On Wednesday, January 3, 2024, WRAL News reported that Judge Donna Stroud was removed from her leadership position as Chief Judge of the North Carolina Court of Appeals in a surprise move.
Judge Stroud, a Republican who has served on the appeals court since 2006 and has been Chief Judge since 2021, said she was informed by North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby on December 19th that there would be a new Chief Judge as of January 1st. Justice Newby cited that some courts sometimes rotate Chief Judges due to the administrative burden, though Judge Stroud said she did not feel overly burdened in her role.
The move was made without any public announcement. As of January 3rd, the Court of Appeals website listed Judge Chris Dillon, also a Republican, as the new Chief Judge. Judge Stroud remains on the bench but is no longer in the senior leadership position. She said it is her impression that Justice Newby personally chose Judge Dillon to replace her, though the reason for the change in leadership is still unclear.
Historically, the Chief Judge role has gone to the most senior judge on the court, which is currently Judge Stroud at 16 years of service. Judge Dillon has 10 years of service. Some see this move as unusual given Justice Newby’s prior public stances about respecting seniority for such leadership roles. It has also fueled speculation about political motivations since Judge Stroud faced opposition from some Republican leaders during her 2022 reelection campaign.
When reached for comment by WRAL News, a spokesperson for Justice Newby and the court system did not provide any information or explanation about the leadership change. Judge Stroud herself declined to elaborate on her intuition that politics may have played a role, adding to the unclear circumstances surrounding her abrupt removal from Chief Judge.
Source: WRAL News