As of 1:20 p.m. Tuesday, Curtis Stackhouse became Wayne County's newest district court judge.
Stackhouse bested opponent Annette Turik in the Nov. 8 general election by nearly 14,000 votes, and was sworn in by former Wayne County district court judge Joyce Hamilton during a ceremony at the Wayne County Courthouse.
His parents helped him don his new judicial robe -- each with misty eyes -- as Stackhouse stepped into his newest role after serving as an assistant district attorney.
Stackhouse said he will get to work in his new position right away, starting in Greenville for the next six months.
"I am humbled and honored at the size of this crowd today," Stackhouse said to a room of more than 100 people that filled the benches to see the ceremony. "I'm almost moved to tears -- probably will cry later on."
Stackhouse said he believes his biggest challenge as he takes the bench will be how to handle a massive case load with an efficient and fair hand.
"It's so big it's difficult to get through even one a day," Stackhouse said. "It'll be about balancing efficiency with giving the right amount of attention to each case."
Stackhouse said since winning the election in November, he's had several conversations about what type of judge he will be.
People want to know if he will be a "letter of the law" judge, interpreting the law literally without leaving any wiggle room, or if he will be a judge who will add in his own discretion when deciding the fates of those that appear before him.
"The conversation that I remember most vividly was the one that I had with a colleague of mine from the district attorney's office, who said, 'Look, if you do these two things you'll be all right: one, be punctual, be on time, and number two, just don't yell at the lawyers,'" Stackhouse said. "I guarantee you I can do that."
In all, Stackhouse's swearing-in lasted around half an hour, with a long line of well-wishers, family and friends gathering to shake his hand and take photos with him afterward.
Stackhouse is the son of Dr. Jim Stackhouse and Joyce Keller, a Goldsboro attorney.
He and his wife, Elizabeth Stackhouse, have three-year-old twins.
Stackhouse is a 1999 graduate of Eastern Wayne High School and received a business management degree in 2003 from N.C. State University. He received his law degree from the N.C. Central University School of Law in 2009.
While working on his law degree, Stackhouse completed internships in the Orange County District Attorney's Office and the Wake County Public Defenders Office.
After being hired, Stackhouse spent two years in district court, the last year as a DWI prosecutor.
He was promoted to superior court, where he handled low-level felonies. He was then assigned to handle sexual assault cases for a year before moving on to exclusively handle high-level drug cases.
"I can promise you this," Stackhouse said. "I will certainly work very hard for you, I will always be respectful to everyone in the courtroom, and when you walk into the courtroom where I preside -- not my courtroom, but the courtroom where I'm presiding, because it's not my courtroom -- you will get a fair shake if you walk in there."