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Burton received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1971 and a Masters in Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina in 1974. After working as an administrator and consultant for rural health clinics in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, he received his law degree, with high honors, from UNC in 1980.
Before entering private practice in Raleigh in 1984, Burton was a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He has served as President of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, President of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, Chair of the ACLU-NC Legal Committee, Treasurer of Legal Aid of North Carolina, Co-Chair of the Civil Procedure Study Commission, and Vice-Chair of the Indigent Defense Services Commission.
In addition to his professional work, Burton has served as Chair of the board of the Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood and as a volunteer tutor/mentor for elementary school students through Wake County Communities in Schools.
Burton has received the Walter Clark Award from the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, the Thurgood Marshall Award from the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and the W.W. Finlator Award from the Wake County Chapter of the ACLU of North Carolina. He was selected as a member of Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite in the area of Litigation, is listed in The Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Labor and Employment and Personal Injury, and in Super Lawyers in the area of Appellate Practice. His practice includes civil rights and appellate advocacy.
Read about Burton’s recent activities on our blog.
Areas of Practice:
- Civil Rights
- Appellate Advocacy
- University of North Carolina School of Law, J.D. with High Honors, 1980
- University of North Carolina, Masters in Public Health, 1974
- Harvard University, B.A., 1971
Julian Betton v. City of Myrtle Beach, et al. (D.S.C. 2020) Officers of the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) in Myrtle Beach shot Julian Betton nine times after they broke into his home while executing a search warrant, leaving Betton permanently paralyzed. In February 2020, after four and a half years of litigation, Betton settled his claims for a total of $11.25 million.
Sons of Confederate Veterans v. University of North Carolina (Orange County Superior Court 2020). Patterson Harkavy represented 88 prominent UNC alumni who, as friends of the court, opposed the University’s payment of $2.5 million to the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) to settle a lawsuit about the disposition of the statue known as Silent Sam. In an amicus brief and at a hearing, the alumni argued that the trial court should not have approved the Consent Judgment because SCV had no standing to bring suit. The court vacated the Consent Judgment and dismissed the lawsuit.
Willie Grimes v. City of Hickory (W.D.N.C. 2016; NC Court of Appeals 2018). Willie Grimes was wrongfully convicted of rape and imprisoned for 24 years. Civil rights suit in federal court and insurance coverage litigation in state court, 814 S.E.2d 625, resulted in total settlement of $5,400,000.
Joseph Sledge v. Philip Little, et al. (E.D.N.C. 2017). Civil rights suit by Joseph Sledge, who served 37 years in prison for two murders he did not commit. Following $4,000,000 settlement with Bladen County Sheriff’s Office in 2017, Sledge continues to pursue state tort claims against SBI and Columbus County Clerk of Court for their delay in producing evidence that exonerated him.
Dwayne Dail v. City of Goldsboro (E.D.N.C. 2013). Civil rights suit by Dwayne Dail, who served 18 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. Goldsboro Police Department misplaced the DNA evidence that eventually exonerated Dail. $7,520,000 settlement.
Greg Taylor v. Duane Deaver, et al., (E.D.N.C. 2013). Federal civil rights suit against SBI agents by Greg Taylor, who was wrongfully convicted of murder and served 17 years in prison. $4,625,000 settlement.
In Re Tracey Cline (2013 N.C. App. LEXIS 1018). Appointed as independent appellate counsel to defend judge’s order removing District Attorney from office for misconduct. Court of Appeals upheld removal order.
Craig v. New Hanover Board of Education, 678 S.E.2d 351 (N.C. 2009). Reversing the Court of Appeals, N.C. Supreme Court unanimously held that a citizen may bring a claim under the State Constitution if other potential claims are barred by sovereign immunity.
Conaway v. Polk, 453 F.3d 567 (4th Cir. 2006); 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 87702 (M.D.N.C. 2008). Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals granted prisoner’s writ of habeas corpus. On remand, federal district court found juror bias and ordered new trial.
Faulkner v. North Carolina Medical Board (Wake County Superior Court, 2007). Doctor and patients challenged constitutionality of state law giving N.C. Medical Society power to appoint all physician members of N.C. Medical Board. In response to lawsuit, legislature enacted statute providing for broader representation on the Medical Board. N.C.G.S. § 90-3.
Faulkner v. Health Management Associates (Franklin County Superior Court, 2005). Patient was severely burned in operating room fire in North Carolina hospital owned by a national hospital chain. Case settled after plaintiffs presented evidence supporting claim for punitive damages.
Mercer v. Duke University, 190 F.3d 643 (4th Cir. 1999); 181 F.Supp.2d 525 (M.D.N.C. 2001); 401 F.3d 199 (4th Cir. 2005). Female placekicker was excluded from Duke football team because of her sex. Suit under Title IX resulted in victories at trial and in Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Robinson v. Department of Correction (N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, 1998). State employee was sexually harassed by her supervisor. In response to her case, legislature enacted law giving state employees the right to bring claims of harassment based on sex and race under State Personnel Act. N.C.G.S. § 126-34.1(a)(10).
State v. Gregory, 467 S.E.2d 28 (N.C. 1996). Capital appeal. N.C. Supreme Court found plain error in jury selection and ordered new trial.
Doe v. American National Red Cross, 798 F.Supp. 301 (E.D.N.C. 1992). Husband and wife contracted AIDS as a result of husband’s receipt of HIV-infected blood transfusion. After discovery revealed flawed screening of blood donors, plaintiffs defeated motion for summary judgment, and case settled on eve of trial.
Steele v. Anson County Hospital (W.D.N.C. 1990). Pregnant woman died after she was refused treatment at emergency department of rural hospital. First successful suit in North Carolina under Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.
Sargent v. Murray Savings Association (Wake County Superior Court 1988). Represented five victims of sexual harassment in claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Jury awarded $3,250,000 in punitive damages. Verdict induced employers in North Carolina to implement more effective procedures to prevent sexual harassment.
U.S. v. Rhode Island Dept. of Employment Security, 619 F.Supp. 509 (D.R.I. 1985). Lead government attorney in successful suit on behalf of approximately 9,000 women who were denied temporary disability insurance benefits, in violation of Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Bazemore v. Friday, 751 F.2d 662 (4th Cir. 1984). Represented U.S. at trial and on appeal in suit against N.C. Agricultural Extension Service, asserting claims of employment discrimination on behalf of black extension agents. In a unanimous decision, 478 U.S. 385 (1986), United States Supreme Court ruled in plaintiffs’ favor and established standards for statistical proof in wage discrimination cases.