- New state Supreme Court Justice Allison Riggs did not join the court for oral arguments Tuesday.
- Chief Justice Paul Newby explained from the bench that Riggs was completing her work as a state Court of Appeals judge. Riggs will have the opportunity to participate in decisions about the cases on Tuesday's docket.
- Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Riggs Monday to complete the unexpired term of Justice Michael Morgan. Morgan resigned to run for the Democratic nomination for governor.
One of the seven seats on North Carolina’s highest court sat empty during oral arguments Tuesday. But the full seven-member state Supreme Court will decide cases on the court’s docket for the day.
Chief Justice Paul Newby explained at the beginning of the morning’s arguments why the chair three seats to his left sat vacant.
“Before we get started, let me say a word on behalf of Justice-designate Riggs,” Newby said. “She is finishing her work at the Court of Appeals today and will be sworn in to this court, hopefully, this afternoon. But she will have the right to participate in these cases should she choose to do so. She’ll watch the video and then will participate in the decision.”
Gov. Roy Cooper appointed state Appeals Court Judge Allison Riggs Monday to serve on the state Supreme Court through 2024. Riggs replaces Justice Michael Morgan, who stepped down with roughly 16 months left in his eight-year term. Morgan announced Tuesday morning that he’s running to succeed Cooper as governor.
Cooper, Riggs, and Morgan are all Democrats. Republicans hold a 5-2 majority on the state Supreme Court.
Morgan’s departure also prompted a seating shift on the high court. Justice Anita Earls, now the court’s senior associate justice, has moved from sitting to Newby’s left to now sitting in Morgan’s seat to the right of the chief justice. Justice Phil Berger Jr. now sits directly to Newby’s left.
Riggs will join the state Supreme Court after less than a year on the 15-member Court of Appeals. Cooper appointed her to the Appeals Court position in December, after voters elevated Richard Dietz to become one of two new Republican justices on the high court.
Before her appointment to the bench, Riggs led the left-of-center Southern Coalition for Social Justice. She had worked with Earls in the coalition before Earls’ 2018 election to the state Supreme Court.
The high court was scheduled to hear arguments in four cases Tuesday, with six more cases slated for arguments this week.
Like Dietz and Berger, another former Appeals Court judge, Riggs will not be able to consider cases she handled in the intermediate court.
Riggs will have to run in the 2024 election to keep her seat for a full eight-year term. Republican Court of Appeals Judge Jefferson Griffin announced in November 2022 that he planned to seek the job. Over the past weekend, Superior Court Judge Lora Cubbage announced her plans to seek the Democratic nomination for Riggs’ seat.