John Wester Receives Highest Litigation Honor from North Carolina Bar Association



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May 19, 2021

Robinson Bradshaw’s John R. Wester has received the Advocate’s Award, the highest honor given by the North Carolina Bar Association’s Litigation Section. Wester is only the 13th recipient of the award, which is presented as merited, rather than annually.

The Advocate’s Award honors litigators who have high ethical standards, possess great skill and ability, demonstrate commitment to the highest level of service and to their clients, and exhibit respect of and love for the law. Recipients are also chosen for their pro bono and community service and for maintaining the balance of a robust professional and personal life.

“I accept this honor on behalf of my law firm, the finest professional blessing I could have hoped for,” Wester said.

Having spent his entire career at Robinson Bradshaw, Wester has concentrated in business litigation, including cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He argued for Ford Motor Company in a case establishing back pay rules for discrimination cases. In Hyatt v. Shalala, Wester was lead counsel in nearly 20 years of pro bono litigation that included five arguments to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and a successful petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court. As a result, the class of approximately 150,000 North Carolinians won new disability hearings under new standards, and the Social Security Administration revised a national regulation on disability.

Outside his wheelhouse of business litigation, Wester has brought and defended cases advancing state and federal constitutional issues. He was lead counsel for then-Gov. Patrick McCrory and former Govs. James Hunt and James Martin in a suit against the General Assembly. In 2016, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled for the governors, striking down a series of laws as unconstitutional for violating separation of powers. In 2018, Wester was lead counsel for Gov. Roy Cooper in a challenge to the General Assembly's proposed constitutional amendments that would have removed the governor's authority to fill judicial vacancies.

Wester has decades of leadership service, both within the legal sphere and the broader community. He served as president of the North Carolina Bar Association and as North Carolina chair of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Wester chairs the College’s inaugural General Committee for Judicial Independence. He was chair of the NCBA’s Appellate Rules Committee and served on the North Carolina Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism and the Chief Justice’s Commission on the North Carolina Business Court.

Community organizations with which Wester has a history of service include Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy (formerly Legal Services of Southern Piedmont), Higher Education Works Foundation, the Lynnwood Foundation and the North Carolina Museum of History. He also served as chair of the Arts & Science Council.

Wester attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar before earning his law degree with high honors from Duke University, where he was an editor of the Duke Law Journal and inducted into the Order of the Coif. In 2017, Duke Law School recognized Wester with the Charles S. Rhyne Award for Professional Achievement. In 2019, he received the John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award, the only honor given by the North Carolina State Bar.

Wester is the second Robinson Bradshaw attorney to win the Advocate’s Award, joining fellow litigator A. Ward McKeithen who received the honor in 2013.

The NCBA's feature about Wester's award is available here.

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