John Wester Receives State Bar's Distinguished Service Award



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Oct. 31, 2019

John R. Wester received the John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award, the only honor given by the North Carolina State Bar. State Bar Past President Gray Wilson presented the award to Wester at the Mecklenburg County Bar's annual Law & Society Luncheon.

The John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award honors members of the North Carolina State Bar who have demonstrated exemplary service to the legal profession.

Spending his full career at Robinson Bradshaw, Wester tries cases and argues appeals in complex civil litigation, prosecuting and defending cases in state and federal courts, including numerous class actions. Two of Wester's cases have reached 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 for a class of 150,000 disabled North Carolinians in litigation that included five arguments to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and a successful petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court. Near the conclusion of this 20-year litigation, the trial court observed: "Plaintiffs have succeeded in forcing the Social Security Administration to halt application of a secret, unlawful policy to its determination of hundreds of thousands of disability claims in North Carolina and, perhaps, to many hundreds of thousands more outside North Carolina. As a result of this case, plaintiffs have effected fundamental change to a recalcitrant agency which brought all of the power of the federal government to bear on Plaintiffs and their counsel while it resisted Plaintiffs' efforts to enforce the orders of this court each step of the way."

Outside his wheelhouse of business litigation, Wester has brought and defended cases advancing state and federal constitutional issues. He was lead counsel in a suit for Gov. Patrick McCrory and former Govs. James Hunt and James Martin against the state 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. He leads the firm's representation of four former governors, amici curiae, in the partisan gerrymandering litigation now underway.

Throughout his career, Wester has combined courtroom advocacy with service to the legal profession. In 2010, he was president of the North Carolina Bar Association. He was inducted as a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1994 and has served as its state chair for North Carolina. A devoted advocate for an independent judiciary, Wester is now the inaugural chair of the College's national Judicial Independence Committee.

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 note and comment editor of the Duke Law Journal and a member of Order of the Coif. In 2017, Duke Law School recognized Wester with the Charles S. Rhyne Award for Professional Achievement.

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