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2014 NCBA Citizen Lawyer Awards Presented

2014 NCBA Citizen Lawyer Awards Presented

The North Carolina Bar Association is pleased to announce the recipients of the NCBA Citizen Lawyer Award for 2014. Nineteen deserving lawyers selected from a statewide slate of nominees have been chosen for this recognition, which took place on Friday morning, June 20, at the NCBA Annual Meeting in Wilmington.

The Citizen Lawyer Award recognizes lawyers who exemplify the ideals of a citizen lawyer: public service in appointed and elected positions, work with non-profit charitable and political organizations, military service and volunteering with youth sports programs and with religious organizations.

The 2014 Citizen Lawyer recipients are:

Brent D. Barringer of Barringer Sasser, LLP, in Cary
Brent Barringer served on the system-wide University of North Carolina Board of Governors from 2003-12 and since 1995 has been a member of the Centennial Authority of the PNC Arena in Raleigh. He is currently serving his second two-year term as vice chair of the Centennial Authority. Barringer is also a former chairman of the Cary Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Public and community service are values that have been instilled in Barringer throughout his life. The most rewarding experience he has undertaken, he will quickly tell you, is that of being a licensed foster parent for the Methodist Home for Children.

Barringer is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina School of Law.

C. Christopher Bean, Chief District Court Judge, Edenton
Judge Christopher Bean has devoted the past 35 years to preserving and promoting the town of Edenton, the former capital of North Carolina and one of its grandest historical treasures. True to that tradition, Bean has chaired the Edenton Historical Commission, served as president of the Edenton Historical Foundation, and has been a member of the Edenton-Chowan Community Foundation. He also serves on the board of the N.C. Museum of History Associates.

Edenton “is a place where history lives,” Bean stated, “and there is great pride in preserving that history and the structures that make it unique and beautiful. As one who also loves history and architecture, my work along with so many others to meet the necessary need to preserve and protect has given me a real sense of personal purpose and satisfaction.”

Bean is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Wake Forest University School of Law.

Charles H. Montgomery, Montgomery Family Law, Cary
Chuck Montgomery has provided invaluable community service that only a lawyer could provide by serving as a volunteer and incorporator for two non-profit organizations. His efforts have enabled the Friends of Page-Walker Hotel and the Cary Senior Center to receive grants and contributions as tax-exempt organizations. Montgomery has also served as vice president of the Cary Chamber of Commerce among his many other civic contributions.

“Successful volunteerism changes practicing law from a job into a rewarding profession,” Montgomery said. “Using skills acquired as a lawyer to achieve worthwhile goals as part of public service and non-profit organizational activities has been personally rewarding for me.”

Montgomery is a graduate of Duke University and the Vanderbilt University School of Law.

Deborah K. Ross, Triangle Transit Authority, Raleigh
Deborah Ross epitomizes the citizen lawyer through her willingness to seek election to public office. From 2003-13, she served in the N.C. House of Representatives where she represented the 34th District. Ross has also provided volunteer leadership to Downtown Raleigh Alliance and the League of Women Voters, while providing pro bono assistance to numerous non-profit organizations.

“I care deeply about our community and have dedicated most of my professional life to public service,” Ross said. “The people I have worked and served with inspire me every day. I enjoy helping people and shaping public policy to benefit future generations.”

Ross is a graduate of Brown University and the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Garland G. Graham, Schell Bray PLLC, Greensboro
For Garland Graham, it’s all about animals … all kinds of animals. She is the founder and president of the Red Dog Farm Animal Rescue Network, a non-profit animal rescue organization open to animals of all sizes, especially domestic farm animals in need. She has also been a board member of the Humane Society of the Piedmont and a volunteer with Triad Golden Retriever Rescue and the North Carolina Equine Rescue League.

“What I had learned in my prior rescue work was that there tend to be great organizations that focus on abused or abandoned dogs and cats, but very few options for someone needing to surrender the family’s horse, pet goats or other farm animals,” Graham said. “Most of the county-run animal shelters are not equipped to house farm animals, and most animal control officers are not trained in how to handle them appropriately.”

Graham is a graduate of the University of Florida and the University of Florida School of Law.

Gemma L. Saluta, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP, Winston-Salem
Before entering law school, Gemma Saluta spent a year with AmeriCorps, where she helped the working poor in Columbus, Ohio. The experience made a profound impression on her, as evidenced by her commitment to volunteerism and pro bono service as an attorney. She has provided volunteer leadership to Family Violence Impact Council of United Way of Forsyth County, HandsOn Northwest North Carolina and the Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem, and pro bono service to the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits and Legal Aid of North Carolina.

“I think that volunteering in your community benefits everyone,” Saluta said. “The recipient of your work obviously benefits. However, the community benefits from having more stable members. The volunteer benefits in a number of ways: honing their craft, expanding their network, meeting a challenge, developing new skills, feeding a passion, filling a gap, and defining what you want to be.”

Saluta is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the North Carolina Central University School of Law.

Sarah Grace Zambon, Henderson County Office of County Attorney, Hendersonville
Sarah Zambon is a young attorney who adopted the ideals of being a citizen lawyer at the very outset of her career. She serves on the Mountain People’s Assembly steering committee, the legal team of Campaign for Southern Equality and the executive board of the Buncombe County Democratic Women. She also serves as voting rights chair for the Asheville-Buncombe League of Women Voters and previously served as treasurer for the Buncombe County Young Democrats.

“I am honored to serve our community and public service is one of the most rewarding facets of my life,” Zambon said. “I am constantly re-energized and inspired by the dedication and passion of other volunteers and community leaders. They motivate me to fight harder for a better world for all families. Community members I have worked with come from all walks of life and represent all sectors of our community. From fellow volunteers, I have learned that everyone has something to give and everyone should give as they are able.”

Zambon is a graduate of the State University of New York Geneseo, Johns Hopkins University, where she earned the Master of Public Policy, and the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Timothy D. Edwards, Blackwell & Edwards, P.A., Fayetteville
Tim Edwards has served several years on the board of the Child Advocacy Center, and currently holds the positions of vice chair and chair of development. He has also served as fundraiser chair for Better Health of Cumberland County and as vice president of the Carolina Civic Center. Edwards served several years as host for the Care Clinic Dinner and is very active with St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“Being a citizen lawyer allows me to take on a different role in the community as opposed to the more adversarial role in my professional life,” Edwards said. “I genuinely feel blessed in my career as a lawyer. Because of how fortunate I have been, I feel led to and truly enjoy working on the non-profit boards that I have chosen. So often people complain about the community where they live and work. I find that those people, quite frequently, have done nothing to invest themselves in their community. They have done nothing to change the problems that they see or to make better the complaints that they have. I see volunteer work as an investment – an investment in my community and an investment in my life.”

Edwards is a graduate of Liberty University and Campbell Law School.

Nancy Borders Paschall, Mullen Holland & Cooper, P.A., Gastonia
If there’s a group doing good work for the community in Gastonia or Gaston County, there’s a good chance Nancy Paschall has helped it. She has served on the board of directors of the Gastonia Police Foundation, chaired the Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce, Gaston County United Way and the Gaston County Chapter of the American Red Cross, and served as president of the Gastonia Civitan Club. Paschall currently serves on the board of directors of the Catawba Lands Conservancy, Covenant Village, Inc. and Carolina Trust Bank.

“It never fails that I benefit more from being involved with an organization than the time, effort or support that I give to that organization,” Paschall said. “Involvement in a myriad of organizations has introduced me to new friends, afforded me different opportunities for personal growth, and instilled in me a deep appreciation for my numerous blessings. These diverse experiences have splashed my life with color, given texture to my experiences, and pieced together many friends to create my beautiful quilt of life both professionally and personally.”

Paschall is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the Wake Forest University School of Law.

Michael F. Royster, Royster & Royster, Pilot Mountain
Mike Royster divides his citizen lawyer service between leadership roles that help the community at large and coaching roles that serve youth in particular. At the end of the day, it all helps make his community a better place to live and work. He has served 22 years of the Surry Community College Board of Trustees, including four years as vice chair and chair, and chaired the Pilot Mountain Foundation. He’s been a head coach for 13 years for the Pilot Mountain Little League and the Pilot Mountain Recreational Basketball League, and has played Santa Claus at two local elementary schools for 20 years.

“I feel the good Lord blessed me with certain talents, and that it was my duty as a lawyer to help my fellow citizens in the community,” Royster said. “When a 15-year-old high school student looks you in the eye with tears streaming down her face and tells you, ‘You have changed my life,’ it makes it all worthwhile.”

Royster is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the Cumberland School of Law.

Michael G. Winters, Ellis & Winters LLP, Raleigh
Mike Winters traces his fundraising and support for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and Pretty In Pink to the loss of their 30-year-old daughter to breast cancer five years ago. Winters and his firm have since become a vital and visible component of the annual Komen event, which raises thousands of dollars annually for breast cancer research and awareness for a disease that touches one of every nine women.

“It is my belief that as lawyers, we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to serve and contribute our time, energy and resources to the community in which we live,” Winters said. “At times, there are returns on our investment and to community, although the benefit is almost always intangible. In every case, the benefit exceeds expectations because service in the community should never be provided with an expectation of rewards.”

Winters is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Marshall B. Pitts Jr., Marshall B. Pitts Jr., P.C., Fayetteville
Marshall Pitts served two terms as the mayor of Fayetteville and was the first African-American to hold that position. He has also served on the system-wide University of North Carolina Board of Governors, where he chaired the Education, Planning and Policy Committee, and the board of ElectriCities of N.C. He hosts an informative talk show in southeastern N.C. called “MP3 Brothers” and frequently visits local schools to inspire young people.

“From the local and state level,” Pitts said, “my activities as a citizen lawyer have provided me with a myriad of opportunities to positively impact the lives of others from individuals to large groups, and both my life and my practice have been truly enriched as a result.”

Pitts is a graduate of Appalachian State University and the North Carolina Central University School of Law.

Julian H. Wright Jr., Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, P.A., Charlotte
Since 1999, Julian Wright has provided volunteer leadership to Freedom School Partners, Inc., serving as chair, vice chair, board member and co-chair of the Strategic Advisory Board. He also serves as chair of the Camp Grier Board of Directors and GenerationNation, Inc., and previously chaired the Equity Committee of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

“I mostly became a lawyer because the job requirements match up with my passions, skills, and interests,” Wright said. “I like figuring out problems, solving them, and helping people achieve some justice in the process. Being a Citizen Lawyer lets me try and do those things for even more people and to do them in ways to help more than one client at a time. Being a Citizen Lawyer enables me to use the skills – sometimes meager though they seem – with which my Creator has blessed me to benefit a little more of Creation as a whole. That service ultimately benefits me by hopefully letting me be more of what I am supposed to be – that Creator’s servant – in the first place.”     

Wright is a graduate of Davidson College and the Vanderbilt University School of Law, and holds a Master of Divinity from the Vanderbilt Divinity School.

Kathryn A. Deiter-Maradei, Deiter Mediation, Raleigh
Kate Deiter-Maradei is devoted to volunteering in the community and spending time with her children, intentionally overlapping those two objectives whenever possible. For her children’s birthdays, instead of traditional gifts, they choose an organization and collect donations. Deiter-Maradei serves as a fundraiser for Friends of Hope Elementary Charter School and The Salvation Army, volunteers with Food Bank of Central and Eastern N.C., and is a board member for the North Carolina Council for Women and the Wake County Commission for Women.

“Giving back to the community through volunteer and pro bono work is something that is very important to me,” Deiter-Maradei said. “My parents raised my brother and me to be appreciative, grateful and to truly enjoy helping others. My dad passed away 10 years ago. We had a very close relationship and he was one of the most compassionate and authentically generous people I have ever known. I strive to honor his memory by living up to his example to the extent that it is possible.”

Deiter-Maradei  is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Joseph P. McGuire, McGuire, Wood & Bissette, P.A., Asheville
Joe McGuire’s plate is never too full to take on one more worthy cause. At present he provides board leadership to Leadership Asheville, Leadership Asheville Forum, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County, Central United Methodist Church, Brevard College and the Pen and Plate Club. He previously served as chair or president of the Brevard College Board of Trustees, WNC Conference of the

United Methodist Church Board of Trustees, the Center for Diversity Education at UNC-Asheville, Leadership Asheville Forum, the Asheville-Buncombe Library System and Asheville-Buncombe Vision Community Dialogues.

“The benefits from volunteering are immense and varied,” McGuire said. “There is the satisfaction of making a difference and making your community a better place to live and work. I’ve met some fine folks from other walks of life whom I otherwise would not have come across in my law practice. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about group dynamics, collaboration, strategic planning and building consensus. And I’ve learned great respect for those who contribute and accomplish more than I ever could without the education and privileged life I’ve been given.”

McGuire is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard Law School.

George V. Hanna III, Moore & Van Allen PLLC, Charlotte
George Hanna has provided exemplary volunteer leadership and service to the citizens of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, including members of the legal community. He served as president of the Mecklenburg County Bar and the Mecklenburg County Bar Foundation, and as chair of Legal Services of Southern Piedmont. Hanna has also been a volunteer leader for YMCA of Greater Charlotte and chair of the Mecklenburg County Bar Diversity Committee.

“The main thrust of my recent activities has been in the areas of pro bono and diversity and inclusion,” Hanna said. “These activities have allowed me to become a more caring, engaged lawyer and a more fulfilled citizen. I have met many people whom I otherwise would never have met and many have become friends that I otherwise would never have had. It has truly enriched my life.”

Hanna is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina School of Law.

John W. Lassiter, Carolina Legal Staffing LLC, Charlotte
John Lassiter is the consummate citizen lawyer. He has served on the Charlotte City Council and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. He has served as president of the Mecklenburg County Bar and the Children’s Law Center. Lassiter presently serves as chair of the N.C. Economic Development Board.

“As members of the legal profession, we have an obligation to engage in addressing the pressing issues of the community around us and in many cases provide critical leadership,” Lassiter said. “Our training and experience are valuable in analyzing complex issues as well as managing sensitive matters. Lawyers are uniquely qualified to serve and in my mind, are expected to provide thoughtful leadership and direction. The reward of service is easily seen in the improvements you help make in the world around you.”

Lassiter is a graduate of Wake Forest University, Wake Forest University School of Law, and holds a Master of Public Administration from North Carolina State University.

Heather R. Klein, The Law Office of Heather R. Klein, Sparta
Heather Klein has been involved in community service since law school, where she was a member of Pi Alpha Delta legal fraternity. After moving to Alleghany County in 2000, she immediately got involved in community activities and hasn’t slowed down since. Klein is president-elect of the Alleghany County Rotary Club and has served as chair of the Alleghany Wellness Center, Inc. She has served on the Alleghany County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors since 2009 and currently holds the position of secretary. In addition, she is a Big Sister with Alleghany Connections and former vice president of the Alleghany Community Theatre.

“Sometimes I have board meetings three or four days out of the week each month and committee meetings that all take me away from my office and home life,” Klein said. “But, the rewards of being so involved have far outweighed the time I have to put into each community activity. Having a service heart is a big part of my life and the continued activity in my community will bring great satisfaction over the years to come.”

Klein is a graduate of Nova Southeastern University and the Nova Southeastern University School of Law.

Georgiana L. Yonuschot, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP, Winston-Salem
Georgiana Yonuschot was a Child Protective Services Social Worker before attending law school, and has carried through with extensive community service since entering the practice of law. She serves on the board of The Enrichment Center, the City of Winston-Salem Police Review Board, the YMCA of Forsyth County Youth Intervention Services Advisory Committee and the Exchange SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) Board. Yonuschot also volunteers with N.C. Prison Legal Services.

“There are many good reasons to do pro bono work and community service,” Yonuschot said. “The first and perhaps most obvious reason is that it’s the right thing to do. Lawyers are lucky, gifted, fortunate, and uniquely equipped to help meet the tremendous need for legal services especially in a state like North Carolina where nearly 30 percent of our population lives at or below the poverty line. I hope that being a recipient of this award, I can encourage my peers to become more involved and help their own communities.”

Yonuschot is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, and holds a Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.