NC Judicial College faculty member Cheryl Howell honored with Liberty Bell Award

The UNC School of Government congratulates North Carolina Judicial College faculty member Cheryl D. Howell on her recent receipt of the 2022 Liberty Bell Award. This honor, presented annually by the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA), recognizes “someone who exemplifies lifelong service to the law in North Carolina.”

Howell joins a distinguished group of North Carolina judges, council of state members, and lawyers as a recipient. The award is presented by the Young Lawyers Division of the NCBA in conjunction with Law Day. Howell was recognized during the Law Day awards ceremony in Raleigh on May 6, 2022.

In accepting the honor, Howell responded with gratitude in joining this impressive list of movers and shakers in the state’s legal community.

“I was surprised and incredibly honored to be selected,” said Howell. “I am familiar with the award, having been involved in small ways with Law Day in the past, and I know some of the past recipients. It is quite an honor to be included in a group like that.”

The award may have come as a surprise to Howell, but to her peers across the state’s legal landscape, it was a distinction that was more than merited.

In its release announcing Howell as the 2022 recipient, NCBA remarked, “Howell is in fact richly deserving of the honor. Whereas her work might appear to be behind the scenes in nature to many members of the legal community, she is regarded as a giant within the profession to those who know her best and work with her closely.”

Naming Howell as its 2022 award winner, NCBA sought to recognize Howell’s three decades of public service to the state’s courts system—particularly her consulting and writing about family law and other assorted legal issues, as well as her work to deliver effective judicial branch education programs for the North Carolina Association of District Court Judges and the School’s Judicial College.

Congratulating Howell on the honor, Dean Mike Smith praised her not only as an excellent recipient given the qualities the award seeks to recognize but also as a true, steadfast champion of the School’s mission to improve the lives of North Carolinians.   

“Cheryl is someone who exemplifies the absolute best of the School’s traditions and values,” he said. “She is a great colleague. Her work is rooted in a deep humility and a powerful commitment to the mission. No one has served us better.”

Howell has served an array of roles in the state’s legal system, including as a member of the  Family Court Advisory Commission since its inception in 1998 by appointment of the Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court, and as a member of the N.C. Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Advisory Committee by appointment of the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

She is a proud member of the Bar Association, noting in her acceptance that the involvement in the organization has “always felt like it makes me a better lawyer.” 

Working at the School, Howell said, has been her “dream job.” She expanded on this, saying, “I have  felt that way for the last 30 years. I have felt privileged every day to do what I am doing and have loved every minute of it.”

Though it is clear the admiration between Howell and the legal community she serves is mutual, she closed by saying the honor was all hers.

 “It is such a privilege to work with my incredible colleagues here at the School of Government and with court officials in North Carolina. Our court officials have incredibly difficult jobs, and we have such an amazing court system.” 

Howell has served on the School’s faculty since 1992 and is an Albert Coates Professor of Public Law and Government. Her publications include articles and bulletins relating to family law and family court, as well as chapters created for the Trial Judges’ Bench Book, District Court Edition. Howell earned a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Appalachian State University and a J.D. with honors, Order of the Coif, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.