Upcoming Events

By Alan Parry

Dear Members of the Litigation Section:
Our year is off to a great start, with enjoyable networking events in August (Chapel Hill) and September (Raleigh) that gave Section members an opportunity to catch up and socialize with other litigators, judges, and court staff. We plan to sponsor similar events in communities around the state and will keep you posted on upcoming opportunities for fun, fellowship, and CLE from the Litigation Section.

Next up, we will be back in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, to host a casual evening social for our Superior Court Judges, who will be in town for the 2019 North Carolina Superior Court Judges’ Conference. Our social event will be at Vecino Brewing, located at 300 E. Main St. in Carrboro, and all Section members, judges, and significant others are invited. Please RSVP here to let us know you’re coming, and we look forward to seeing you there!

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Welcome To a New Bar Year: Come See Us in Chapel Hill on Wednesday

By Alan Parry

Welcome to a new year for the North Carolina Bar Association’s Litigation Section!  We have a lot in store for Section members this year, with a focus on social events around the state to give members an opportunity to network with other litigators, judges, and court staff.  We will, of course, continue to offer CLE on topics of interest to litigators, and we also hope that Section members will use this Litigation Section blog, both to stay abreast of events and developments and to publish their own articles and posts of interest.


NCBA Litigation Section Social
Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery
100 E Franklin St #300, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Wednesday, Aug. 21,  5-6:30 p.m.
RSVP here.

There will be much more to come about the events and activities we have planned for Section members this bar year, but I wanted to drop a short note to introduce myself as the new Section chair and mainly to remind you about the first of our Section social events, which is coming up this week in Chapel Hill.  There is no formal program – just a great opportunity to meet and catch up with other Section members.  Drinks and appetizers are on us, and we hope to see you there!


How Corporate Counsel Can Push Back on Outside Counsel Guidelines by Citing the Ethics Rules







By Amy Richardson, Hilary Gerzhoy, and Lauren Snyder

In recent years, clients have begun to insist that their corporate counsel sign Outside Counsel Guidelines (“OCGs”) that restrict a lawyer from providing services to competitors of the client, even if the work is unrelated to the work being performed for the client and the lawyer has no confidential client information relevant to the work. Those OCGs have also begun to define the “client” as all subsidiaries, affiliates, or parent companies of the entity to which the lawyer’s services pertain. Both trends restrict a lawyer from representing a host of potential clients in the future. How can outside corporate counsel push back?
The two trends cited above directly implicate ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct 5.6, 1.7 and 1.9.[1] By citing these Rules, and the restrictions they impose, corporate counsel may gain headway in negotiating more permissive OCGs.

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Supreme Court to Decide Whether Title VII Prohibits Discrimination Against LGBT Employees

By T. Cullen Stafford

On April 22, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari in three cases involving the issue of whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The Supreme Court’s decisions in these cases will resolve a long-standing split among U.S. appellate courts regarding whether federal law prohibits discrimination against gay, lesbian and bi-sexual employees.


There is currently no federal statute that expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Nearly every Congress since 1994 has introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (“ENDA”), which would amend Title VII to prohibit such discrimination, but the statute has never been passed.

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The Advocate’s Award Goes To Legal Aid Icon Ted Fillette

The Litigation Section has honored Ted Fillette as the 11th recipient of The Advocate’s Award. Presented as merited, the award recognizes “superstars” of the section and the legal profession.

Ted Fillette, right, accepts The Advocate’s Award from Rick Conner.

Rick Conner, section secretary, presented the award during a Litigation Section networking event in Charlotte on Wednesday, Feb. 13.

Fillette retired last year following 45 years of service to the legal aid community in Mecklenburg County and the surrounding region.

Following graduation from Duke University in 1968, he spent two years working for VISTA. He then entered Boston University Law School and undertook an internship in the summer of 1971 in the Charlotte office of attorney George Daly.

Fillette returned to Charlotte in 1973 after graduating from law school. He joined Legal Aid Society of Mecklenburg County, which later expanded into a five-county program known as Legal Services of Southern Piedmont. Twenty-nine years later the organization split and Fillette joined the newly incorporated Legal Aid of North Carolina, where he served as assistant director of the statewide office and senior managing attorney of the Charlotte office.

Previous recipients of The Advocate’s Award are (2006) Charles L. Becton, (2007) J. Donald Cowan Jr., (2009) H. Grady Barnhill Jr., (2010) James T. Williams Jr., (2011) Alan W. Duncan, (2012) Charlie Blanchard, (2013) A. Ward McKeithen, (2015) James E. Ferguson II, (2016) Bill Womble Jr. and (2017) Janet Ward Black.

A longtime member of the North Carolina Bar Association, Fillette was featured in North Carolina Lawyer last year in conjunction with his retirement. The article follows here in its entirety:

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Court of Appeals Again Dismisses Appeal for Procedural Error

By Tara Muller

Civil litigators handling appeals: Beware. For the second time in less than a month, the North Carolina Court of Appeals dismissed an entire appeal due to an appellant’s failure to comply with the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure. In WBTV v. Ashe County (4 Dec 2018, Dietz, J., unpublished), the Court of Appeals found substantial rules violations by a represented party, and it dismissed plaintiff’s interlocutory appeal without ever reaching the merits.

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Fourth Circuit Finds Gag Order Fails First Amendment Scrutiny

By C. Amanda Martin

Those who watch Fourth Circuit opinions already know this, but the court recently released an opinion ordering the Eastern District of North Carolina to vacate a gag order entered in ongoing litigation related to North Carolina hog farms. In addition to the importance of the core ruling – overturning the gag order – the Fourth Circuit’s opinion is a powerful statement about the importance of First Amendment rights and the need for trial courts to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s before taking away those rights.

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Navigating Trial Decisions Through an Appellate Framework

By Kip Nelson

Trial lawyers have a hard job, and it’s easy for appellate lawyers reviewing a cold record to find fault in the decisions made by their predecessors. As others have recognized, a symbiotic relationship can occur when a trial lawyer and an appellate lawyer work collaboratively during trial to reach the best solution for the client. A recent Court of Appeals decision, Boone Ford, Inc. v. IME Scheduler, Inc., No. COA16-750-2 (N.C. Ct. App. Nov. 6, 2018), provides two helpful reminders for appellate practitioners working at the trial level.

First, the Court of Appeals reiterated that a party cannot move for judgment notwithstanding the verdict unless the party previously moved for a directed verdict. This rule might seem counterintuitive for a party who is asserting a claim; normally one thinks of a motion for directed verdict as being brought by a defending party. Nevertheless, because the third-party plaintiff in Boone Ford had not moved for directed verdict, the court concluded that any argument regarding the third-party plaintiff’s Rule 50 JNOV motion was “not preserved for appellate review.”

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A Family Practice. A Cunning Nurse. Does Section 75-1.1 Apply To Her Conduct?

By Stephen Feldman

North Carolina law prohibits unfair or deceptive acts “in or affecting commerce.”

But “commerce” doesn’t include “professional services rendered by a member of a learned profession.” This quoted language comes straight from Section 75-1.1.

One clear takeaway from this language is that a professional’s treatment of a patient or client doesn’t violate Section 75-1.1. A medical malpractice plaintiff can’t get treble damages.

It’s less clear, however, whether this language applies to claims about conduct between or among medical professionals.

This post studies a recent Business Court decision on that issue. The decision comes from a case styled Alamance Family Practice, P.A. v. Lindley, 2018 NCBC 82 (N.C. Super. Aug. 14, 2018).

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The Litigation Section Needs You!

By Philip Isley

For the entire 26 years of my practice, I have been a litigator. While my practice also includes non-litigation matters such as lobbying and “legal crisis management” (a fixer, so to speak…), the core of what I do – and what I’ve done for my professional career – is litigate. I’ve also had the honor of being a local elected official for eight years, and I can tell you that being a litigator certainly helped me with the transition into politics/advocacy/service to others. Politics also made me a better litigator by teaching me that relationships matter – whether with your opposing counsel, the judiciary, the courthouse staff, or anyone else you may run into on a regular basis. Politics also taught me this very valuable lesson: You can accomplish a great deal if you do not seek or crave credit for your accomplishments. This lesson has probably done more for me in the past ten years than anything else.

Help us plan for the future at the Litigation Section strategic planning meeting Aug. 17. Click for details.

If someone had asked me what a litigator was supposed to do when I graduated from law school, my answer would have most assuredly been, “A litigator is a fighter.” I probably felt this way for the first six to ten years of practicing law. I did not recognize that in addition to fighting, litigation is also supposed to be about solving problems. When asked today what I do as a litigator, my response typically is, “I try to fix problems whether litigation is involved or not, because at the end of the day, litigation sucks!” Perhaps that is a little too strong, especially given that is what we all do in our chosen profession. But, in all seriousness, how many times has this thought run through your head since you’ve been practicing law? I bet you’ve thought this when you’ve had to deal with your obstreperous client, or when your opposing counsel drives you crazy, or the costs to litigate have grown exponentially, or the judge has ruled against you, or WHATEVER problem du jour you are dealing with that erupts in any case that you are currently handling. Let’s face it, litigation can be challenging, frustrating, expensive, unfair and long – even if you win your case. But often, it is also the best tool trying to fix (or end) civil disputes.

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