North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley will be the court's next chief justice. Beasley will be the first African-American woman to lead the highest court in the state.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced his decision to appoint Beasley Tuesday afternoon at the executive mansion. Beasley is a registered Democrat.
Top Republicans in North Carolina had pushed for Cooper to appoint Justice Paul Newby to the chief justice position, arguing that he is the most senior justice on the court, but Cooper called Beasley the right choice at the right time.
"She has had experience in the courtroom as an attorney, on the trial court bench as a district court judge, and at the Appellate level, both in the Court of Appeals and in the Supreme Court," he said.
In a statement, Senate Leader Phil Berger criticized Cooper's decision.
"I wish Justice Beasley well in her new role," Berger said. "However, I am disappointed that Governor Cooper has ignored the decades-old precedent of appointing the most senior member of the court as chief justice. A reasonable conclusion is that he decided to pass over Justice Newby because of his party affiliation."
Cooper said Beasley's tenure as chief justice will start on March 1. He will have to appoint another justice to fill her current seat. If he appoints a Democrat, that party will hold six of the seven positions.