The Patterson Harkavy Legacy

Patterson Harkavy has been representing the rights of workers, victims of police misconduct, and the wrongfully convicted for over 50 years. Our legacy includes some of the biggest awards and important appeals decisions in state history.

1970s: Leading the Charge in Union Organizing Campaigns

Our firm’s attorneys were at the core of the 1970s North Carolina labor movement. We represented clients in numerous cases against J.P. Stevens during the most vigorous organizing effort ever seen in the South. This Halifax County union campaign ultimately inspired the 1979 feature film Norma Rae.

1988: Standing Up for Sexual Harassment Victims’ Emotional Distress

Attorney Burton Craige secured $3,250,000 in punitive damages on behalf of five victims of sexual harassment in their claims of intentional inflection of emotional distress. The large jury verdict persuaded employers across North Carolina to implement more effective procedures to prevent sexual harassment.

1993: Securing Workers’ Rights to Lifetime Workers’ Compensation Benefits

In Hyler v. GTE Prod. Co., 333 N.C. 258, 259, 425 S.E.2d 698, 699 (1993), we secured a ruling from the North Carolina Supreme Court that established injured workers’ right to lifetime medical expenses. This precedent-setting case opened the door for Hyler claims by permanently injured workers across the state.

2006: Defeating a Defendant’s Death Sentence Based to Juror Bias

In Conaway v. Polk, 453 F.3d 567 (4th Cir. 2006), we represented a criminal defendant facing a death sentence in his petition for habeas corpus. After the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, we appealed the matter before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fourth Circuit ordered the district court to hold a hearing over claims of juror bias, ultimately resulting in a new trial.

2016: Protecting Teachers’ Tenure with the National Education Association

In North Carolina Association of Educators v. North Carolina, 368 N.C. 777, 786 S.E.2d 255 (2016), we represented public school teachers across North Carolina after the General Assembly attempted to eliminate teacher tenure in violation of the North Carolina and the United States Constitutions. The North Carolina Supreme Court found that the General Assembly’s action violated the teachers’ rights and reinstated tenure for those who lost it.

2018: Defending Voting Rights in North Carolina Elections

In Edwards v Board of Elections, we obtained an injunction stopping the North Carolina General Assembly’s last-minute attempt to retroactively change the 2018 election rules to manipulate the outcome of a State Supreme Court election. A Wake County Superior Court judge stopped the changes from going into effect because they violated candidates’ constitutional rights to due process and freedom of association.

2020: Protecting Residents’ Rights in Federal Police Shooting Settlement

In Betton v Myrtle Beach, we obtained an $11.25 million settlement for a man paralyzed in a police shooting after the officers failed to knock and announce themselves in a raid on his home. We used home security footage and forensic analysis to show the police officers lied about what happened leading up to the raid, demonstrating a pattern of constitutional rights violations by the city’s Drug Enforcement Unit. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the officer’s use of qualified immunity in Betton v Myrtle Beach, 942 F.3d 184 (4th Cir. 2019).

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