3 JANUARY 2001


At this time, it is our custom for the Justices to assume their new positions on the Court. Justice Parker is the Senior Associate and will retain her seat. This taking of new seats on this bench is in accord with our tradition of progression by seniority. I will now ask the Justices to take their seats.

I now want to add my welcome and to thank all of you for being here in Raleigh and with us today. Many of you have traveled a considerable distance, and we are grateful for your presence. Speaking of gratitude, I am deeply grateful for this opportunity. As you all have heard, when you see that old tortoise on the fencepost, or on the bench, you know he didn’t get there by himself. You are largely responsible and I am very much in your debt.

Beverly Lake

I want to especially thank Dr. Albert Edwards and Dr. Norman Wiggins for their special contributions today. These two good friends have been with my family and me through many of our most special occasions. I would also certainly be remiss if I did not express particular appreciation for my wonderful wife Susan and for my parents. I am honored to be wearing today the robe which my father wore for thirteen years as a member of this Court.

I also want to express my particular appreciation to Governor Hunt for his presence with us today and to the members of our Council of State and to all our Judges and other court officials.

As all of my colleagues here today and all around the state know so well, we are currently facing some very difficult challenges in our efforts to improve our judicial system to better serve all of our people. Not the least of these is the chronic under-funding of our courts. Historically, the entire Judicial branch has received only 2-3% of all available funds, and this year we are predicted to have a record revenue shortfall.

However, our challenges give us the opportunity to be more innovative in finding better ways to achieve our goals and for all of us in the system to work more closely together toward a unified effort. I believe in so doing we can make significant progress in the legal and judicial services we render. At the same time, I believe we can enhance the job satisfaction and quality of life of all our professional people within the system and make them more fully appreciated by the public for the excellent and important work they perform each day. As I said in the campaign, I want to initiate programs which will begin to teach our young people the real meaning and great value of our legal and judicial systems to all of our people.

To this end, I am really looking forward to working closely with all of our constituent groups: our judges on the Court of Appeals, the Superior and District Courts, our District Attorneys and their Assistant District Attorneys, our Public Defenders and the Defense Bar, our Court Reporters and Trial Court Administrators, and the backbone of our system--our Clerks of Court and their staffs. These public servants are presently doing exceptional work with very limited resources and under great pressure and trying conditions.

I am also looking forward to working with the leadership and members of our General Assembly, and with Governor Easley and his administration. Governor-Elect Easley has been a practicing member of our system, both as a District Attorney and as Attorney General, and he knows the challenges whereof I speak. He and I have tried cases together when he was a District Attorney and I was on the Superior Court bench. I much appreciate the Governor-Elect being with us and presenting my credentials.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank all lf my loyal campaign staff: Ed Bridger, Jaunie Mills, Paul Shumaker, Stacey Slaughter, Art Britt and Nicole Pennington; and certainly I want to thank all our great people here at the Supreme Court for all your extra hours and work in putting this ceremony together. I am looking forward to working with all of you and with all of the fine people on staff with the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Now in closing, let me call to your attention the reference in the program to the reception at the Capitol. Susan and I would like to meet with each one of you here with us in Raleigh today and the other Justices would like to greet you as well. At the close of this ceremony, I will ask you to remain seated or standing, just as you are now, to allow the Court, former Justices and family to proceed to the Capitol for a receiving line. For those of you in the DOT Auditorium and on the second floor of this building, if you will proceed upon the conclusion of the ceremony to the Capitol, we will look forward to seeing you there.

It is now my honor to call upon a close personal friend, the President of Campbell University, Dr. Norman A. Wiggins, to pronounce the benediction.

Madam Clerk, will you please bring this special ceremonial session of the Supreme Court to its conclusion.