From Litigator to Justice: Riggs’ Rapid Ascent in Cooper’s Mission for a Left-Leaning Court | Eastern North Carolina Now

Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed North Carolina Appeals Court Judge Allison Riggs to the state Supreme Court to serve the remaining term of Justice Michael Morgan, who retired from the court this month and announced that he would run for the Democratic nomination for Governor.

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the John Locke Foundation. The author of this post is Bethany Torstenson.

    Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed North Carolina Appeals Court Judge Allison Riggs to the state Supreme Court to serve the remaining term of Justice Michael Morgan, who retired from the court this month and announced that he would run for the Democratic nomination for Governor.

    Per Article IV, Section 19 of the North Carolina Constitution, Justice Riggs will serve only until the November 2024 General Assembly election, just over a year away.

    However, Justice Riggs has already confirmed that she intends to run for a full eight-year term on the court.

    Here are a couple of things that I think are important to unpack here:

    Justice Riggs, the youngest female justice in state history, previously worked as a litigator with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice alongside Justice Anita Earls before Earls transitioned to the bench. During her tenure there, Riggs contested election laws and represented plaintiffs opposing North Carolina's voter identification regulations.

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    Following her appointment to the Court of Appeals, Justice Riggs formally took her position back in February of this year, giving her only seven months of judicial experience and doing so without receiving a single vote.

    As a registered Democrat, Justice Riggs is joining the court in the minority, with Republicans currently holding a 5-2 majority, leaving me wondering:

    Can Justice Riggs convince North Carolina voters of her experience and credibility at the ballot box next November?

    The appointment of Justice Riggs only furthers the already known fact that Gov. Cooper's biggest objective is to veer the court further to the left.

    In a statement following the December appointment of Allison Riggs to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, retired CEO of the John Locke Foundation, Amy Cooke, said to Carolina Journal:

    "For the last two election cycles, N.C. voters have expressed clear preferences for conservative judges and justices. ... Instead of acknowledging the public's will, the Governor is placing a Democrat on the bench. And not just any Democrat, but a highly partisan left-wing activist."

    The task of defending the seat next November will be a daring task, as Justice Anita Earls was the last Democrat to win a Supreme Court race back in 2018. Regardless of the chances, we can expect Democrats to focus much of their time and resources on defending this seat as they attempt to regain control in the next several years.

    Following last week's announcement, the Director of Locke's Civitas Center for Public Integrity, Dr. Andy Jackson, wrote:

    "Cooper's decision reveals a lack of depth Democrats have in the judicial branch after they experienced two difficult rounds of judicial elections in 2020 and 2022. ... It also reveals a lurch further to the left for Democrats on the state high court. ... Riggs comes from the left-wing Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ). She spent much time there fighting election laws approved by the Republican-led General Assembly."

    He concluded the article by stating:

    "Considering her minority status on the court and the impending 2024 election, Allison Riggs' tenure on the North Carolina Supreme Court will likely be a short and unhappy one."

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    In 2024, North Carolina voters will determine key state leadership roles, including the next governor, all 170 members of the General Assembly, and top state judicial seats. We will play an important role again in deciding the next President.

    It certainly seems that North Carolina will be once again a key state to watch come 2024.
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