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YLD Presents “Pathway to the Judiciary”

YLD Presents “Pathway to the Judiciary”

Moderator Caryn McNeill, right, and panelists, from left: Judge Allegra Collins of the N.C. Court of Appeals, former Justice Robert Edmunds of the N.C. Supreme Court, Resident Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway of the 10th Judicial District, Judge Melissa Owens Lassiter of the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, and retired Justice/Judge Robert Hunter of the N.C. Supreme Court and N.C. Court of Appeals.

The Civic Engagement Committee of the NCBA Young Lawyers Division hosted a “Pathway to the Judiciary” panel presentation on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the N.C. Bar Center. (See photos here)

Bryan Norris serves as chair of the YLD Civic Engagement Committee.

The program received financial support from the Allan B. Head Fund for Leadership, Professionalism and Service of the North Carolina Bar Foundation Endowment. 

Caryn McNeill, past president of the NCBA and NCBF, moderated the panel, which included:

Justice Robert H. Edmunds, Jr.,
North Carolina Supreme Court (ret.)
Justice Robert Edmunds currently works as Counsel for the Appellate Group in federal court. Prior to returning to private practice, Justice Edmunds served as an appellate judge for eighteen years, most recently as Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. Justice Edmunds began his legal career as an assistant district attorney in Greensboro, NC. In 1986, he was appointed United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina by President Ronald Reagan and was retained in that role by President George H. W. Bush. Justice Edmunds entered private practice in 1993. In 1998, he was elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and served on that court until his election to the Supreme Court. Subsequent to law school, Justice Edmunds served as a line officer in the United States Navy from 1975 to 1977.

Judge Robert N. Hunter, Jr.,
North Carolina Supreme Court and Court of Appeals (ret.)
Judge Robert N. Hunter, Jr. currently works as Counsel for Higgins Benjamin PLLC in Greensboro, NC, focusing on appeals, civil litigation, mediation, and arbitration. He is a certified superior court mediator. Prior to rejoining Huggins Benjamin, Judge Hunter served for ten years on the North Carolina Supreme Court and the North Carolina Court of Appeals. He has thirty-five years of private practice experience and has previously served as Chairman of the North Carolina Board of Elections and as Public Administrator of Guilford County, among other boards and commissions. He has been an adjunct law professor at Wake Forest, Elon University, and North Carolina Central. Judge Hunter graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1969 and a Juris Doctorate in 1973. Judge Hunter later earned a Master of Laws from Duke University in 2014.

Judge Allegra Collins,
North Carolina Court of Appeals
Judge Allegra Collins received her Juris Doctorate from Campbell University. She is the founder of Allegra Collins Law and a former professor at Campbell Law School. Judge Collins joined the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2019 after her election to the bench through a statewide race in 2018.

Judge Collins is Vice Chair of the NCBA Appellate Practice Section and a member of the Appellate Rules Committee. She is a former law clerk to The Honorable Judge Linda Stephens on the North Carolina Court of Appeals and a former assistant appellate reporter at the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Judge Melissa Owens Lassiter
North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings
Judge Melissa Owens Lassiter graduated from Campbell University School of Law in 1990 after first obtaining her undergraduate degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1987.

Judge Lassiter began serving as an administrative law judge at the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings in January 1998 and has continued to serve in this role for twenty-one years. As an administrative law judge, she presides over a variety of contested cases, including challenges to disciplinary action imposed against state employees, allegations of failure to promote pursuant to the State Personnel Act, challenges to landfill and other environmental permits issued by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, and occupational licensure matters designated to the Office of Administrative Hearings by regulatory boards and commissions seeking to discipline licensees.

Prior to joining the Office of Administrative Hearings, Judge Lassiter was an Assistant Counsel at the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, an Assistant Attorney General, and a law clerk to The Honorable John Webb on the North Carolina Supreme Court. She currently serves as Vice-Chair of the NCBA Administrative Law Section and has routinely taught continuing education courses related to administrative law. Judge Lassiter is an avid UNC fan and lives in Chatham County with her family.

Judge Paul Ridgeway
Resident Superior Court Judge, 10th Judicial District
Since January 2007, Judge Paul Ridgeway has been a Resident Superior Court Judge of the 10th Judicial District in Wake County, NC. As superior court judge, Judge Ridgeway presides over felony criminal trials, civil matters where the amount in controversy exceeds $25,000, and administrative appeals arising from various state agencies. He has presided in courts in over forty counties in North Carolina and has been appointed by the Chief Justice to adjudicated exceptional and complex commercial and constitutional matters throughout the state.

Judge Ridgeway received his bachelor’s degree in 1982 and his Master of Public Administration in 1990 from North Carolina State University. He then attended Campbell University School of Law, where he graduated in 1986 after serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the Campbell Law Review. Following law school, Judge Ridgeway received a fellowship to study the law of the European Community at the University of Amsterdam and was awarded a degree from that institution in 1987. For the next two decades until his election to superior court in 2006, Judge Ridgeway was engaged in private practice, including commercial litigation, commercial transactions, and administrative law matters.

Judge Ridgeway has remained active in the legal profession and community throughout his career. For more than twenty years, he has served as an adjunct professor of law at Campbell University, where he currently teaches Law and Public Policy and International Commercial Litigation. He served as President of the Wake County Bar Association and 10th Judicial District Bar in 2002 and has held various NCBA leadership roles throughout the years. Judge Ridgeway has also served as a board member for several local nonprofit and charitable organizations. He is a past president of the North Carolina State Alumni Association and currently serves on the university’s Board of Visitors and Board of Advisors of the School of Public and International Affairs.