Orr tapped as interim DA
by Anna Oakes
Former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr is slated to be sworn in as the interim district attorney for the 24th Judicial District on Wednesday.
The swearing in of Orr as interim district attorney is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 1 of the Watauga County Courthouse, Superior Court Trial Court Coordinator Shannon Stapleton confirmed.
The 24th Prosecutorial District serves Avery, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga and Yancey counties. Orr replaces District Attorney Jerry Wilson, who retired from his third term on March 31 due to health problems.
The office of Gov. Pat McCrory, who made the appointment, announced the selection on Tuesday.
"I would like to thank Justice Orr for his willingness to serve our great state again," McCrory said in a statement. "Justice Orr's wealth of experience will be a perfect fit to fill the remainder of this term. The people of the 24th Prosecutorial District are fortunate to have a former justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and a man of Bob Orr's character serve them in this capacity."
Orr has been a voting resident of Yancey County for 25 years. He served as a member of the N.C. Court of Appeals for eight years before joining the N.C. Supreme Court, where he served for 10 years. After retiring from the judiciary, he spent seven years as the executive director and senior counsel for the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, a nonprofit public interest organization.
Orr will serve until a new district attorney is elected this year. He is taking a leave of absence from the law firm Poyner & Spruill to take the appointment.
"I'm glad to be able to assist," Orr said Tuesday. "The governor said that he would like for me to do it and that it would be a benefit to the citizens in the 24th District. That's a pretty sound reason to try and help folks out under the circumstances."
Orr said his priority as interim DA is "to make sure that the courts run as efficiently and effectively as possible and to make sure that the necessary stability is in place." He said he understood the challenges the district has faced in not having a DA since March 31, and added, "I certainly don't anticipate any sort of dramatic change or shift in policy."
Orr said he had not yet met all of the district attorney office employees but that it was his intention to continue with the current staff, noting that Wilson expressed great confidence in them.
"It would certainly seem logical and appropriate to continue with that staff," said Orr.
Judge Philip Ginn, senior resident Superior Court judge for the 24th District, said he believed Orr would "do a good job" as interim DA. But he criticized what he called a "disconcerting" and delayed process by the governor's office in making the appointment.
"We've been without a leader for so long. We've had to (delay) trials ... as well as grand juries," Ginn said.
"I also believe that there were -- not to detract from Justice Orr -- other people who would also have done a good job. I don't know what went wrong, but something went wrong in the appointment process to get us a new district attorney," Ginn added. "I'm not totally satisfied with the process that got us here, but I'm happy to have Judge Orr."
The governor's office did not immediately respond Tuesday to a question about the length of time involved in the appointment process.