Noell Tin and Sarah Bennett secured not guilty verdicts in Rutherford County on behalf of their client, a former public works director for the Town of Forest City who was charged with 12 felony counts of embezzlement from the town.
Noell Tin, Missy Owen, John Gresham, and Luke Largess were named as 2013 North Carolina Super Lawyers. John Gresham has been named a Super Lawyer every year since 2006. Noell Tin has been named a Super Lawyer every year since 2008. Luke Largess has been named a Super Lawyer since 2011. This year marks the first time that Missy Owen was named a Super Lawyer. Shirley Fulton has been named in previous years (2006, 2008-2009).
Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.
The lists are published in the latest issue of North Carolina Super Lawyers and will be featured in a special section in Charlotte magazine and also in The New York Times (North Carolina distribution).
Casi Clontz’s sentence of life imprisonment, which she received when she was a teenager, was vacated by the Honorable Theodore Royster in Stanly County on December 19, 2012. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Royster ordered from the bench that Casi be immediately released from custody. At the time of her release, Casi had spent 18 years in North Carolina’s Department of Corrections.
Casi was 15-years-old in 1993 when she and her mother were charged with hiring another teenager to kill Casi’s abusive step-father. The State charged both Casi and her mother with First Degree Murder, cut a deal with the shooter, and tried both mom and daughter before a death-qualified jury in Stanly County. Both were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The shooter was released from prison in 2009.
Jake Sussman was appointed by North Carolina’s Indigent Defense Services to investigate whether recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court about sentencing teenagers to life imprisonment provided an avenue for relief for Casi. After extensive investigation and retaining a forensic psychologist and legal expert to support a claim that Casi’s trial lawyer had been ineffective at trial, Sussman filed a Motion for Appropriate Relief in Stanly County that challenged Casi’s conviction and sentence.
Katherine Lewis Parker, former Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC), has joined Tin Fulton Walker & Owen in opening its Wilmington office. Katy’s practice will focus on civil rights matters, with an emphasis on police misconduct cases. The Wilmington office, located at 228 North Front Street, Suite 201, will also focus on criminal defense and employment discrimination cases.
Adam Stein joins the firm’s Chapel Hill office as Of Counsel, where he will primarily focus on medical malpractice and civil rights matters. One of the founding partners of the nationally acclaimed law firm Ferguson Stein Chambers Gresham & Sumter, Adam was a principal architect of that firm’s litigation strategy as it helped define and strengthen civil rights jurisprudence in North Carolina and across the country starting in the late 1960s. Adam has also played a critical role in developing North Carolina’s criminal indigent defense system. In 1980, Adam was appointed by Governor Jim Hunt to establish the Office of Appellate Defender and thereafter served as North Carolina’s first Appellate Defender. Adam was also the first chair of North Carolina’s Indigent Defense Services Commission and was a founding member of the Board of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation.
Noell Tin, John Gresham, and Jake Sussman were listed by Best Lawyers in America for 2013. Noell Tin has been recognized since 2010 by Best Lawyers in Criminal Defense: Non-White-Collar and Criminal Defense: White-Collar. John Gresham has been listed by Best Lawyers in Litigation – First Amendment and Litigation – Labor & Employment every year since 1995. This year marks the first time that Jake Sussman was listed by Best Lawyers in Criminal Defense: White-Collar.
For 30 years, Best Lawyers has come to be regarded by both the legal profession and the public as the definitive guide to legal excellence in the United States. The new 2013 Best Lawyers in America list is based on a rigorous national survey involving more than 4 million detailed evaluations of lawyers by other lawyers.
Over the course of two trials in Mecklenburg County District Court, Jake Sussman secured not guilty verdicts for four defendants arrested in January 2012 following the enforcement of a controversial “anti-camping” ordinance that was passed in response to the Occupy Charlotte movement.
William Simpson brings over 25 years of litigation experience in the areas of medical negligence, criminal defense, and civil and constitutional rights. Prior to joining Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, William was a staff attorney and legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (1986–1993), assistant public defender for the Defender Association of Philadelphia (1993–2000), and partner with Ferguson Stein Chambers Gresham & Sumter (2000–2012). A native of Columbia, North Carolina, William attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for both undergraduate and law school. William received the Norman B. Smith Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina in 1994.
Jake Sussman was featured along with three other attorneys in a front-page article in North Carolina Lawyers Weekly about “the informal band of lawyers who expect to be busy during the DNC.”
Sarah Bennett joins Tin Fulton Walker & Owen after having spent a previous summer clerking for the firm. During law school, Sarah also clerked for the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office and Wake County Public Defender’s Office. Sarah’s practice with the firm will focus on criminal defense in state and federal courts. Raised in North Carolina, Sarah graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law, where she was a staff member of the First Amendment Law Review and Vice President of the American Constitution Society. During law school, Sarah was involved in a number of pro bono projects with North Carolina Prisoners Legal Services, the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, the Election Protection Project, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and UNC’s Pro Bono Divorce Clinic.
Amy Wallas Fox joins the firm’s Charlotte office, where her practice will focus on family building, including surrogacy, adoption and estate planning. Amy handles a variety of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) matters, including representing intended parents, gestational carriers and donors in gestational surrogacy and egg, sperm and embryo donation cases. She also recruits and screens gestational carriers and can help intended parents find appropriate surrogates, medical facilities and agencies. Amy joins the firm after practicing with Claiborne & Surmay, a well-known adoption/ART law firm in Atlanta.
Noell Tin was appointed by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice to be a member of its Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Criminal Justice System Task Force. The group has begun to examine Department of Justice and Department of Corrections data in anticipation of proposing the development of a stand-alone independent Commission involving all stakeholders in the criminal justice system to continue to study disparities and recommend appropriate action.
Mark Kleinschmidt joins the firm’s Chapel Hill office after serving six years as the Executive Director of the Fair Trial Initiative in Durham. At Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, Mark’s practice will primarily focus on criminal defense in both state and federal courts.
While the Executive Director at the Fair Trial Initiative, Mark represented inmates on North Carolina’s death row and recruited and trained young attorneys to become capital trial lawyers. Prior to leading the Fair Trial Initiative, Mark spent six years as a staff attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, where, among other successes, he helped exonerate North Carolina death row inmate Levon “Bo” Jones.
Prior to entering the legal profession, Mark taught high school at West Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, where he was named Teacher of the Year in 1997. Mark also serves as Mayor of Chapel Hill, having been elected in 2009 and re-elected 2011.
Jon Wallas joins Tin Fulton Walker & Owen as Of Counsel in the firm’s Charlote office, where he will handle general civil litigation with a focus on employment and labor matters. Prior to joining the firm, Jon practiced with Ferguson Stein Chambers Gresham & Sumter for nearly four decades, litigating some of the most important civil rights cases across the state and country. Jon has tried numerous employment discrimination cases, and has handled class action lawsuits, death penalty cases, First Amendment matters, medical malpractice actions, bankruptcy litigation, and business and contract disputes. He also previously represented the Resolution Trust Corporation in numerous matters, including professional liability litigation.
Luke Largess successfully represented Jeff Leardini, a former middle school teacher, in a lawsuit against the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Leardini had previously been charged with improperly touching students in 2006 and was terminated by Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Noell Tin represented Leardini on criminal charges and secured acquittals on all charges in Mecklenburg County Superior Court in June 2007.
In a subsequent civil lawsuit, Leardini alleged that the school system violated his right to due process when they terminated him. On February 24, 2012, a Federal District Court jury ruled in Leardini’s favor and awarded him over $1.1 million. Leardini said he never thought about giving up and putting the episode behind him, telling the Charlotte Observer: “My good name is worth it, even if it takes five years to get there.” Largess observed that the jury’s verdict should help “the school system to appreciate the personal pressure that people are under when they’re accused,” stressing that teachers “should be supported and not just treated as the enemy.”
The school system appealed the jury’s verdict and the case was later settled for $680,000.
Noell Tin successfully proved that Kenneth Kagonyera was innocent of a murder for which he had been imprisoned for over a decade. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, which investigates and evaluates post-conviction claims of factual innocence, had recommended a hearing for Kagonyera and his co-defendant Robert Wilcoxson after both men had served close to 11 years for the murder. The matter was tried before a 3-judge-panel in Buncombe County Superior Court in September 2011. Evidence included testimony that DNA evidence, which had been withheld from prior defense counsel, implicated another individual in the murder. The panel also heard testimony that another man had confessed to the murder and that this confession had not been disclosed by the State. On September 22, 2011, the 3-judge-panel found Kagonyera and Wilcoxson, who was represented by Chris Fialko of Rudolf Widenhouse & Fialko, innocent of the murder and ordered that they be set free.
Noell Tin and John Gresham were listed by Best Lawyers in America for 2012. Noell Tin has been recognized since 2010 by Best Lawyers in Criminal Defense: Non-White-Collar and Criminal Defense: White-Collar. John Gresham has been listed by Best Lawyers in Litigation – First Amendment and Litigation – Labor & Employment every year since 1995.
For 30 years, Best Lawyers has come to be regarded by both the legal profession and the public as the definitive guide to legal excellence in the United States.