Huffstetler Receives Administrative Award for Excellence

Noah H. Huffstetler III of Nelson Mullins in Raleigh received the NCBA Administrative Law Section’s 2024 Administrative Law Award for Excellence on Thursday, March 21, at the N.C. Bar Center.

Section Chair Fred Marino presented the award, which honors an outstanding section attorney as an exemplar of excellence and dedication and for their passion for administrative and/or regulatory law.

Huffstetler has practiced in Raleigh throughout his career, beginning in 1976 when he joined a small firm that merged into Moore & Van Allen. He joined Kilpatrick Stockton (now Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton) in 1990 and in 2003 opened the Raleigh office of Nelson Mullins.

Huffstetler is a partner in the firm and practices in the areas of healthcare law and administrative law as well as business and appellate litigation. The overlap between the healthcare and administrative practices carries over into his involvement with the NCBA, where Huffstetler was the founding chair of the Health Law Section (1984-85) and previous recipient of that section’s Distinguished Service Award (2013).

Noah, a white man with light brown hair, wears a white shirt, blue and white-striped tie, and dark grey suit. He holds a small blue award and stands with Fred Moreno, a man with brown hair and a beard, a white shirt, a pale blue and dark blue-striped tie and a black suit.

Noah Huffstetler, left, accepts award from Fred Marino.

“The healthcare industry, as you might expect, is one of the most heavily regulated in America, and understandably so,” Huffstetler said. “I have for many years represented facilities that want to develop new medical care facilities in the state and who are being prevented from doing so by either existing hospitals or entities and their desire to keep out competition, or the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, which is the need agency in North Carolina.

“I probably have several dozen reported appellate decisions where I was representing someone trying to get a certificate of need. Currently, and it’s not atypical of what I do, I am representing UNC Health, which wants to build a new hospital in Research Triangle Park, and Chesapeake Regional Medical Center out of Virginia, which is trying to move into some areas of northeastern North Carolina that are medically underserved.”

Huffstetler is a 1973 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa inductee, and a 1976 graduate of UNC School of Law, where he served on the North Carolina Law Review. He grew up in Gaston County, between the towns of Belmont and Mount Holly, where childhood experiences shaped his desire to become a lawyer.

“When I was very small, my family moved in with my grandmother after my grandfather passed away,” Huffstetler said. “I know how things always seemed better in ‘the good old days,’ but she had an almost idyllic place for kids to grow up. We were in the country, and had animals and a stream and a pond and everything, and when I was still young, the DOT exercised its power of eminent domain and took away most of the property for what became N.C. 273, a multilane divided highway.

“As a young boy, I just could not understand how the government could do that. I think I have always had kind of a libertarian streak there, and I’ve always been litigating against people or government agencies that were trying to keep people from exercising their personal and business freedoms. That’s been a big part of my practice.”

In more recent years, Huffstetler continued, his work has involved separation of powers issues between the state’s executive and legislative branches, in which he has represented the interests of President Pro Tem of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.

“I’ve probably done maybe a dozen cases over the last 10 years,” Huffstetler said. “It’s been a great experience, and I’ve had a chance to deal with some issues involving constitutional history in North Carolina – how we got to where we are today – and I even got the chance to cite the Federalist Papers a few years ago for the first time in my career. I’ve always wanted to do that!”

The work of the NCBA, he added, is more important than ever in today’s polarized and politicized environment.

“I’ve always been a real proponent of the bar association going back to the days of Allan Head,” Huffstetler said in regard to the NCBA’s late executive director, “and the work that it does and the work that the section does. And I would have to be the first to say, in accepting this award, I’m doing it on behalf of a lot of other people who have worked with me over the years.

“I’ve been blessed to practice with three very fine North Carolina law firms, and I have been blessed with some outstanding younger lawyers. I still am, one of which, Nate Pencook, was at the ceremony and another of which, Candace Friel of Winston-Salem, nominated me for this award.”

The Administrative Law Award for Excellence is designed to honor an attorney who:

  • has practiced administrative or regulatory law for at least ten years and who has continuous experience in this practice;
  • is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association and the Administrative Law Section;
  • has an exemplary record and reputation in the legal community and follows the highest ethical standards; and
  • has an exemplary record of active participation in the efforts to improve the administrative and regulatory process for regulators, the regulated public, the citizens of North Carolina and in the interests of justice.

Previous recipients of the award are:

2017 – Judge Fred Morrison
2018 – Jack Nichols
2019 – John N. (Nick) Fountain
2020 – Daniel F. McLawhorn
2022 – Judge Julian Mann
2023 – Ann Wall

Russell Rawlings is director of external affairs and communications for the North Carolina Bar Association.