2022 Citizen Lawyer Award Winners Honored

The 2022 recipients of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Citizen Lawyer Award were honored on Friday, June 24, at the 2022 Annual Meeting in Winston-Salem during the Awards Dinner and Presidential Installation. These individuals represent the 16th class of honorees to receive this award.

This year’s recipients are:
Martha Bradley (Law Office of Martha Sharpe Bradley, PLLC, Asheville)
Robert Laney (Retired, North Wilkesboro)
Jocelyn Mallette (McGuireWoods, Raleigh)
Mary Nash Rusher (McGuireWoods, Raleigh)
Deborah Sandlin (Sandlin Family Law Group, Raleigh)
Brad Schulz (Schulz Stephenson Law Firm, Beaufort)
Judge Carrie F. Vickery (N.C. District Court, Winston-Salem)
Cecil Whitley (Whitley, Jordan & Inge, P.A., Salisbury)

Celebrating the Citizen Lawyer Award winners, front from left, are: Martha Bradley, Deborah Sandlin, Brad Schulz, Judge Carrie F. Vickery, and Mary Nash Rusher. Back: NCBA Executive Director Jason Hensley, Robert Laney, Jocelyn Mallette, Cecil Whitley and NCBA President Jon Heyl.

The Citizen Lawyer Award recognizes lawyers who, in addition to their legal work, exemplify the ideals of a citizen lawyer by volunteering their time for worthy community or civic causes to improve the quality of life of those in their local or statewide communities. This award recognizes role models who inspire other lawyers to invest their time and talents in service-oriented activities.

Additional information regarding each recipient, as provided in the event program, reads as follows:

Martha Sharpe Bradley is the founding partner of One Sharpe Lawyer: Law Office of Martha Sharpe Bradley, PLLC, in Waynesville. She handles business and real estate transactions across western North Carolina. She received her juris doctor from the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University in Raleigh and completed a double major in history and anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a previous recipient of the NCBA Young Lawyers Division Robinson O. Everett Professionalism Award (2018) and The Biltmore Beacon’s Asheville Forty Under Forty (2019), and currently serves the N.C. Association of Women Attorneys as secretary of the board of directors and as treasurer of the Judicial Endorsement Committee. Martha has served as president of the Rotary Club of Waynesville Sunrise, as a member of the NCBA Board of Governors, and as a member of the YLD Executive Committee. She has also served on the boards of Haywood Habitat for Humanity, Haywood County Chamber of Commerce, and Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont.

Robert P. (Bob) Laney practiced law in North Wilkesboro for 45 years prior to his retirement in 2021, and now resides in New Bern. Over the course of his career he operated a solo practice and served in the McElwee Firm, maintaining a general practice with a concentration in bankruptcy. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina School of Law. Bob is affectionately known as the “Duke of Merle” and the “Supreme Allied Commander” for his legendary volunteer work coordinating the North Wilkesboro Kiwanis Club’s food concession during MerleFest. MerleFest is a four-day Americana Music festival held annually on the campus of Wilkes Community College that brings approximately 80,000 people to Wilkesboro. His efforts have supported the raising of approximately $2.5 million for Wilkes County charities. Laney has also served as chair of the Brushy Mountain Ruritan Club’s annual Wilkes County Apple Festival. He is a past president of the North Wilkesboro Kiwanis Club and served four terms as president of the Brushy Mountain Ruritan Club.

Jocelyn Mitnaul Mallette is a senior associate in the Raleigh office of McGuireWoods LLP. A graduate of UNC School of Law, Jocelyn is a trial lawyer, handling a broad array of matters including medical malpractice defense, product liability, toxic torts, mass torts, and fire and explosion. As an active member in her community and an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, Jocelyn is a past president of the Capital City Lawyers Association and the former second vice president of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers. She currently serves on the advisory board of the Southeast Raleigh YMCA and as the communications chair of the NCBA Military and Veterans Law Section. She also was appointed to serve on the ABA Task Force on the Changing Legal Profession. Jocelyn volunteers in the community through her membership in the Junior League of Raleigh. As a 10-year Air Force veteran and graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Jocelyn enjoys representing servicemembers in her pro bono practice.

Mary Nash Rusher is the managing partner of the Raleigh office of McGuireWoods LLP. A graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law, she has been practicing public finance law for more than 30 years. She helps local governments, state agencies, nonprofits and affordable housing developers, among others, finance capital improvements, primarily through tax-exempt bonds. She also works with small first-time borrowers and large frequent issuers; for all of them, the end result is that something gets built that is generally for the public good. Mary Nash has been deeply involved with the YMCA of the Triangle for many years, and currently serves on the Finance Committee and chairs the Board of Trustees. She also serves on the NCBA Board of Governors and NCBF Board of Directors, is a member of the WakeMed Health and Hospitals Board of Directors, and is also active at First Baptist Church on Salisbury Street in downtown Raleigh, where she chairs a strategic planning committee focused on the future of her church as part of the downtown community.

Debbie Sandlin practices exclusively family law and appellate law at in Raleigh at Sandlin Family Law Group, where she was the founding partner. Sandlin graduated summa cum laude from the evening program at North Carolina Central University School of Law. She is a board-certified family law specialist and a board-certified appellate law specialist and has been named Super Lawyer and Top 50 women lawyers for several years. She has also been named to Top 100 Lawyers. When not practicing law and actually when practicing law, Sandlin is heavily involved with Pawfect Match Rescue and Rehabilitation, a 501(3)(c) non-profit dog rescue. You’re apt to see one dog or 10 at her office on a daily basis. She is on the board of the rescue, serves as intake manager and coordinator, manages fosters and foster application process, fosters many dogs, transports dogs all over, manages meet and greet events, trains volunteers, interacts with the media, provides legal advice to the rescue, and whatever else is needed. Pawfect Match serves mostly rural areas and high kill shelters, saving hundreds of dogs and ensuring spays and neuters are done each year. Pawfect Match has no facility and is served entirely by dedicated non-paid volunteers.

Bradley N. Schulz is a Martindale-Hubbell AV rated attorney who has been licensed to practice law in North Carolina, New York, and New Jersey since 1985. He currently practices law with his wife, Sundee G. Stephenson, at Schulz Stephenson Law in Beaufort, where he focusses on civil litigation, estate planning and administration, and legal work related to his small business clients. Schulz is the father of two sons, Trey and Blake. Prior to relocating to Beaufort, he practiced for 24 years in a firm led by George B. Mast in Smithfield. Schulz served on the Johnston County Planning Board for 10 years, and has been very involved with Republican politics in Johnston and now Carteret County. He is the present chairman of the board of Crystal Coast Habitat for Humanity, where the organization builds several homes a year in Carteret and Onslow counties for qualifying families including members of the military. Schulz has coached baseball for over 20 years, and has taken three of his summer teams to compete in the state tournament. He is also an avid hunter, dog trainer, and retriever competitor, and has used these venues to encourage the youth of Johnston and Carteret counties to learn firearm safety, and to enjoy the outdoors, including the marshlands of Carteret County. Schulz also has been involved for many years as a mentor for his ballplayers and other youth he has been involved with through the local school system. He has been an active member of the NCBA for 25 years and served on the Board of Governors from 2009-12. Brad is thankful for the encouragement from his parents growing up to give back to the community, and for the support of Sundee and his boys for allowing the time and flexibility to be able to do so. It would not have happened without their support.

Judge Carrie Vickery was elected to serve as a District Court judge in Forsyth County in 2016 and reelected in 2020. Prior to taking the bench, Vickery was in private practice in Winston-Salem, practicing in the areas of criminal defense and family law. She became a State Bar board-certified family law specialist in 2015. Vickery is the president-elect for the Junior League of Winston-Salem and past president and current board member for the Forsyth Humane Society. Vickery is also a past board member of the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem (now Kaleideum), the Liberty Street Community Development Corporation, and Twin City Charter High School. Vickery also served on the Board of Trustees for the UNC School of the Arts, where she attended high school, and as a volunteer for the Triad Golden Retriever Rescue. She is a graduate of Western Carolina University and Elon University School of Law.

Cecil Whitley was born and reared in Union County and lived in a tenant house on a cotton farm. He served in the U.S. Army from 1967 until 1970, where he was a Platoon leader and Company Commander in the 1st Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division. After serving in the military, Whitley went to law school at Wake Forest University. He has had the privilege of practicing law in Salisbury since 1973, and currently serves as senior partner at Whitley, Jordan, Inge & Rary, P.A. The firm principally handles criminal and domestic law. Whitley and his wife, who is a former college coach of 36 years, have a youth program that they have run for 43 years. This tradition of service continues with their daughter and her husband. They have five teams this year – four softball teams for young girls and one baseball team for the young boys. Whitley started the Red Cardinal program at his church, where they hold a Romp in the Park community outreach event each year. He has also been involved in many veterans organizations and activities, including the Rowan County Honor Guard. Whitley helped establish a pro bono program in his law firm for veterans with free legal services for Wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Powers of Attorney and Living Wills.