Saturday, June 22, 2024

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Bryan Norris sworn in as newest Alamance County district court judge


Alamance County’s legal community came together Monday afternoon for the swearing-in of the county’s newest district court judge, R. Bryan Norris, Jr.

Governor Roy Cooper had tapped the second-generation  attorney from Burlington to fill a vacant judgeship that emerged earlier this year when former district court judge Brad Allen gave up his post on the bench after more than two decades in office.

Norris, a Democrat who had been serving as a law clerk to N.C. Supreme Court Justice Allison Riggs, was sworn in by his former boss in the courtroom of the Historic Court House.

N.C. Supreme Court justice Allison Riggs, who administered the oath of office to her former law clerk, Bryan Norris.

All local judges – senior resident superior court judge Tom Lambeth, superior court judge Andy Hanford, chief district court judge Katie Overby, and district court judge Larry Brown, and newly-sworn district court judge Doug Green, were on hand for Norris’ ceremonial swearing in – as were district attorney Sean Boone and other officials from his office, clerk of superior court Meredith Edwards and several other clerks from her office, as well as other attorneys in private practice. Overby presided over the “special session” of court.

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Chief district court judge Kathryn Whitaker “Katie” Overby presided over the swearing-in ceremony Monday afternoon.

Providing much entertainment and many smiles for the assembled well-wishers were the couple’s two boys – Elliott, age 4, and Red, age 2.  Both boys sported bow ties, a trademark of their father, as well.  Norris’ wife, Rachel Blunk, also an attorney, held a family Bible for her husband’s swearing in.

[Story continues below photos.]


Dad Bryan Norris puts the finishing touches on son Elliott’s bow tie; younger son Red is in the background.
READY TO GO – Both Elliott Norris, 4 (right), and younger brother Red, (2) were decked out and ready to go shortly before the swearing-in ceremony got underway Monday afternoon.
Bryan Norris takes the oath of office while his wife, Rachel Blunk, holds the family Bible and son Red. Elliott looks on as state supreme court justice Allison Riggs administers the oath of office.
State supreme court justice Allison Riggs talks with Red Norris as Mom Rachel Blunk assists in the “robing” of the new district court judge. Meanwhile, Elliott Norris remained all smiles.
As Bryan Norris made brief remarks after his swearing in, wife Rachel Blunk (foreground) held Red, while state supreme court justice Allison Riggs held the older son, Elliott
Bryan Norris with son Elliott and state supreme court justice Allison Riggs for whom he previously clerked in Raleigh.

Norris had placed third in a canvass of the local bar association, which held a special meeting in February to select its nominees for Cooper’s consideration.

With 17 votes to his credit, Norris had trailed both fellow Democrat Natalie R. Jones, who had clinched 23 votes in the bar association’s selection, as well as Republican Bryan Ray, who had placed first with the support of 30 local attorneys. Norris nevertheless came to this competition with a nod from the local Democratic Party, which had previously selected him as its champion for Allen’s former seat in this fall’s general election.

The party’s leadership had named Norris as its nominee for this special two-year-term shortly after Allen announced his retirement in the wake of a scandal over his allegedly unprofessional behavior at the local bar association’s annual Christmas Party.  In the meantime, the GOP had anointed Ray as its standard bearer in this same general election contest.

Jones, for her part, will also appear on the ballot this fall – albeit as a candidate in an entirely different race for a new, fifth judgeship that has been added to Alamance County’s district court bench. Jones will vie for this post in November against Meredith Tuck Edwards, Alamance County’s Republican clerk of superior court.

[Story continues below photos of well wishers.]

District attorney Sean Boone congratulates Bryan Norris after the swearing-in ceremony.
Retired superior court judge Wayne Abernathy, attorney Wade Harrison, and Norris’ brother, Josh, share a light moment after the swearing-in.
Attorney Keisha Bluford gives Norris a congratulatory hug, while her daughter, attorney Erica Bluford, looks on.
Other friends congratulate the new judge.

Norris is the son of Robert and Kay Norris; Robert Norris was one of the named partners in the firm of Wishart, Norris before moving to Charlotte; the senior Norris couple has now moved back to the county, their son explained during brief comments after his swearing in.

The younger Norris had even served as an associate in this prestigious Burlington-based firm after he obtained his law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013. In addition to his current role as a clerk for Justice Allison Riggs, Norris has been an active member of both the state and national bar associations and he has helped out with an initiative called Bar Cares, which provides mental health services to lawyers and paralegals.

Under state law, Cooper was encouraged, but not necessarily obligated, to consider the local bar association’s preferences for Brad Allen’s temporary successor before announcing his own choice for the post. In previous cases, the governor has generally gone with the bar’s top-ranking Democrat – as he did when he appointed local attorney Doug Green earlier this year to another district court vacancy that emerged last fall when former district court judge Rick Champion stepped down from the bench to serve as Alamance County’s first public defender.

Green, who had been the bar association’s top choice for Champion’s old seat, must now face Republican Craig Turner, the bar’s next highest vote getter, in this fall’s general election.

Also on November’s ballot are two other district court judgeships, which Democratic incumbents Kathryn Whitaker “Katie” Overby and Larry Brown, Jr. are running unopposed.

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