Building a family legacy from the bench

The Hon. Sarah Neely Lanier L’10 took an oath of office this week as she ascends to the same North Carolina District Court bench once occupied by her father.

An Elon Law alumna whose career has focused on family law and working with youth offenders will now serve as a North Carolina District Court judge in the county where she was born and raised.

The Hon. Sarah Neely Lanier L’10 took a ceremonial oath of office on January 2, 2019, before family, friends and members of the Randolph County legal community. Lanier’s husband, Capt. Jeremy Lanier of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, held a Bible in one hand and their son, Alex, in the other.

In taking the oath, Lanier becomes the second Elon Law alumna elected to the judiciary since the law school was founded in 2006.

And though her official swearing-in took place in private on New Year’s Day, the afternoon ceremony in the Randolph County courthouse in Asheboro concluded when she was robed by her retired father, William “Bill” Neely, who had presided as a judge in the same community for nearly three decades.

“It is my great honor to have my dad put on my robe for the first time,” Neely told the crowded courtroom after concluding an oath administered by the Hon. Bradford Long. “I hope that you will continue to keep me in your prayers and that you pray I will make wise decisions.”

Elon Law administrators who taught Lanier recalled her passion for serving the law school on the Moot Court Board and in the bond she shared with her father when he volunteered to judge competitions.

“I was not surprised at all that she would want to follow in his footsteps, serving the citizens of Randolph County and the State of North Carolina on the bench,” said Senior Associate Dean Alan Woodlief. “I am proud to have Sarah as a member of the North Carolina judiciary and know her intellect, judgment and commitment to service will make her an exceptional jurist.”

Neely won election in November 2018 with 61 percent of the vote in a county immediately to the south of Greensboro. She was raised just outside of Asheboro, North Carolina, before attending the College of Charleston and later practicing family law in a firm she managed with her father. 

A half dozen Elon Law alumni attended the afternoon ceremony in support of their law school classmate.

Neely joins the Hon. Carrie Vickery L’09 as Elon Law alumni who have been elected to the judiciary. Vickery won her seat in North Carolina’s Forsyth County in 2016.