest nation in the world, and I’m humbled to be able to serve continue to serve the citizens of North Carolina in this role,” Griffin said. “All of us who are joining the court — I know we’re committed to the rule of law, fair and impartial.”
Judge Darren Jackson said he is “closing two chapters” — his role representing House District 39 in eastern Wake County in the state House and his law practice. He served as the house minority for two terms and sat on the Courts Commission, a non-standing committee of the General Assembly from 2015 to 2017. He said the court system is “about equal justice under the law for all”.
All judges took their oaths administered by the state Court of Appeals Chief Judge Donna Stroud, who was appointed by former Chief Justice Cheri Beasley last year and assumed her new role Jan. 1, 2020. She became the most senior member of the court after former Chief Judge Linda McGee and Judge Wanda Bryant retired at the end of 2020.