Rising Star: Ben Hiltzheimer  

Ben HiltzheimerFind this feature and more member news and profiles in the October edition of Trial Briefs, available exclusively to NCAJ members.

Ben Hiltzheimer is the founder of Hiltzheimer Law Office, PLLC, with offices in Raleigh and Durham. From 2006 to 2011, Ben was employed as an attorney at the federally funded Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. His tenure there included two years in a targeted litigation role focusing on complex forensics and systemic criminal justice issues in partnership with the Innocence Project.

In his capacity as a trial attorney at the Public Defender Service, he represented indigent individuals charged with felonies in the District of Columbia, from their initial appearance in Superior Court through trial. Ben earned his law degree from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the 10th Judicial District Bar Association and the National College for DUI Defense. He lives with his wife and three children in Durham.

What attracted you to criminal defense work? 

I’ve thought about this question over the years and I have at least three different answers.

On one hand, I started out specifically as a public defender because I wanted to stand in the shoes of the marginalized and push back against the substantial power of a government that often oversteps its bounds, particularly with respect to minorities and the poor. It was that disparity that first attracted me to this fight, from a core belief that one’s rights shouldn’t be a function of race or socio-economic status.

As I got into the work and it became less abstract, another guiding principle that evolved for me was the more general belief that people shouldn’t be judged solely on the darkest moments in their lives – which is often where I meet my clients for the first time. The system tends to view individuals through the narrow lens of a single act, and part of my job as a defender is to put those acts into the context of an entire human life, with hardships and struggles and often a complicated and tragic story to tell.

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The Mountains are Calling and We Will Go (to the 2019 Sustainer Summit)

by Vernon Sumwalt, 2019-2020 President of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice

John Muir’s finish to his call to understand our world fits NCAJ’s fun this Fall. Right after writing “the mountains are coming and I must go,” Muir added, “I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.” We all do this, and our Sustainer Summit will give us tons of takeaways to take our trial skills to the next level.

Our headliner is Mark Kozieradzki. “Koz” for short. Other than being a really fun person and having glamorous hair, Koz also plays a mean harmonica. Oh, and he happened to write 30(b)(6): Deposing Corporations, Organizations, and the Government (Trial Guides ©2016) and more recently Deposition Obstruction: Breaking Through (AAJ Press ©2019). We all know Koz’s books. They are not eye candy collecting dust on our shelves. No, we savor them. We absorb them until they transform us with new skills to handle the Goliaths standing in the way of accountability. Koz’s books really are that good, and having him at this year’s Sustainer Summit will be even better. He’ll teach an entire morning on how to deploy these tools with confidence, consequence, and skill.

We’ll also have North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Mark Davis teaching us about A Warren Court of Our Own: The Exum Court and the Expansion of Individual Rights in North Carolina, a panel conversation on the 2020 political campaign by Morgan Jackson of Nexus Strategies and Paul Shumaker of Strategic Partner Solutions, and a Saturday morning lineup of business development and law practice management tips from Tom Lenfesty of Law Practice Exchange (discussing “The Secrets to Law Firm Continuity Planning—Buying, Selling, and Other Succession Strategies Available to Law Firms and Lawyers to Continue to Practice without Fear”), from Dave Poston of Poston Communications (“Becoming a Better Trial Lawyer by Incorporating PR”), and from Tea Hoffman of Law Strategy Corp. (“Strategic Targeting—Finding New Clients that Fit Your Firm’s Ideal Client Model”). And don’t worry—we’ve scheduled plenty of “downtime” for everyone to enjoy everything Asheville has to offer.

NCAJ started Mountain Magic in 2003 for higher-level contributors to our organization. Although “Mountain Magic” is a great name, we needed to metamorphose this year, if only to mark a new conference format at our old favorite, The Omni Grove Park Inn.

Returning to the conference’s original intent of investing in our Sustaining Level members (Leaders Forum, Circle of Advocates, Presidents Club, Benefactors, Sustaining Patron, and Patrons) will, we hope, give a great big “THANK YOU” to those who take their investment in NCAJ to the next level. And the next level really isn’t out of reach. The lowest cost for a Patron-level membership is an increase of $475.00 from a regular membership for lawyers practicing over 10 years or, looking at it differently, about how much you’d save as the discounted rate for a room at the Grove Park over the course of the Summit, compared to a single night at full price. Follow this link if you are interested in upgrading to attend.

The mountains are calling us, so register today. We look forward to seeing you at the Sustainer Summit between October 17 and 20!

Vernon Sumwalt is the 2019-2020 President of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and a partner at The Sumwalt Law Firm in Charlotte. Sumwalt is a North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Appellate Practice and Workers’ Compensation Law and has served in numerous leadership positions for both the NC State Bar and NC Bar Association’s workers’ compensation committees and sections.

NCAJ Attorneys Protect Your Rights: April 2019 edition

robby jessup  by Robby Jessup

NCAJ attorneys & other NCAJ legal professionals protect the citizens of North Carolina who have been harmed. For a snapshot of their work, read NCAJ’s April 2019 Verdicts, Settlements and Dispositions column, linked below.

Congratulations to all attorneys highlighted in the column:  Ann Groninger and Valerie Johnson of Copeley Johnson & Groninger PLLC; Gabriel Snyder and Barry Snyder of Snyder Law; Winslow Taylor of Taylor & Taylor Attorneys at Law, PLLC; Joan Davis and Douglas Noreen of Howard StallingsLakota Denton of Lakota R. Denton, P.A.;  Guy Crabtree of Crabtree Carpenter, PLLCLennie Jernigan and Kristi Thompson of Jernigan Law; Douglas Maynard, Jr. of Maynard & Harris, PLLC; James Roane of Roane LawRichard Watson of Richard Watson Law, PLLC; Bill Gardo of Gardo Law; and Robby Jessup of Howard Stallings.

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NCAJ Convention 2019: Revitalizing+ Retooling Our Community

Adrienne S. Blocker-Education VP - crop for wordpress  by Adrienne Blocker, Convention Co-Chair

Convention Co-Chair Darrin Jordan of Whitley, Jordan & Inge, P.A. and I look forward to welcoming you to NCAJ’s Annual Convention which runs from June 20 – 23, 2019 at the Hotel Ballast in Wilmington, NC.

2019_Convention_Logo_72


A Special Note from NCAJ Executive Director Kim Crouch


Online Registration is Open
Registration is now available at ncaj.com/annualconvention.  Register by May 10 and save!  Online registration closes June 12 and on-site registration opens June 20.


Allen A. Bailey Professional Development Fellowship
NCAJ lawyer members licensed between 1 and 10 years can apply for the Allen A. Bailey Professional Development fellowship to attend NCAJ’s 2019 Convention.  Fellowship covers one Convention registration & hotel accommodations. Apply before May 12 at ncaj.com/fellowship.


Opportunity to Exhibit or Sponsor an Event
Exhibit or sponsor an event at NCAJ’s Annual Convention if you’re looking for a great way to promote your company, reinforce brand loyalty, increase visibility and boost your market share with trial lawyers!


What’s New this Year at Convention 2019!

  • First-Time Attendees Meet & Greet on Thursday
  • State of the Association report by Executive Director on Friday
  • Practical skills training for all attendees including
    • Unifying Juries in a Dangerously Divided World by David Ball, PhD,  and Artemis Malekpour  (three-hour session focusing on trial skills with the nation’s only trial consulting team qualified and certified to advise attorneys on Reptilian methods and techniques)
  • President’s Gala open to ALL members on Saturday
  • Concurrent Civil Law and Criminal Law Update
    • Jon Moore has pulled together the most significant appellate cases that have impacted civil practice over the past year. In this three-hour session, hear first-hand from the attorneys of record and take home best practice tips for implementing the appellate case law in your practice
    • Join Duke University School of Law professors Theresa Newman and Jamie Lau for a nuts and bolts approach to post-conviction work at the state and federal level. Newman and Lau, who run the law school’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic, will lead you from investigations to federal habeas. Immediately following their presentation, hear from criminal defense attorney David Rudolf in a presentation that drives home the importance of criminal defense work
  • Board of Governors Orientation

Don’t Miss Some of these Old Favorites, too:

  • Edwards Kirby Opening Reception
  • NCAJ Awards Presentation
  • NCAJ Section meetings and gatherings

Make Your Hotel Reservations Today
Mention the NC Advocates for Justice for discounted rates at Hotel Ballast and Riverview SuitesGroup rates available until May 19.

NCAJ Women’s Caucus Retreat – Join us!

abrams.melissa  by Melissa Abrams, NCAJ Women’s Caucus Chair

 

The NCAJ Women’s Caucus FIRST ANNUAL retreat is quickly approaching.

The retreat (Feb 28-March 1) offers a full-day seminar containing a range of topics to build and improve your practice taught by North Carolina’s finest female trial lawyers – including three female Past Presidents/President of NCAJ. Each session of this “How-To” seminar will provide you with invaluable and resourceful takeaways that can be applied to your practice and to your daily professional life. In addition to top-notch CLE, the social activities will provide you with the opportunity to build relationships with other NCAJ female trial lawyers. The retreat takes place in Winston-Salem on February 28-March 1. Register today.

The retreat is only open to members of the NCAJ Women’s Caucus. Not a member of the NCAJ Women’s Caucus? Good News! The NCAJ Women’s Caucus is open and free to any female attorney member of NCAJ. 2-28-19_WomensCaucusRetreat_Speakers

NCAJ Attorneys Protect Your Rights: Jan 2019 edition

robby jessup  by Robby Jessup

NCAJ attorneys & other NCAJ legal professionals protect the citizens of North Carolina who have been harmed. For a snapshot of their work, read NCAJ’s January 2019 Verdicts, Settlements and Dispositions column, linked below.

Congratulations to all attorneys highlighted in the column:  George V. Laughrun II of Goodman, Carr, Laughrun, Levine & Greene, PLLC in Charlotte and L. Bree Laughrun of Horack, Talley, Pharr & Lowndes, P.A. in Charlotte; Leto Copeley and Drew H. Culler of Copeley Johnson & Groninger, PLLC in Durham, in association with David Stradley of White & Stradley, PLLC in Raleigh;  Kevin M. Duffan and Richard N. Shapiro of Shapiro & Appleton, P.C. in Virginia Beach, in association with Travis E. Collum of Collum & Perry, PLLC in Mooresville, and Patricia P. Shields and Joshua D. Neighbors in Raleigh; Brooke A. Howard of Howard Law, PLLC in Raleigh, in association with Michael J. Byrne of Byrne Law, PC in Raleigh; Thomas L. Odom Jr. of The Odom Firm, PLLC in Charlotte, in  association with W. Winston Briggs of W. Winston Briggs Law Firm in Atlanta; Rachel Alexis Fuerst and Thomas W. Henson Jr. of HensonFuerst, P.A. and C. Boyd Sturges III of Davis, Sturges & Tomlinson, Attorneys at Law.

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Members of NCAJ: Hurricane Victims Need Your Help!

NCAJ members, take note!  The NC Pro Bono Resource Center is looking for attorney, paralegal, and law student volunteers to help with FEMA Appeal and Restoration Clinics.

Clinics will take place on:

  • January 12th – New Bern, NC
  • February 9th – Wilmington, NC
  • February 23rd – Morehead City, NC

Attorney volunteers should sign up here for clinics and to take cases remotely. Training and malpractice insurance are provided.

Paralegals and law student volunteers should sign up here.