Paul E. Smith

Paul Smith


phone (919) 942-5200
(800) 458-2541 (Toll Free)
fax (866) 397-8671
location Chapel Hill Office

Paul primarily represents employees, labor unions, and the victims of police misconduct.  He is also an integral member of Patterson Harkavy’s civil rights and appellate practice.  He is active in the North Carolina Bar Association Labor and Employment Section and the North Carolina Advocates for Justice.

A native of Kinston, North Carolina, Paul graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2007 and from Columbia Law School in 2012, where he was a Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan Fellow and a James Kent Scholar.  While in law school, he worked for the North Carolina ACLU, won Columbia’s internal moot court competition, and acted as a research assistant for Prof. Nathaniel Persily’s work in election law and redistricting.  Before joining Patterson Harkavy he served as a law clerk to the Honorable N. Carlton Tilley in the Middle District of North Carolina.

Read about Paul’s recent activities on our blog.

Areas of Practice:

  • Employment Law
  • Wage & Hour Law
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Civil Rights
  • Labor Law
  • Appellate Advocacy


  • Columbia Law School, 2012
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A., 2007

Notable Cases:

State v. Reed (N.C. 2020).  The North Carolina Supreme Court found a law enforcement officer violated the Fourth Amendment when he continued questioning a driver in his patrol car after issuing the driver a traffic citation.

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.

Edwards v. North Carolina, et al. (Wake Co. Sup. Ct. 2018). The North Carolina General Assembly changed 2018 election rules in a last-minute attempt to manipulate the results of a State Supreme Court election.  A Wake County Superior Court judge enjoined the changes from going into effect, finding they likely violated candidates’ constitutional rights to due process and freedom of association.

State v. Stanley, __ N.C. App. __, 817 S.E.2d 107 (2018).  The North Carolina Court of Appeals vacated criminal convictions after holding that absent unusual circumstances or a warrant, the Fourth Amendment prohibits police officers from conducting “knock and talks” at any door other than a home’s front door.

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.

Randleman v. Johnson (M.D.N.C. 2017).  Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Randleman was terminated after testifying truthfully about alleged racial discrimination in the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department.  A federal First Amendment retaliation suit defeated a motion to dismiss, 162 F.Supp.3d 482, and a motion for summary judgment, resulting in a settlement valued greater than $600,000.

IUOE 465 v. ABM Government Services, 2017 WL 1592516 (E.D.N.C. 2017).  A federal judge entered judgment enforcing an arbitration award reinstating a union steward, notwithstanding the employer’s contention that the federal government was blocking reinstatement.  The steward returned to his job and received more than $150,000 in back pay.

Frails v. Riley (E.D.N.C. 2016).  Raleigh police officers strip searched a passenger following a routine traffic stop in which they claimed they smelled marijuana.  A federal civil rights suit alleged Fourth Amendment violations and racially biased policing, resulting in a settlement of $117,000.