Blog

Chris Fialko named White Collar Lawyer of the Year

Last week I was named the Best Lawyers® 2021 Criminal Defense: White-Collar “Lawyer of the Year” in Charlotte. I usually don’t tout such awards.  I rely on my reputation and work to gain new clients.  But I confess I’m proud of this particular recognition for three reasons. First, I achieved it from a different angle...
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Won’t I Look Guilty if I Hire a Lawyer?

Whenever I have a consultation with a businessman or professional who has been contacted by the FBI or some kind of law enforcement, the conversation always comes around to this question: Won’t it look bad if I hire a criminal defense lawyer? The short answer is no. Simply, firmly, no. To clarify, the reasons are...
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New Rule: The Kitchen Table Meal

A few years ago, I instituted a new rule: before going to trial or sentencing, I visit the client’s home and have dinner at the kitchen table. Why? Because I learn so much more about the client. I see how he interacts with family. I see photographs on the wall. At dinner I hear family...
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Defending the Constitution One Client at a Time

A couple of years ago, I walked into a Superior Courtroom in North Carolina that I hadn’t been in for a long while.  Sitting on the bench was a judge that I hadn’t seen in an even longer time.  This judge and I had been on opposite sides and fought cases against one another when...
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Over-Informing My Clients

Around 15 years ago I decided to adopt the strategy of over-informing my clients.  It seems like a simple and obvious idea, but it’s not.  There are drawbacks. First, having a detailed discussion of sentencing guideline punishments can make the client worry that his lawyer assumes he’s guilty.  I don’t.  But I’ve learned, especially in...
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Tom Petty, “It Won’t Take But a Minute”, and Redemption at Jail North

Let me tell you a story about the power of Tom Petty, the case that should have put me in front of the Supreme Court, and a man’s redemption at Jail North. While in Boston, on a college tour with my son, I ended up at a bar called Great Scott one evening.  The local...
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Damned if You Do, Broke if You Don’t

Damned if You Do, Broke if You Don’t That’s the tough love I often must tell a client who wants to file for bankruptcy after some sketchy financial business. Actually, it could be: Jailed if you do, just broke if you don’t. Here’s the problem: First, the client may have signed documents in a mortgage,...
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Colleges Value Avoiding Trauma Over Finding Truth

I recently had the most befuddling experience in the 27 years I’ve been practicing criminal defense.  Instead of letting me cross-examine the witness against my client, the “judge” made me ask her the questions.  The “judge” then decided whether the question was acceptable.  If she deemed it appropriate, she addressed the witness directly, often softly...
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Add Messy to Checklists

I found a book that speaks to me: Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz, by Frank J. Barrett. I always try to be reading a non-fiction book that is not about lawyers or the law. My brain needs to meander in other directions after each day of battling hard to solve legal...
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Two articles that keep me thinking

I keep thinking about and re-reading Adam Gopnik’s article, The Caging of America. I know you are busy, but I hope you will read it, and think about what mass-incarceration is doing to America. This morning’s Op-Ed in the New York Times by Michelle Alexander, suggesting the equivalent of a Strike by defendants against taking pleas...
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An American Moment

A little bit of history was made at 401 West Trade Street Friday, but Charlotte didn’t seem to notice much. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held a session of oral arguments at the federal courthouse here for the first time in more than 50 years. Lawyers and law students showed up in numbers to...
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Patriot James Otis Helps the Fourth Circuit

When the Fourth Circuit quoted from James Otis, Jr. this summer, I fell out of my chair. Otis was a pre-revolutionary war hero, whose oration against the British Writs of Assistance in 1761 inspired John Adams and others. And the Fourth Circuit has reached 250 years back to Otis to assert that the criminal defense...
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The Wail of Man Mins

Since I wrote this, the US Sentencing Commission came out with a long report criticizing mandatory minimums. 
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Innocence Case Victory

Walking my client out of jail after 11 years in prison for a murder he did not commit was, for lack of a better term, cool. Here’s a link to today’s NC Bar Association Criminal Section newsletter article about the Innocence Commission trial that we won in Asheville in September. It’s a bit wordy. http://criminaljustice.ncbar.org/newsletters/truebillnov2011/uniqueagency.aspx...
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You know you’re getting old when your classmate is elected D.A.

Twenty-one years ago I walked into my first law school class and took a seat next to a guy with a crew cut, crisply ironed clothes and a determined look on his face. While we waited for Professor Charles Daye’s Tort class to begin, I chatted with this fellow, Andrew Murray. Yesterday, Andrew was elected...
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Tiger versus Me

As Tiger Woods teed off in the first round of the Masters Thursday, I was on vacation at Legoland with my wife and kids. Legoland has no televisions. I texted my brother, asking how the fans were treating Tiger. He replied: “Fine. He’s 2 under. I hope he wins.” I was surprised at my own...
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New Jersey versus Medical Marijuana

January 11, 2010, 10:54 p.m. A few moments ago, the lead headline on NYTimes.com was: New Jersey Lawmakers Pass Medical Marijuana Bill. Which reminded me that the irrepressible Nick Mackey, who caused all kinds of controversy in Charlotte a few years ago when he won and then lost the Sheriff’s job, is now in the...
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The Charlotte Observer versus Peter Gilchrist

December 14, 2009 In its front-page article skewering retiring Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist yesterday, the Charlotte Observer stressed that his Assistant D.A.s dismissed 52% of the felonies that were resolved during 2008. We all know statistics can be mighty misleading, and this one certainly is. While the Observer included a sidebar entitled “How...
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