Protecting Your Rights

January 07, 2016   |   Susan Sherman Gaddis

As members of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, we are faithful advocates for our clients and defenders of rights for those journeying through various stressful and difficult periods in life. Here’s what informed my decision to make this my profession, my calling:

Like many, my “aha” moment came at a young age while watching a rerun of the black and white movie, To Kill A Mockingbird. In 1961, it won a Pulitzer Prize, and in 1962, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Not surprising, it has never gone out of print.  I gave a copy as a gift to one of my own children this past Christmas.

Gregory Peck’s performance as Atticus Finch reminded me of my own Dad in his style of teaching truthfulness and compassion.  Both explained things in a way that helped a child understand the difference between right and wrong.  “There’s been some high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn’t do much about defending this man,” Atticus tells his daughter, Scout, in the 1962 film adaptation. “If I didn’t, I couldn’t hold my head up in town. I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do somethin’ again.”[1]  Wow, what a great way to explain the concept of right and wrong to a child!  Example is a grand teacher.

The opportunity to teach my brother and me about standing up for what is right and to not be led by a crowd in the bullying or taunting of any group was on point as the school system in which we were enrolled had just begun desegregation.  Looking back, the lesson was one of not dehumanizing any person, including myself, by being a part of that crowd, and not to dehumanize others by making them less than the humans they are.  Compassion and fairness have stuck with me to this day and I hope to never lose those gifts.

The uniqueness of America is that its laws and Constitution were designed to protect the individual from other individuals, from the state, and from the mob. No other nation or kingdom had ever put the individual above all.

NCAJ members, as Plaintiff’s counsel in civil matters and Defense attorneys in Criminal matters, help people resolve controversies between individuals and corporations or between the government (The State) and its citizens. We protect individuals sometimes against the “collectives”.  Our profession demands our contributions to the protection of our fellow human beings and their rights garnered within the legal framework of our Constitution,  the  Bill of Rights, our State’s Constitution and the Common Law.  As a member of the legal team with Hyler & Lopez, P.A., we have the opportunity to help protect the rights of those accused in civil or criminal actions by defending and protecting the accused by zealous representation and mounting the best defense possible.

Through membership with the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, we touch the lives of North Carolinians through pro bono service, participating in continuing legal education, and by advocating for the rights of workers and families at the legislature.  We stand out in our communities as leaders of civic education and defenders of justice; after all, we are Advocates.

This article is contributed by Susan Sherman Gaddis, a Paralegal IV.  Ms. Gaddis holds undergraduate degrees in Political Science and Philosophy from UNCA and Associates degree in Paralegal Studies/Constitutional Law from Fayetteville Technical Community College, and the pre-law program of Campbell University.  She is employed with the law firm of Hyler & Lopez, P.A., in Asheville, North Carolina.

[1] To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960.