An Elon Law milestone: Alumnus elected to N.C. Superior Court

The Hon. John M. Morris L’10, who was sworn into office in January after prevailing in his fall campaign, is the first Elon Law graduate to preside in the North Carolina system that oversees felony criminal trials and civil cases involving more than $25,000.

Twice now in the new year, John Morris L’10 has placed his left hand on a Bible, raised his right hand, and recited an oath of office for judges elected to the North Carolina Superior Court.

He first swore his oath in Raleigh on New Year’s Day during a private investiture led by Chief Justice Paul Newby of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. That moment was required to begin official duties once courts reopened from the holiday break.

The Hon. John M. Morris L’10 takes an oath of office administered by the Hon. Barron Thompson L’09 on January 6, 2023, in a ceremonial investiture inside the Rockingham County Judicial Center. Morris’s daughter Lucy and Millie are holding the Bible.

Morris repeated the same pledge on January 6, 2023, during a public ceremony inside the Rockingham County Judicial Center presided over by another Elon Law graduate: District Court Judge Barron Thompson L’09, who happens to be second cousins with Morris.

And in both instances, standing by his side to hold the Bible, were Morris’s two young daughters – Lucy and Millie – whom he had described earlier as “so excited” about “the win for our family.”

“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. I am grateful for the people of this district who have confidence in me to be their judge,” Morris told a courtroom of supporters. “By God’s grace, I will uphold our Constitution. I will uphold the rule of law and will be a judge for the people. I will be a judge who the people of this district are proud of.”

Morris then cited a passage from the Book of James in the King James Bible in guiding his approach to the position: Be quick to listen and slow to speak. That, he says, is part of what makes a good judge.

“It takes a level head,” Morris said in an interview prior to his investiture. “It takes a person who is not reactionary, who will not respond out of emotion or their own opinions and beliefs. I’m there to follow the letter of the law and make sure the courtroom process runs efficiently.”

The Hon. John M. Morris L’10 (left) takes his official oath of office on January 1, 2023, from the Hon. Paul Newby, chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, during a private ceremony in Raleigh.

Morris is the first graduate of Elon Law elected to the North Carolina Superior Court. He campaigned for the bench in Rockingham County north of Greensboro where he most recently had been serving as county attorney and, beforehand, in private practice.

His success marked the culmination of a longtime desire to serve his community from the bench. Hailing from “a family of pastors and professors” in eastern North Carolina, Morris spent a few years out of college in finance and accounting. Yet the law is where he says his heart was always set. He still has a letter he wrote in elementary school, preserved over the years by his parents, professing a desire to be a judge.

“I don’t remember writing that, but of course, it was my mindset at the time,” Morris said. “From a very young age, recognizing that to step into a robe with such a high level of responsibility, to ensure that justice is served, and process is followed – it’s something I’ve always been attracted to.”

Thompson noted during the ceremonial investiture in Rockingham County the family ties that led to the day’s celebration. “My grandfather and Judge Morris’s grandmother were siblings, making us second cousins,” Thompson said. “John – this will be the only time I get to call you ‘John’ in the courtroom – while I doubt Granddaddy and Aunt Sadie ever thought their grandsons would both be sitting judges, I have no doubt they would be, and are, extremely proud.”

From left: The Hon. John Morris L’10, the Hon. Barron Thompson L’09, and Andrew Hogan L’10, who attended Morris’s ceremonial investiture at the Rockingham County Judicial Center on January 6, 2023.

Four Elon Law graduates, including Thompson, have previously won election or been appointed to serve the state on the North Carolina District Court. The Superior Court represents another milestone in the evolution of the Elon Law alumni body since the charter class graduated in 2009.

The distinction is not lost on Morris.

“I plan on representing the law school well,” Morris said. “Elon Law trained me well for the practice of law and I’m so glad I was able to be a part of it, especially early on as part of the second graduating class. That was pretty neat.”