Q&A With NCAJ Rising Star Cheyenne Chambers

By Amber Nimocks

Profiles in our quarterly Trial Briefs magazine feature members at varying stages of their careers. Know an NCAJ member we should profile? Email me at amber@ncaj.com.

Cheyenne Chambers’ voice is among the many calling for change to the justice system during this season of reckoning. For her, calling attention to racial inequities is nothing new. “I have been outspoken on such topics well before I joined the legal profession, and that is due to how my parents raised my sister and me,” she said. “When I was a child, my parents supplemented my education because they recognized that my assigned textbooks failed to disclose the complete story of the Black experience in America. For instance, in elementary school, my mom gave a detailed presentation to my classmates (and the teacher) about the history of Kwanzaa. Also, my dad and I would watch the nightly news together and then discuss current events at length, which allowed me to share a different perspective on matters of racial injustice in the classroom.

Cheyenne N. Chambers
Tin, Fulton, Walker & Owen, PLLC 
http://www.tinfulton.com
NCAJ member for: two years
Education: Case Western Reserve University, the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law

“So, by the time I was in high school, I felt comfortable enough to express my concerns to administrators about issues like the cancellation of a schoolwide Black History Month presentation. (After days of complaining adamantly, I was granted permission to put together a showcase in the main hallway celebrating the legacy of HBCUs.) And even as a law student, I was quite vocal about demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, as well as raising awareness about the Law Journal’s lack of racial diversity with respect to its student membership. Long story short, it was only a matter of time before I would contribute to the present-day national conversation on race — including by way of publishing an article with the American Bar Association, which addresses the lack of diversity among federal judicial law clerks.”

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Chambers attended Case Western Reserve University for undergrad, and earned her Juris Doctorate from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Her practice focuses on appellate and trial litigation in the areas of civil rights, criminal (appellate only), constitutional, employment discrimination, and immigration (appellate only). She lives in Charlotte. Chambers answered some questions for us here.

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NCAJ 2020 General Election Report

North Carolinians turned out in record numbers to vote in the 2020 General Election, with 74.56% of the state’s 7.359 million registered voters casting ballots. Per the North Carolina State Board of Elections, as of the morning of Nov. 12, there were about 133,000 uncounted votes in the state. Vote counts are expected to be finalized on or after Nov. 12. All results below are unofficial until the statewide canvass scheduled for Nov. 24.
 

General Assembly

Congratulations to NCAJ Members re-elected to the General Assembly. We look forward to working with them in the coming term.
 

Senate

Sen. Danny Britt Jr. (R) Dist 13

Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D) Dist 15

Sen. Mujtaba Mohammed (D) Dist 38

Sen. Wiley Nickel (D) Dist 16

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

House of Representatives

Rep. Terence Everitt (D), District 35

Rep. Destin Hall (R), District 87

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rep. Darren Jackson (D) Dist. 39

Rep. Robert Reives (D) Dist 54

 
 
 
 
 
 

Rep. Billy Richardson (D) Dist 44

Rep. David Rogers (R) Dist 112

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Q&A With NCAJ Hero M. Reid Acree Jr.

By Amber Nimocks

Profiles in our quarterly Trial Briefs magazine feature members at varying stages of their careers. Know an NCAJ member we should profile? Email me at amber@ncaj.com.

Reid Acree was a self-described “very unhappy insurance defense attorney” on his way to a mediation one day, when a conversion moment set him on the path to becoming a plaintiff’s lawyer.

M. Reid Acree Jr., Attorney at Law, P.A.
www.acreelaw.com 
NCAJ member for: 21 years
Education: Wake Forest University, Wake Forest University School of Law 

“I truly had a ‘burning bush’ moment in the elevator of my building while heading to a mediation. Also present in the elevator were the plaintiff, whom I would soon be going against, the plaintiff’s elderly mother and the plaintiff’s 5-year-old son. (I did not know who they were at the time). I bent down to say hello, and the little boy would not look at me. The father, a tall Black man who sounded a lot like the actor Danny Glover, looked at his son and said: ‘Son, when someone is speaking to you, look them in the eye and shake their hand.’ When the family walked into my office with me, I realized that I would soon be going against this kind man, who had treated me with such respect. I thought to myself: ‘I can’t do this anymore – screwing nice folks out of benefits.’ (The plaintiff was going to lose his leg due to a botched hernia surgery that had cut his femoral vein). I thought to myself that if I died tomorrow, no one would ever care that I had practiced law. I realized that I would not have made a difference in anyone’s life. I was raised to support the ‘little guy’ and those who had not always been treated fairly. I decided at that moment to change to a plaintiff’s practice.”

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Update on State Bar Activities Regarding Diversity and Inclusion Issues

By Abby Hammond

On Friday, Oct. 23, the N.C. State Bar Council met and unanimously approved for publication and comment a proposed rule change that would create a CLE requirement regarding bias, inclusion and diversity. The proposed rule change will be included in the Winter 2021 edition of The State Bar Journal.

NCAJ continues to monitor the State Bar’s activity regarding diversity and inclusion matters via an internal working group led by NCAJ Diversity Officer Stewart Poisson and NCAJ Legal Affairs Vice President Sonya Pfeiffer.

The proposed CLE requirement is among several changes the North Carolina State Bar discussed in recent months, including:

1) the proposed amendment to the Preamble identifying the avoidance of discriminatory conduct as a fundamental value of the legal profession, which was currently published for comment;

2) the creation of a subcommittee to study potential inclusion of anti-discriminatory language in the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct; and

3) the creation of a subcommittee to study the potential inclusion of a new comment to Rule 1.1 (Competency) stating that a lawyer’s competency includes awareness of implicit bias and cultural differences that can impact a client and the associated representation.

The proposed amendment to the Preamble was previously published by the State Bar and received significant comments. That proposed preamble change and the comments have been referred to a subcommittee appointed to study the proposed adoption of anti-discrimination language in the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Seeing Purple: Expect NC Politics To Be Hot, Divisive For Years, Consultants Say

By Abby Hammond

Elections in North Carolina this year are tight, the races will hinge on turnout, and — do not be mistaken — North Carolina will remain a purple state in the coming years.

That was the takeaway from a discussion between North Carolina political strategists Morgan Jackson and Paul Shumaker hosted by NCAJ on Thursday afternoon.

Jackson is a co-founder of Nexus Strategies and a veteran of a number of high-profile political and public policy efforts. Shumaker is the founder and president of the political consulting firm Capitol Communications, Inc.

 While they stand on opposite sides of the political divide, Jackson and Shumaker agree about many things regarding the state’s political future: North Carolina will continue to be a pivotal state in national elections and continue to be tight on in-state elections over the next eight-year period, at a minimum. Campaign efforts will continue to remain visible and high-spending in North Carolina.

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Q&A With New Member Jasmine Little

By Amber Nimocks

Profiles in our quarterly Trial Briefs magazine feature members at varying stages of their careers. Know an NCAJ member we should profile? Email me at amber@ncaj.com.

Jasmine Little has wanted to be a lawyer for as long as she can remember.

“While I don’t remember the exact moment I made the decision to join the profession, I’m sure watching TV shows that highlighted attorneys influenced my decision,” she said.

Jasmine Little
Deuterman Law Group

deutermanlaw.com
NCAJ member for: two years
Education:
East Carolina University, Wake Forest University School of Law

Little earned her law degree from the Wake Forest University School of Law, and this year joined the Deuterman Law Group as an associate concentrating on Social Security Disability and Medicaid. She is a magna cum laude graduate of East Carolina University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in business administration.

While Little did not pursue a made-for-TV practice area, she finds great satisfaction in the ways she can help her clients.

“A lot of my clients’ lives have revolved around their work and being able to provide a service to others through their employment,” she said. “That all changes when they are diagnosed with a condition or several conditions that no longer allow them to do so. Navigating the Social Security rules and regulations can be quite difficult, especially when you are constantly visiting doctors’ offices and managing your symptoms. I find it extremely rewarding to help clients get through this process so that they can focus their time on recovering or learning to live with their conditions.”

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Opinions In RJA Cases Shed Light On Failure To Protect Black Citizens’ Right To Serve On Juries

By David Weiss

On Sept. 25, 2020, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that Christina Walters, Quintel Augustine and Tilmon Golphin had been unlawfully returned to death row after receiving life sentences under the state’s Racial Justice Act (RJA).

In each of the three cases, NCAJ filed an amicus brief written by Bidish Sarma and Burton Craige. NCAJ’s brief addressed one of two grounds on which the Supreme Court granted relief: that it violated constitutional protections against double jeopardy to reimpose death sentences on Walters, Augustine, and Golphin after they had proven at prior hearings that they were entitled to life sentences under the RJA.

The North Carolina legislature passed the RJA in 2009. Subsequently, a statewide study showed that in capital trials prosecutors dismissed Black citizens at 2.5 times the rate they excluded whites. This disparity was driven entirely by race and could not be attributed to any other factor, such as death penalty views. The study also found that crimes with white victims were twice as likely to be punished with death.

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Help Us Create a Strategic Plan for NCAJ’s Advocacy Efforts

January 20, 2020. The day that COVID-19 struck America. This pandemic has changed America’s standing throughout the world and impacted every American citizen’s way of life. 

No matter which side of the political aisle you are on, I think we can agree that the leadership from the Oval Office has been lacking during the COVID-19 crisis. We are the United States of America, and we are behind the eight ball during a pandemic that is cutting across our nation. Since January, the United States has lacked the courage to do the right thing, failed in communication, and has lacked the commitment to rid our nation of the virus. 

What can we learn from this? 

During a crisis, our leaders’ past actions matter. 

If leaders have failed to demonstrate thoughtful and measured behavior, people won’t know what to expect from them.  

During a crisis, our leaders’ actions matter.  

We look to our leaders during difficult times. We seek reassurance, direction, guidance and the truth. 

Leadership requires courage. Leadership is not brash, reactive or dismissive. It is considered, informed, directive, thoughtful, compassionate and grounded in integrity. 

Courage to do the hard work. Courage to ask the tough questions. Courage to implement clearly defined policies and priorities. Courage to build the infrastructure.  

It is this brand of courageous leadership that NCAJ must summon as we undertake the creation of a strategic plan for our advocacy program.

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Second NCAJ Diversity and Inclusion Conference Covers Implicit Bias, Workplace Issues, Historic Racism

Chief Justice Cheri Beasley struck a hopeful note as the keynote speaker at Friday’s Second Annual NCAJ Diversity & Inclusion Conference, saying the unrest that has rocked the nation in recent months has also opened doors to more powerful and meaningful conversations about race and gender.

Chief Justice Cheri Beasley

“It’s been really important for all of us to seek a different kind of resolve for issues that we don’t want to talk about and that we don’t want to address,” she said. “I think it’s been really important that as we move through these issues, we come together. We really are a profession that through the history of this nation, regardless of what the challenges are, we’ve come together and we’ve led through these challenges. We’ve changed the course of history before, and I believe we can change the course of history now. I believe all of us have a desire to do better and be better, and I’m really excited about that.”

Beasley followed a slate of speakers who addressed issues of historical racism, implicit bias and workplace diversity and inclusion. North Carolina Central University School of Law Professor Irving Joyner kicked off the morning with a thorough and thoughtful overview of race and the law in North Carolina, drawing a bright line between Reconstruction era laws and the systemic inequities in North Carolina’s modern justice system. Jessica L. Whitney, Ph.D, who teaches at UNC-Wilmington and is an experienced diversity and inclusion instructor, outlined the dangers of professing that we live in a post-racial society. She offered practical advice for professionals to follow in being intentional in their diversity and inclusion efforts.

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Supreme Court Reinstates $5.5M Award in Savino v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority

NCAJ filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff in Savino v. Charlotte-Mecklendburg Hospital Authority, on which the Supreme Court of North Carolina ruled on Sept. 25. Burton Craige, Trisha Pande, and Narendra Ghosh of Patterson Harkavy LLP wrote NCAJ’s amicus brief.

By Trisha Pande

In Savino v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, Anthony Savino died of a heart attack after the hospital prematurely discharged him from its emergency department. Savino’s estate brought a medical negligence action against the hospital on the theories that it was negligent in providing medical care and performing its administrative duties. The jury found the hospital acted with reckless disregard for the safety of the patient—a finding that obviated the statutory cap on damages—and awarded plaintiff $5.5 million in non-economic damages. 

The Court of Appeals held that omissions in plaintiff’s complaint precluded trial on plaintiff’s theory of administrative negligence. It also set aside the jury award for non-economic damages, finding that plaintiff’s medical expert testimony was insufficient to support damages for pain and suffering.

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