NOTEWORTHY CASES

2012 |
United States v. R.M.

Matt Pruden represented a client charged in a federal indictment alleging conspiracy to commit fraud and counterfeiting. After negotiations with the government, the client was allowed to enter into a pretrial diversion program and the case was dismissed.

 
2012 |
State v. Clontz

Casi Clontz 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, which included hiring a psychologist and legal expert, Sussman filed a Motion for Appropriate Relief in Stanly County. Following a hearing on December 19, 2012, the Honorable Theodore Royster ordered Casi’s immediate release. At the time of her release, Casi had spent 18 years in North Carolina’s Department of Corrections, almost all of it separated from her mother.

 
2012 |
Leardini v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

Jeff Leardini, a middle school teacher, was charged with improperly touching students. He was terminated by Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools and faced criminal charges. Noell Tin represented Leardini and secured a not guilty verdict on all charges in Mecklenburg County Superior Court in June 2007.

Luke Largess subsequently represented Leardini in a civil action against CMS, alleging that CMS violated his right to due process when they terminated him. On February 24, 2012, a federal 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 case was later settled on appeal for $680,000. P.J. Roth of Asheville was co-counsel.

 
2012 |
Gaddy v. Yelton et al.

Jake Sussman and Luke Largess sued the City of Asheville and four of its police officers after Robert Gaddy was assaulted during a wrongful arrest. Law enforcement alleged that Gaddy resisted and then fought the officers during an encounter. In response, law enforcement used batons and pepper spray while taking Gaddy into custody. After Gaddy was acquitted on all criminal charges in Buncombe County District Court, a federal lawsuit was filed in the Western District of North Carolina. After the officers’ motions for summary judgment failed, the City of Asheville agreed to pay Mr. Gaddy a favorable settlement.

 
2012 |
Hall v. Spence

John Gresham represented a former assistant clerk of court on a First Amendment claim that her termination from employment was motivated by her religious beliefs. Ms. Hall received a $300,000 settlement on the eve of trial.

 
2012 |
ACLU of North Carolina v. Conti

While Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, Katy Parker represented the organization and its individual members in a lawsuit against the State of North Carolina, challenging the State’s new plan to offer a state-sponsored “Choose Life” license plate, without providing a countervailing pro-choice alternative, in contravention of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. Katy won a preliminary injunction in the Eastern District of North Carolina, which was later converted into a permanent injunction, thereby ensuring that the State provide an open forum on a controversial issue, rather than offering only one side of the debate.

 
2012 |
Occupy Charlotte

Jake Sussman provided pro bono representation for individuals arrested by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department in January 2012 following the enforcement of the controversial “anti-camping” ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council in response to the Occupy Charlotte movement. Sussman recruited local law students to help construct legal defenses for each defendant, and ultimately secured four acquittals in two separate trials.

 
2012 |
Gibson v. City of Salisbury

Jake Sussman and Luke Largess represented Felicia Gibson in her lawsuit against the City of Salisbury in the aftermath of two false arrests by the same Salisbury Police officer. Ms. Gibson’s initial arrest, which generated significant media attention, occurred while she was standing on her front stoop and filming a police encounter over 40 feet away. Despite other people standing next to Ms. Gibson, she was the only person arrested — presumably because she was recording the officer. After challenging the officer’s arrest in court, Ms. Gibson was later re-arrested by the same officer for allegedly cursing at him in public (a fact she adamantly denied). All criminal charges were ultimately dismissed and the City of Salisbury paid Ms. Gibson a monetary settlement.

 
2012 |
Estate of Kluttz v. Town of Spencer

Jake Sussman represented the estate of Christopher Kluttz in a wrongful death lawsuit that was litigated in the Middle District of North Carolina. Mr. Kluttz, a former police officer and member of the United States military, was shot and killed in his Spencer, North Carolina home, after a police officer entered his home. The case was successfully resolved following mediation. In addition to a monetary settlement for the Kluttz family, the Town of Spencer agreed to place a plaque in its police department to honor Christopher’s service to the community and his country.