John Gresham is this year’s Jon Harkavy Award Winner. Last week, the Jonathan R. Harkavy Award Committee (John Doyle Jr., Michael Kornbluth, and Travis Payne) submitted this report to the Council of the Labor and Employment Section of the N.C. Bar Association:
The Committee developed a process to solicit nominations for the Jonathan R. Harkavy Award. An announcement went out in mid-March and a number of deserving and impressive lawyers were nominated. The nominations were circulated among the Committee members and, in early July, a conference call was convened for the members to candidly discuss the various nominees. Out of that discussion there resulted in a consensus that this year the Harkavy Award should go to John Gresham.
In at least some respects, the Harkavy Award is a recognition of a “lifetime” of achievement and service in the employment area of practice. Gresham, as most of his colleagues and friends call John, most certainly fits that criteria. John began his legal career in North Carolina in the mid-1970s, serving two years as a law clerk for United States District Court Judge James B. McMillan. He then joined the firm of Chambers Ferguson and Stein in Charlotte, where he ultimately became a partner. He stayed at that firm until 2011 when he joined the firm of Tin Fulton Walker & Owen.
Throughout his career, Gresham has focused on employment and civil rights/constitutional issues. He has litigated many cases and obtained decisions that have impacted the employment and constitutional law both nationally and within North Carolina. This includes Reed v. United Transportation Union, 488 U.S. 319 (1989), which expanded the time period in which union members could sue for violations of their rights. Perhaps of most significance for North Carolina is the decision that he obtained in Corum v. University of North Carolina, 330 N.C. 761 (1992), where our Supreme Court recognized a private right of action by citizens against government entities for violations of the rights enumerated in Article I of the Constitution of North Carolina, the Declaration of Rights.
While Gresham practiced pretty exclusively on the plaintiff’s side, he was well respected by most members of the bar and particularly those who had occasions to interact with him. That was clearly apparent during the discussion of the members of the Harkavy Award Committee. While he was and is a vigorous litigator, Gresham pursues that role in a professional manner. He respects his opposing counsel and other members of the bar, and is also readily approachable by other members of the bar seeking advice about a variety of topics.
Gresham has also served the profession in a number of ways. He has served as President of the Mecklenburg County Bar Foundation and on the Mecklenburg County Bar Board of Directors. He has also served on the Appellate Rules Study Committee and was Vice Chair of the NCBA Education Law Section. His recognition through receipt of the Harkavy Award is well earned and well deserved.
Gresham made the following remarks on his receipt of the Harkavy Award: “John Harkavy was not only an early champion for employee rights but an early leader in making mediation an integral part of employment practice in our state. It was an honor to receive the John Harkavy award.”