RALEIGH — Chief Judge Linda M. McGee and Judge Wanda G. Bryant, both serving on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, retired on Dec. 31.
Both judges served long and distinguished careers and were recently honored for their service by Gov. Roy Cooper with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. This high honor was presented by Attorney General Josh Stein at a retirement luncheon for both judges.
McGee — who served as partner in the Boone law firm of di Santi, Watson, and McGee for 17 years — was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 1995 by Gov. Jim Hunt. She is the longest serving judge of the Court of Appeals in state history, having served almost 26 years in that role. McGee was elected to an eight-year term in 1996, and was re-elected in 2004 and 2012. In August 2014, she was named chief judge of the Court of Appeals where she has led the court, oversaw its administration, served on the State Judicial Council and served as vice chair of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism, in addition to fulfilling her judicial duties.
Beginning in 2016, McGee has chaired the Celebrate NC Courts Committee, which was responsible for planning and executing the anniversary celebrations for each level of North Carolina’s court system, that included promoting the Judicial Branch Speakers Bureau and leading the 50th Anniversary of the Court of Appeals. In October 2019, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley presented her with the Friend of the Court Award for this leadership role.
In addition to her role in the judiciary, Chief Judge McGee has been an active member of North Carolina’s legal community. She held positions on numerous professional organizations, chaired and served on many boards and commissions, including the IOLTA Board, Legal Services of North Carolina and the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners. She was also a leader in community activities throughout her career, including the League of Women Voters.
McGee has received several awards, including the North Carolina Bar Association’s Liberty Bell Award, the Judge of the Year Award from the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys and the Outstanding Appellate Judge Award by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice. McGee is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the UNC School of Law.
Bryant was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Gov. Mike Easley in March 2001 and re-appointed in December 2002. She was elected to a full eight-year term in November 2004, and re-elected in November 2012. Bryant has chaired and served on numerous Judicial Branch committees and commissions including the Public Trust and Confidence Committee on the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice and chair of the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission. In 2017, Bryant held a special session of court in Brunswick County in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
Originally from Brunswick County, Bryant began her legal career in 1982 as an attorney with the law firm Walton, Fairley and Jess. In 1983, she became an assistant district attorney in the 13th Prosecutorial District. She worked in this position until 1987, when she joined the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C., as the first ever staff attorney.
From 1989 to 1993, Bryant worked as an assistant United States attorney for the District of Columbia. She then joined the Office of the Attorney General as a senior deputy attorney general. Bryant earned an undergraduate degree in history and comparative area studies from Duke University in 1977, then earned her Juris Doctor degree from North Carolina Central University in 1982.
Donna Stroud became the chief judge of the North Carolina Court of Appeals on Jan. 1, taking over the role after McGee. Before taking her oath of office, Stroud was the senior member of the court of Appeals. She was elected to the Court in 2006 and re-elected without opposition in 2014.