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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The only black woman to ever serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court says she's leaving next month.

Associate Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson announced Wednesday her decision to retire from the state's highest court Dec. 17. Timmons-Goodson has been on the Supreme Court since 2006. She previously served on the Court of Appeals and was a District Court judge.

The 58-year-old Timmons-Goodson did not give a specific reason for leaving, saying only there is a time and season for all things.

Her departure gives outgoing Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue the chance to pick her successor before leaving office in January.

Timmons-Goodson is one of three registered Democrats on the seven-member court. The court is officially nonpartisan.

The term of Timmons-Goodson's successor would expire at the end of 2014.

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