NOTEWORTHY CASES | s luke largess

2018 |
Tully v. City of Wilmington

In March 2018, S. Luke Largess and Cheyenne N. Chambers obtained a significant victory before the Supreme Court of North Carolina on behalf of Kevin Tully, a Wilmington police officer. The landmark case created a new cause of action for government employees under Article I, Section 1 of the North Carolina Constitution. A copy of the Court’s opinion can be accessed here.

In December 2014, represented by former Tin Fulton attorney, Katy Parker, Mr. Tully sued the City, asserting that he was never given the opportunity to grieve his denial of a promotion—a violation of his state constitutional right to “the enjoyment of the fruits of [his] own labor.”

 
2015 |
Kagonyera v. Buncombe County

Following the exoneration of Kenneth Kagonyera by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the law firm filed suit against Buncombe County and various current and former members of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office for their respective roles in the wrongful prosecution of Mr. Kagonyera. The lawsuit was ultimately resolved when the civil defendants agreed to pay Mr. Kagonyera $515,000. Click here for coverage of the civil lawsuit.

 
2014 |
General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Reisinger

In a landmark civil rights ruling, U.S. District Judge Max G. Cogburn, Jr. ruled in favor of Tin Fulton Walker & Owen and co-counsel at Arnold & Porter and struck down Amendment One, the ban against same-sex marriage in North Carolina. Judge Cogburn ruled that North Carolina’s ban on marriage equality violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Cogburn’s order was entered at 5:30 p.m. on October 10, 2014. In Raleigh, the Wake County Register of Deeds issued her first same-sex marriage license at 5:44 p.m. and a ceremony quickly followed.

Click here to read Judge Cogburn’s order.

See below for media coverage of this historic ruling:

The Charlotte Observer, Oct. 10, 2014
Federal Judge Overturns North Carolina Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The News & Observer, Oct. 10, 2014
Gay Marriage Now Legal in North Carolina

The Charlotte Observer, Oct. 11, 2014
Charlotte Attorney For Same-Sex Couples Celebrates Anniversary — And Legal Win

 
2013 |
Barber v. City of Charlotte

After Clarence Barber complained about being wrongfully arrested for carrying a concealed weapon — his lawfully owned gun was in plain view when he was approached by law enforcement — his criminal charge was increased to a felony. Luke Largess successfully litigated a federal lawsuit on Mr. Barber’s behalf in which he alleged federal constitutional claims under the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as state tort claims of false arrest, malicious prosecution, and obstruction of justice. The matter was resolved with a pretrial settlement of $99,000.

 
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 |
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.

 
2009 |
Jones v. Graham County Board of Education

In 2009, Luke Largess represented employees of the Graham County Board of Education in a challenge to the Board’s policy mandating the random, suspicionless drug and alcohol testing of all Board employees. The Court of Appeals held that the policy violated the North Carolina Constitution’s guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures.

 
2007 |
State v. Leardini

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 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.”

 
2007 |
Ervin v. North Carolina Department of Revenue

Luke Largess and Jake Sussman represented a client in the Western District of North Carolina in a civil action alleging that the city police and N.C. Department of Revenue violated the client’s rights during and following a drug arrest, which included a civil seizure of the client’s property.

 
2005 |
Brown v. Hillcrest Foods

In 2005, Luke Largess secured a substantial jury verdict in federal court for a client following his employer’s unlawful retaliation. A federal jury awarded Mr. Brown $420,000 after it found that his employer unlawfully retaliated against him for filing a discrimination claim. The case was ultimately settled confidentially before the court’s ruling on attorneys’ fees.

 
2005 |
Lytle v. Town of Bolton

Luke Largess and Jake Sussman represented a husband and wife in the Eastern District of North Carolina in a civil action alleging that a local Chief of Police assaulted and unlawfully arrested them after the couple sought to file a complaint against the Chief. The case was successfully resolved through a confidential settlement.

 
2001 |
Craig v. Asheville City Board of Education

Luke Largess prevailed in the North Carolina Court of Appeals after the court held that probationary teachers have a right to trial over the non-renewal of their contracts.

 
1999 |
Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

Luke Largess, along with James Ferguson and others at Ferguson Stein Chambers Gresham & Sumter, represented the class of black families in the 1999 trial and later appeals in the historic Charlotte school desegregation case, originally known as Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, and later as Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.

The original Swann case, which was filed in 1965 in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, North Carolina, led to the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1971 that extensive busing was an acceptable means for desegregating Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. That ruling paved the way for busing in school districts across the nation where it was deemed necessary to bring about an end to segregated educational systems.

Sparked by a lawsuit filed in 1997 by a white parent, William Capacchione, who challenged the school board’s use of racial quotas to draw more African American students to magnet schools, a group of black families moved to reactivate the Swann case in what became known as Belk v Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. Mr. Capacchione and another group of white families intervened and the cases were consolidated.

The case was tried for two-months in federal district court before Judge Robert Potter in 1999. The case was then appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. After a hearing before an en banc panel, the 4th Circuit ruled that Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools had achieved unitary status in that prior vestiges of racial discrimination had been eliminated to the extent practicable; that the school board acted in good faith in implementing quotas to achieve racial balance in magnet schools; that the white parent-intervenors were not entitled to attorney fees; and that the injunction to eliminate the use of racial quotas was lifted against the school board, as there was no showing that the school board would not comply with a race neutral system in the future.