Hugh Stevens is both a nationally known First Amendment and media lawyer and a versatile litigator. For more than 20 years Hugh served as general counsel to the North Carolina Press Association, which designated him as “counsel emeritus” upon his retirement in 2002. In 2003 the Association honored Hugh by selecting him to receive its W. C. Lassiter Award in recognition of his zealous defense of the First Amendment. In 2006 he became only the second lawyer inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame.
Hugh is a founding member and past chair of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Section on Constitutional Rights and Responsibilities. In January, 2015 the Section presented Hugh with its John McNeill Smith Award “in recognition of his extraordinary commitment to the ideals embodied in the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of North Carolina.”
Hugh also is a founding board member and past president of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition. See www.ncopengov.org.
Hugh continues to serve as general counsel to the North Carolina Press Foundation and as outside counsel to several North Carolina news organizations, including The News & Observer and WRAL-TV in Raleigh. He has represented news organizations, non-media companies and individuals in numerous cases involving libel, privacy and access to government records and proceedings, and was ABC News’ North Carolina counsel in the landmark newsgathering case of Food Lion v. Capital Cities/ABC, et al.
Hugh’s significant cases include two that dramatically affected the law of privacy in North Carolina – Renwick v. News and Observer Pub. Co., in which the North Carolina Supreme Court declined to recognize the “false light” tort, and Hall v. Post, in which the court rejected “private facts” claims. He also was lead counsel for the plaintiff in Womack Newspapers, Inc. v. Town of Kitty Hawk, et al., 181 N.C. App. 1 (2007), in which a weekly newspaper obtained the largest attorney fee award ever paid pursuant to the North Carolina Public Records Law.
Hugh also is a versatile and experienced teacher. From 1985 until 2002 he taught a “Free Press and Public Policy” seminar at Duke University’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy. He also has taught First Amendment and media law at the University of North Carolina School of Law and the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He currently teaches a First Amendment course at North Carolina State University’s Oscher Institute of Lifelong Learning.
In the early 1990s Hugh conceived the idea for a North Carolina Media Law Handbook and persuaded the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation to provide the seed money for it. Since 1992 he has served as co-editor and author of the “Privacy” chapter for the Handbook, which currently is in its fifth (and first entirely electronic) edition. He also is the author of numerous book reviews, law review articles, Continuing Legal Education manuscripts and other publications. He also writes “Hugh’s Views,” a personal blog, http://www.hughstevens.blogspot.com/ and comments on First Amendment issues at http://aboutthefirstamendment.com.
Hugh traces his interest in First Amendment law to his experience as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, where he served as co-editor of The Daily Tar Heel and joined other students leaders in fighting to overturn North Carolina’s notorious “speaker ban” law, which forbade left-wing activists and leaders of Communist governments from appearing on university campuses. After completing law school at UNC in 1968, he served four years on active duty as a U.S. Navy JAG officer, during which he honed his trial skills in numerous courts-martial.
In addition to his media law practice, Hugh has extensive experience in commercial and insurance-related litigation. He has tried federal cases involving subjects as diverse as facultative reinsurance; an international airline’s web site; fire truck trademarks; insurance broker negligence; ERISA; lawyer advertising; insurance and reinsurance for space satellites and launch vehicles; and defense of a phone card vendor accused of violating North Carolina’s anti-lottery law.
Hugh’s community involvement includes long service as a director of Community Workforce Solutions, a not-for-profit agency that provides training and employment for physically and mentally impaired persons, and of the Episcopal Housing Ministry, which develops and manages apartments and social programs for low-income residents. His service to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his alma mater, includes membership in the Chancellor’s Club, the Board of Advisors to the Center for the Study of the American South, and the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Library, of which he is a past chair.
Hugh and his wife Marilyn have three children and five grandchildren. His hobbies are golf, reading, traveling, cooking and Boston Red Sox baseball.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A. 1965
University of North Carolina School of Law, J.D. with Honors, 1968
Eastern, Middle and Western U.S. District Courts, North Carolina
U.S. Court of Military Appeals
Fourth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals
U.S. Supreme Court