The newest state Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls had a swearing in ceremony Thursday afternoon that drew a crowd of North Carolina’s biggest movers and shakers in both the legal and legislative world.
Earls wore a classic black skirt suit with an airy white blouse and a shiny gold and silver floral broach pinned onto the middle of her collar. She had the state Supreme Court seal pinned to her lapel. Her big smile was shining; her happiness oozed, and the hugs she gave the people in the room were genuine — it was not the state many are used to seeing her in, particularly in the courtroom. As an attorney, Earls was always the epitome of buttoned up and professional, remaining cool, calm and collected even during what could be perceived as intimidating moments.
Her ceremony attendance list was a long one; more than 300 people RSVP’d to the event, and there were at least three run-off rooms for the crowds that could’t make it to the main Supreme Court courtroom. Attendees included John Edwards, Attorney General Josh Stein, former Chief Justices Henry Frye and Sarah Parker, Gov. Roy Cooper, Patricia Timmons-Goodson, Federal Judge James Wynn, former Justices Bob Edmunds and Bob Orr and many, many legislators.
Per tradition, Barbara Jackson, who lost the race in the midterm to Earls, did not attend the event.
Earls was described by colleagues and friends at the event as esteemed, incredibly hard working and wholly devoted to equal access to justice, and they put their full faith in her. Her election tips the Supreme Court to a 5-2 Democratic majority.
She has a prestigious background with varied experience and is known prominently for her civil rights work. She also founded the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), of which Kareem Crayton is now the interim director.
“There simply would not be an SCSJ without the vision, energy, and commitment of Anita Earls to build an organization that has become a key force in effort to make the South a more equal, just and inclusive place for its citizens,” he said after her ceremony. “Thousands of people across this region are better off today because of the work she has led.”
Crayton said they remain grateful for all that Earls has done, and he congratulated her on a “remarkable achievement.”
Earls, who is the 100th Supreme Court justice, vowed to pull through on her promises to the state. She also spoke about why the job is so important to her.
“Growing up in the time and place that I did, as a young girl, I believed it was my responsibility to bring together my family, my community and my country across the racial lines that divided us” she said during her remarks. “Indeed, I saw that my life, my very survival depended on it.”
She feared her family would be torn apart, and believed she had to bring everyone together to show shared humanity and guarantee equal opportunities for all.
“Now I understand so many years later that bringing us together across all the lines that threaten to divide us: race, gender, ideology, wealth, among others, I understand that no one person can do it alone. It will take changes in our culture. It is influenced by the millions of choices that we all make every day. And it will take all of our countries, public and private institutions, to affect that healing, to bring us together for the common good, to lift us up instead of tearing each other apart. And it requires a system of justice that adheres to the rule of law, a system of laws and institutions to enforce them — they genuinely and with intellectual honesty aspires to equal justice. A system in which no one is above the law, and justice does not depend on gender, wealth, status, political party, race, creed or color. The cases that come before this court impact individual people’s lives in profound ways and have wide-ranging effects on the future of this state. I pledge to give every case full and fair consideration. My personal commitment is to serve justice with a strong heart.”
Below are some of the photos from her event: