Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday named Mark Martin as the new chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Martin, 51, is currently the senior associate justice with the court and will replace Chief Justice Sarah Parker, who has reached the mandatory retirement age of 72.
His appointment is effective Sept. 1.
The office of chief justice for the state’s highest court is up for election Nov. 4. Martin, of Raleigh, is running for the post against Ola Lewis, a senior Superior Court judge in Brunswick County.
The race is nonpartisan, however, both candidates are Republican.
In a news conference to make the announcement, McCrory said his choice is based on a long-standing tradition of appointing the senior associate justice when there is a vacancy in the top post.
Martin has served as senior associate justice since 2006 and has more than 22 years of judicial experience. He's the only sitting judge in North Carolina who has served on the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Superior Court.
"Mark has earned this appointment, and his credentials speak for themselves,” McCrory said. “But most importantly – something that is very important to me as governor and also when I was mayor of Charlotte – he’s an ethical and honest man with the highest of integrity.”
Martin holds a juris doctor degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law, a master's of law degree from the University of Virgina and a bachelor's degree from Western Carolina University.
Lewis criticized McCrory's decision to select her opponent to fill the seat until the election, calling it "insider politics."
"The courts should be devoid of this kind of overt politicization , but, unfortunately, officials are more focused on making sure their hand-picked candidate is elected than ensuring a fair and open process for the people of North Carolina," Lewis said in a statement.
But former Chief Justice Burley Mitchell said Martin is the best qualified person for the appointment because of his education and experience.
“There is so much about the court that is unwritten, the traditions the practices and so on," he said. "If we’re going to maintain that thread of history…it is just absolutely invaluable to have the senior associate as chief.
Mitchell also said the traditional appointment prevents members of the court from “jockeying” for the position. “It’s a small group of seven people who have to work together,” he said.
Martin thanked McCrory and said he looks forward to the challenge. He said he issued an administrative plan earlier in the year designed to strengthen the courts.
“I look forward to implementing this plan and working with all other justice system stakeholders on behalf of the people of this great state," he said.