Over more than 50 years, Hugh Stevens’ legal career has encompassed a wide array of civil litigation, the representation of numerous media companies, and teaching both undergraduate and law students. 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 NCPA honored Hugh by selecting him to receive its W. C. Lassiter Award in recognition of his zealous defense of the First Amendment, and in 2006 he became the second lawyer ever inducted into the North Carolina Journalism & Media Hall of Fame
Hugh is a founding member and past chair of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Section on Constitutional Rights and Responsibilities, which honored him in 2015 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.” He also is a founding board member and past president of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition. See www.ncopengov.org.
Hugh and his SMVT colleagues have represented numerous North Carolina and national news organizations in cases involving libel, privacy and access to government records and proceedings. He served as ABC News’ North Carolina counsel in the landmark newsgathering case of Food Lion v. Capital Cities/ABC, et al. and argued two cases 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. More recently, he successfully represented The Daily Tar Heel in its effort to obtain access to records of sexual assaults committed by students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Hugh also has been 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 UNC School of Law and UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
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-martia
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