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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More than 50 years ago, our organization was founded by a group of visionaries who saw the collective benefit of uniting criminal defense and civil plaintiffs’ lawyers in a rather unique marriage called the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers. At the time, this union was unusual and indeed, even today, we are one of only a handful of state trial lawyer’s associations with both civil and criminal practitioners. In the five-plus decades of marriage, our organization has expanded to now more than 18 different sections and divisions. One big family of kin under the same legal roof. Indeed, we are a diverse group, which makes for interesting reunions when we come together for Convention, Mountain Magic, our many multi-discipline CLEs and our social events.
As we have watched our nation falter with unprecedented political divisiveness, the COVID-19 pandemic, gaping disparities of racial justice, a swelling Me Too movement and countless other recent events, I am reminded that our differences are what bind us together. We are stronger together. Diversity comes in many forms and fashions, however, and our differing practice areas are just the first cull. Many of us further identify through our differences of geography, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political affiliation, age and more. These differences make us interesting and make us powerful as a collective.
When I think of Justice Ginsburg, I most strongly remember her sense of moral responsibility, her belief that the law exists to do justice, and her willingness and courage to fight for what is right. She quintissentially spoke truth to power, working to carry out the Biblical command in Jeremiah: “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”
But I also remember her “balanced” side: the side that said, “Work for what you believe in, but pick your battles, and don’t burn your bridges. Don’t be afraid to take charge, think about what you want, then do the work, but then enjoy what makes you happy, bring along your crew, have a sense of humor.” Her lifetime included decades of marriage to a husband she loved, raising children, enjoying time as a grandmother, and mentoring a bevy of law clerks.
Her fight for justice stemmed from a career shaped by discrimination. She reflected time and time again on being asked by Harvard’s law school dean why she was taking a place that should have gone to a male. That experience resonated. I, for example, was told by a professor that it was a waste of time for me to take his class because I’d just get married and have twins. Others around the country had similar stories. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was us.
On Friday evening, after learning of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, I called and texted friends and family until I could no longer keep my eyes open. The words that gave me most comfort came from writer and activist, Glennon Doyle.
Thank you for fighting for us so brilliantly, relentlessly, creatively, and fiercely – and for so long.
Tonight, we mourn.
Tomorrow, we fight.
Consistent with NCAJ’s vision of protecting people, preventing injustice and promoting fairness, the Advocacy Team actively monitors the actions of the General Assembly in an effort to identify bills being introduced which may affect our members and, more importantly, our members’ clients. This “boots on the ground” level of monitoring at the General Assembly allows us to identify legislation early in the process with the goal of mustering support for those issues that align with our vision or rallying opposition to those issues that do not.
The short session of 2020, while “short,” was not short on activity due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report summarizes the bills that may impact the practices of our members. This includes a summary of the numerous immunity bills, all of the governor’s vetoes in 2020, and highlights of other legislative changes in 2020. This summary is not a comprehensive list of all 2020 session laws.