North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin is retiring on February 28, 2019. Martin is leaving the court to become the dean of Regent University Law School in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Because Martin is retiring midterm, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) will select a successor. Martin’s successor will be Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) first nominee to the seven-member North Carolina Supreme Court. Gov. Cooper will also choose the court’s next chief justice, either by elevating a current associate justice and appointing their replacement or by naming Martin’s replacement to the position.
Selection of North Carolina Supreme Court justices (not including midterm vacancies) occurs through partisan elections. Justices wishing to serve additional terms must run for re-election. Martin’s successor must run for election in November 2020 to remain on the bench. Supreme court justices serve eight-year terms.
Martin’s resignation will leave the seven-member court with one Republican judge, Paul Newby, who is also the most senior justice on the court. Martin’s successor will likely shift the balance of the court from a 5-2 Democratic majority to a 6-1 majority until the November 2020 elections.
Martin is the 28th chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. He was first elected to the court in 1998 when he was 35 years old. At that time, Martin was the youngest supreme court justice in North Carolina history. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) appointed Martin as chief justice on August 18, 2014. Martin was subsequently elected to serve a full eight-year term as chief justice in November 2014.