October 2018

Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson (Ret.)

Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson (Ret.)

From legal aid lawyer to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, Patricia Timmons-Goodson has spent her life pursuing equality and justice for all Americans.


The daughter of a U.S. Army sergeant, Timmons-Goodson, learned to get along with people from all walks of life as the family moved between military bases in the United States and Germany.  Following her father’s medical retirement from the Army, the family settled in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  She graduated from Pine Forest High School in 1972 and enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  In 1976, she completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech, and her law degree at UNC in 1979.


Her professional quest for justice began as a prosecutor and legal aid lawyer.  The 29-year old lawyer was appointed to serve as a district court judge in 1984 and subsequently was elected in 1986, 1990, and 1994. In 1998 she became the first African-American female elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.


In 2006, Governor Michael Easley appointed Timmons-Goodson to the state’s highest court, making her the fourth woman and the first African American woman to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court of North Carolina.  The job was challenging, rewarding, and perhaps most importantly for her, meaningful.  “There was no doubt in my mind that I was making a difference in the lives of our citizens and the state of North Carolina,” she said.


One of many significant decisions she authored for the Court was a plurality opinion, Tillman v. Commercial Credit Loans, Inc.  “As a result of Tillman,” she said, “consumers are protected against unreasonable arbitration provisions and they are ensured a means to seek redress.”


She retired from the judiciary in 2012, after 28 years of service. Considering her retirement a “second season of service,” Timmons-Goodson earned a Master of Laws in Judicial Studies from Duke University School of Law in 2014.  Shortly thereafter, she accepted an appointment from President Barack Obama to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, where she currently serves as vice chair.  Her six-year appointment provided an opportunity for her to continue seeking justice and equality for all.


Timmons-Goodson has received many recognitions for her service to North Carolina, including honorary degrees from St. Augustine’s University, Johnson C. Smith University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Further recognitions include induction into the North Carolina Women’s Hall of Fame, Appellate Judge of the Year presented by the Advocates for Justice, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award, and 2017 Lifetime Defender of Justice Award from the North Carolina Justice Center.


By Tristan Reid