Without Precedent: The Life of Susie Marshall Sharp

By Anna R. Hayes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
THEORY AND PRACTICE

Almost five years passed before Judge Sharp was assigned to hold court in her home county, a hiatus designed to put some distance between the new judge and her former colleagues in the local bar. Even so, old friends found it difficult to substitute “Your Honor” for “Susie.”1 Judge Sharp herself was acutely conscious of presiding over the Wentworth courtroom in which she had practiced law for twenty years. About the prospect of holding court at home, she had remarked shortly after going on the bench, “I hope that I will be spared this ordeal for some time to come, as life's worst moment will be when I have to try a case with my father on one side and his lifelong rival on the other.”2 Her father's death, of course, did spare her that experience, but there were plenty of former colleagues among whom she would have to allocate justice.

The judge wore a black dress with touches of red for the first day, opening the March 1954 criminal term of superior court for Rockingham County “without fanfare or ceremony.”3 She looked at the portrait of her father hanging just behind the judge's bench, swept the familiar courtroom with her glance, then picked up her gavel to commence the business of the day.4 She did not get far, however, before she had to rectify an uncomfortable situation. The judge's bench had been designed for a “rangier jurist” and Judge Sharp, at barely 5′2′, found that her feet did not reach the floor. Ever practical, she asked Deputy Bernard Young, an old friend, to find her a box on which to rest her feet. In good time he would construct a small platform precisely calibrated to her height, a “foot box” that she used thenceforth whenever she was presiding in Rockingham County.5

She would return to Wentworth from time to time during her years on the superior court, almost always complaining to her journal about those—lawyers and litigants alike—who hoped to trade upon long familiarity or, in the case of certain defendants (some of whom she herself had represented), who

-184-

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Without Precedent: The Life of Susie Marshall Sharp
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part1 5
  • Chapter 1 - Family 7
  • Chapter 2 - Formative Years 20
  • Part II - Pursuit of the Law 33
  • Chapter 3 - University of North Carolina School of Law 35
  • Chapter 4 - False Start 55
  • Chapter 5 - Sharp & Sharp 80
  • Chapter 6 - Politics and Public Life 99
  • Part III - Superior Court (1949–1962) 127
  • Chapter 7 - Appointment to Superior Court 129
  • Chapter 8 - Judge Sharp, Presiding 146
  • Chapter 9 - Ambition 167
  • Chapter 10 - Theory and Practice 184
  • Chapter 11 - The Road to the Supreme Court 209
  • Part IV - North Carolina 247
  • Chapter 12 - Taking the Veil 249
  • Chapter 13 - Opinions 274
  • Chapter 14 - Federal Job Proposals 298
  • Chapter 15 - Out of Court 319
  • Chapter 16 - Chief Justice Election 336
  • Chapter 17 - Chief Justice 367
  • Chapter 18 - Equal Rights Amendment 389
  • Chapter 19 - Stepping off the Stage 406
  • Epilogue 431
  • A Note on Sources 439
  • Notes 441
  • Selected Bibliography 521
  • Acknowledgments 531
  • Index 533
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