Libations and Litigation Are Twin Passions for NCBA Member Deborah Sperati

NCBA Members In Focus 

Ask Deborah Sperati if she would rather run a craft brewery or practice law as a partner at Poyner Spruill, and she answers with a question: “Why choose when you can do both?”

As co-founder, legal counsel and chief cultural officer of Koi Pond Brewery in Rocky Mount, Sperati blends her passion for craft beer and her 18 years of experience as a civil and commercial litigator. A North Carolina native who grew up in Greenville, Sperati earned her law degree from UNC School of Law and has practiced for 18 years. At Poyner Spruill, she leads the Brewery, Winery and Distillery Practice Group, which offers her critical insight into the challenges facing the state’s growing group of beer, wine and spirits artisans. Here, she offers some insight on how she keeps these dual pursuits alive.

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Congratulations To Alicia Lewis, 2017 Distinguished Paralegal Award Recipient!

Each year the Paralegal Division seeks nominations for its annual Distinguished Paralegal Award. This award recognizes outstanding achievements, professionalism and contributions by a North Carolina paralegal both professionally and personally within  the recipient’s community. The award includes a membership to the NCBA Paralegal Division, including one section membership, for the following year. The recipient is presented with a plaque commemorating their receipt of the award at the Annual Meeting.

This year’s recipient is Alicia Lewis, a paralegal with Anderson Jones, PLLC in Raleigh. She was presented the award by her attorney and nominator, Todd Jones, during the 2017 Paralegal Division Annual Meeting at the Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina on May 5, 2017.

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Damned If You Do: Supervisors Could Be At Risk For Reporting Sexual Harassment

By Michael A. Kornbluth and Joseph E. Hjelt

On June 7, 2017, Judges Traxler, Motz and Agee on the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision which could make employees think twice before they report other individuals’ complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace. The facts of the case, Villa v. CavaMezze Grill, LLC, No. 15-2543, 2017 WL 2453254 (4th Cir. Jun. 7, 2017), are alleged as follows:

In October of 2013, Judy Bonilla, a former employee at Cava Mezze Grill in Merrifield, Va., told Patricia Villa, a low-level manager at Cava Mezze, that the restaurant’s General Manager had offered her a raise in exchange for sex. Villa then approached Rob Gresham, the restaurant chain’s Director of Operations, to report the conversation with Bonilla and convey her suspicions that the same quid pro quo offer had been made to another former employee. Gresham is close friends with the General Manager who was accused of sexual harassment. In investigating Villa’s report, Gresham interviewed Bonilla and the other individual Villa suspected had been offered a raise in exchange for sex. Sergio Valdiva, Area Manager, accompanied Gresham in the interview with Bonilla to serve as a translator. In their interviews with Gresham and Valdiva, both employees denied the allegations and denied having ever said anything to Villa. At the close of the investigation, Gresham fired Villa, telling her that he concluded that she fabricated the story.

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MacCord’s List: IP Notices & News From Art MacCord

By Art MacCord

Art MacCord is a patent attorney with 38 years of experience. He keeps an eye on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Copyright Office for new rules and practice tips of interest to intellectual property attorneys. Please click on the links below for the most recent updates.

Revision of Patent Cooperation Treaty Procedures: Final rule.  Effective July 1, 2017

Updated Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Manual of Procedure (TBMP)  June 2017

 

Avoiding the Bullseye: Cybersecurity Lessons From the Target Litigation

David M. Furr is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association’s newly created Privacy and Data Security  Committee, which begins work in the upcoming bar year. 


By David M. Furr

Traditional retail in the United States has had two distinct issues negatively affecting its survival in this decade. First, the proliferation of E-commerce companies has severely reduced the profitability of the traditional brick and mortar businesses as shoppers’ habits are fundamentally changing. In the first four months of this year, nine retailers have filed for bankruptcy — Payless Shoes, hhgregg, The Limited, RadioShack, BCBG, Wet Seal, Gormans, Eastern Outfitters and Gander Mountain — with the closing of hundreds of stores.Many other retailers are shuttering stores at such a record pace that 2017 is being bannered as the year of retail bankruptcies.2

Second, retail has been particularly hard hit by cybersecurity breaches because of the wealth of Personal Identity Information (PII) collected and, unfortunately retained, by the retailers. The 2013 massive compromise of retail giant Target’s systems has been litigated in the courts and subject to an extensive Multi-State Attorney General task force action that has produced record payouts to plaintiffs.

The purpose of this paper is to use the Target litigation as a backdrop of the cybersecurity measures a business must have in place if it is to protect adequately the PII of its lifeblood — the customers. While common tort and specific statutory theories serve as the foundation for these claims, the sophistication of the Plaintiff counsels’ deep dive into the actual technology facts serve as an important road map to safe cybersecurity.

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The Devil and the Details: Constructive Discharge, Punitive Damages and the Mark Of the Beast

By Kevin P. Murphy

According to Revelation, the wild beast will seduce mankind to follow its evil ways and will cause everyone, small and great, wealthy and poor, free and servant, to have the Mark of the Beast imprinted on their right hand or on their foreheads. Revelation 13:11-18. According to the 4th Circuit, career coal miner Beverly Butcher Jr. had the right to opt out of a new biometric hand scanner policy implemented by Consol Energy, Inc. in light of his sincerely held religious belief that placing his hand in this scanner would mark him as a follower of the antichrist, to be tormented with fire and brimstone for all eternity. U.S. EEOC v. Consol Energy, Inc., No. 16-1230 (4th Cir. June 12, 2017).

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Talking To All Generations: Manage Your Online Reputation

By Matt Cordell

When I have the opportunity to give advice to law students and young lawyers, one of the things I try to impress upon them is the importance of their reputations, including their “online reputations.”

Usually the comment is quickly met with a knowing nod. Everyone seems to know that their reputation is important. However, having witnessed many lawyers of all ages impair their professional reputations online, I have begun to realize that many of us fail to recognize some aspects of maintaining our online reputations, and I have begun to be much more specific in my advice to younger lawyers.

Older lawyers, I have observed, often seem to understand some of the things that younger lawyers may miss, but older lawyers can have their own blind spots in this area. In this short piece, I would like to describe a few observations about lawyers’ online reputations and suggest that young lawyers and older
lawyers can learn much from one another regarding this topic. (There are, of course, plenty of exceptions to my generational generalizations.)

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In the Aftermath Of a Cyber Attack, What Do You Tell the State Bar?

By Joyce Brafford

Your law firm’s security has been breached, and you see that a scammer is trying to steal client funds. It may be wire fraud, a phishing attack or something totally different. But you know that the firm’s security is being tested against a bad actor. You must take action. What should you do, and what are your ethical obligations?

I reached out to Deanna Brocker of the Brocker Law Firm in Raleigh, and she shared some practical advice for anyone who finds themselves in this situation. The Brocker Law Firm concentrates in professional and occupational licensing, ethics and disciplinary matters. The firm also advises and represents professional clients in various related areas, including prospective ethics counseling, private ethics opinions, expert witness testimony, firm disputes, North Carolina State Bar grievance defense and attorney discipline defense.

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Lessons Learned From the Former ‘Fat Boy’: Tackling Childhood and Adolescent Obesity

By Russell Rawlings

Rumor has it the incidence of childhood and adolescent obesity has reached epidemic proportions in this country. That would stand to reason, considering the fact that obesity has also become rampant within the adult population.

In other words, the kids ain’t driving themselves to the grocery store.

I am neither a physician nor a psychologist, so nothing I would ever say about weight and wellness should ever be mistaken for professional advice, especially when it comes to childhood and adolescent obesity.

But I have lived through both, and although it has been nearly 40 years since I experienced my transformative weight loss, I will never forget what it was like to be young and overweight. I will never forget what it was like to be the “fat boy.”

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Bioethics Master Strengthens and Expands Health Care Practice

NCBA Health Law Section / N.C. Society of Health Law Attorneys


The Wake Forest Bioethics Graduate program admits attorneys seeking to advance their knowledge of health care ethics and public policy, as well as joint-degree law school students who realize the career flexibility that comes with graduate training in the moral dimensions of health care policy. Bioethics education can deepen a health care lawyer’s understanding of the broader social context of various aspects of the life-sciences industry. In depth study of both classic and emerging bioethical dilemmas can sharpen lawyer’s skills in representing health care clients. Or, a graduate degree can be a springboard for a lawyer looking to move into management or public policy career paths.

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