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Civil Litigation

Civil litigation involves disputes between individuals, businesses, and other organizations. It’s a broad branch of the law that covers several avenues and typically includes any issue that is not criminal in nature. The experienced NC lawyers at HSC practice in state and federal courts in a broad range of construction-related disputes, contract disputes of all types, business disputes, non-compete agreement disputes, creditors’ rights in bankruptcy and secured transaction cases and can help you achieve the best outcome for your case.

District and Superior Courts

State and federal trial courts comprise the forum where most civil legal disputes are addressed and resolved. Whether the issue relates to a contract dispute, tort claim (e.g., trespass, conversion, etc.), fraudulent transfer scheme, or construction project gone awry, the experienced HSC lawyers take pride in zealously protecting your legal rights.

HSC’s lawyers practice in the courts of all 100 counties, and all three federal districts, in North Carolina. We file pleadings, argue motions, conduct depositions, tender written discovery, attend mediated settlement conference, draft legal memoranda and briefs, litigate matters at trial, and execute on a judgment. We provide counsel throughout the process equally zealously working to resolve matters so that you may put the dispute behind you.

The U.S. civil legal system is complex. In state court, there are trial and appellate courts. Trial courts hear civil cases such as divorces and contract disputes, while appellate courts hear appeals from district and superior courts. In federal court, there are federal trial courts, appellate courts, and the Supreme Court.

Our lawyers practice in trial court divisions, including small claims court, district court, and superior court. We also practice before the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the North Carolina Supreme Court.

We file pleadings, argue motions, conduct depositions, tender written discovery, attend mediated settlement conferences, draft legal memorandums, litigate matters at trial and execute upon judgments. We strongly pursue settlement of civil disputes so you may enjoy the benefits of placing the dispute behind you.

Appellate Practice

The two appellate courts in North Carolina exist to review the rulings and processes of the trial courts and render decisions as to whether the trial courts correctly resolved a dispute, or whether errors occurred requiring remedial action by the trial court. The appellate courts do not “decide” the outcome of a matter except in rare matters addressing constitutional issues of state law. The lawyers at Hannah Sheridan and Cochran, LLP handle appeals for cases our firm handled at the trial court level and for clients seeking new counsel for an appeal. This work requires precision, and attention to detail, as well as strong written and oral advocacy skills.

The lawyers at HSC are experienced in handling appeals through all levels of the North Carolina State Courts. In the federal court system, our attorneys handle appeals from the bankruptcy court to the United States District Court and from the United States District Court to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Nan Hannah is admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court.

Appellate Courts

  • NC Court of Appeals
  • NC Supreme Court
  • Federal District Courts in North Carolina (Eastern, Middle, Western)
  • Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Supreme Court of the United States

Administrative Law

Within the administrative and regulatory areas of law, the experienced attorneys of HSC can assist individuals and entities in understanding and complying with these legal requirements, and under more limited circumstances, our practice includes assisting clients in challenging a government action.

Federal, state, and local agencies are granted certain judicial powers through the Constitution or statutes. These agencies institute complex rules and regulations to execute this delegated authority. Administrative rules and regulations are created to protect the public interest rather than vindicate private rights.

Our attorneys have experience with many different agencies, including but not limited to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality; the North Carolina Department of Justice; the North Carolina Industrial Commission; licensing boards such as the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors, the North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinkler Contractors, the North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors, the North Carolina Department of Insurance, and county, city, and municipal planning departments.

Dispute Resolution

Resolve a legal dispute outside of the courtroom through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Alternative dispute resolution procedures such as negotiation, mediation, or arbitration can often resolve a complex legal dispute more quickly, and more cost-effectively, than traditional litigation.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a process that allows a dispute to be resolved without going through a time-consuming and costly formal judicial process. There are several reasons people choose to use alternative dispute resolution rather than go to court, including: simpler process, cost savings, time savings, and achieving a resolution.

Through the years, our attorneys have successfully settled multiple complex legal disputes utilizing ADR methods. Furthermore, partner Nan Hannah is certified by the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission in its Superior Court Mediated Settlement Conference Program and has served as an arbitrator in the North Carolina court system’s district court dispute arbitration program. She is also a member of the American Arbitration Associations panel of Construction Arbitrators.

NORTH CAROLINA DISTRICT COURT: Civil litigation matters in North Carolina District Courts seeking a money judgment may be subject to non-binding arbitration, a one-hour proceeding before an arbitrator who hears evidence and arguments from all parties and renders a decision. That decision can be “appealed” for a trial before a district court judge/jury, and the parties may waive the arbitration process.

NORTH CAROLINA SUPERIOR COURT: All matters in this trial court are subject to mandatory mediation before trial can occur. In the mediation process, a neutral third party works with the parties during a mediated settlement conference in an effort to reach a negotiated settlement. If a settlement is reached, the parties memorialize it in writing, which can be enforced by the court, if necessary. If a settlement is not reached, then the matter continues to trial before either a jury or a judge (parties make this election, but if either party elects a jury, then that controls).

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION: Within the construction law and employment law realms, contracts often contain provisions for alternative dispute resolutions processes. These may include pre-litigation mediation or arbitration in a forum outside the court system. HSC’s attorneys are well versed in both arenas, as well as in the processes of protecting certain rights in the state courts before moving a matter to arbitration.

Federal Court

North Carolina is home to the trial court level of the federal court system. It has Eastern, Middle, and Western federal judicial districts. Federal district court judges are appointed for life, nominated by the President, and confirmed by the United States Senate. These judges hear civil and criminal matters.

The civil legal system is divided between federal courts, which decide issues of federal law, and certain disputes between parties residing in different states. In the federal trial court system, there are “District Courts” located in each state. There may be more than one district in a state. North Carolina has three – Eastern, Middle and Western. Within each district, there are also specialized bankruptcy courts. An appeal from a bankruptcy court’s decision goes to the District Court. In the construction realm, projects on a federal facility – military base, federal courthouse, National Park unit, federal prison, or, not to be forgotten, Indian Reservation – is properly decided in a federal district court. Appeals from the North Carolina district courts go to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit which is located in Richmond, Virginia.

The Eastern District, based in Raleigh, maintains courthouses in Elizabeth City, New Bern, Wilmington, Wilson, Fayetteville, and Raleigh. The Middle District, based in Greensboro, maintains courthouses in Durham, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem. The Western District, based in Charlotte, maintains courthouses in Asheville, Statesville, Shelby, and Charlotte. Each district court has a bankruptcy court—a subset of the district court.

HSC’s lawyers practice in all NC federal courts. Civil jurisdiction in federal court is determined by statute, starting with a determination of whether there is an issue of federal law (no monetary minimum) or diversity of citizenship (where parties are residents of different states) ($75,000 minimum in dispute is required to qualify for diversity jurisdiction).

We handle creditors’ rights in bankruptcy, employment discrimination, whistle-blower actions, and “Big Miller Act” matters, as well as contract disputes in federal courts.

North Carolina Civil Court System

The North Carolina Court System’s trial courts are divided geographically into “judicial districts.” Depending largely upon population, the judicial districts can range from a single county to multiple counties. The trial courts are further divided based upon the amount of money at issue in a civil matter.

SMALL CLAIMS COURT: For civil cases with a claim under $10,000.00, the matter may be brought in Small Claims Court. A matter decided by a magistrate in Small Claims may be appealed (“de novo” – like it never happened) to the district court. If not appealed, a decision by the magistrate in small claims court becomes a binding judgment.

DISTRICT COURT: For matters with a claim of less than $25,000.00, the proper court is the District Court. A decision rendered by a District Court Judge can be appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

SUPERIOR COURT: The superior court hears matters seeking monetary damages in $25,000.00 and up. A decision made by a superior court is appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

In the federal court system, HSC’s attorneys are admitted to practice in the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of North Carolina – the trial court divisions. Partners Nan Hannah and Chad Cochran are admitted to practice before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition, Nan Hannah is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. Our attorneys also routinely appear in federal bankruptcy courts across North Carolina representing creditors.

Civil litigation also includes practice before administrative agencies and bodies such as licensing boards, state agencies and city/county governing bodies. Our lawyers represent clients in cases involving zoning, trade licensing disputes and permitting.

The attorneys at Hannah Sheridan frequently participate in various types of alternative dispute resolution by representing parties in mediated settlement conferences and arbitrations. Nan Hannah is a North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission Certified Superior Court Mediator. Nan has been called upon to serve as a mediator in the United States Bankruptcy Courts in North Carolina. For two years, HSC partner Nan Hannah served as research assistant for Justice John Webb on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

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