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Pro Bono Spotlight: John Noor and The Western North Carolina COVID Legal Hotline

By Paul Yale, NCBF Pro Bono Recognition Subcomittee

Approximately four years ago, on March 10, 2020, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in North Carolina due to the covid-19 outbreak which had originated in Wuhan, China in the late Fall of 2019 and began spreading to the United States in early 2020. The public is aware of the doctors, nurses and other medical workers who helped so many North Carolinians through the covid-19 crisis. The public is less aware of the significant role that lawyers played in providing pro bono legal services to North Carolinians with covid-19 legal issues, one of whom was attorney John Noor with the Asheville law firm of Roberts and Stevens.

John is a litigation attorney whose practice focuses on environmental/land use law, complex business litigation, and governmental affairs. Nevertheless, when the demand for pro bono legal services exploded during the covid-19 pandemic, John agreed to step out of his legal comfort zone and play a key role in organizing and launching the Western North Carolina (WNC) COVID Legal Hotline. The first hotline was conducted on May 21, 2020, and was co-sponsored by Pigsah Legal Services, Legal Aid of North Carolina, the North Carolina Bar Foundation and the Buncombe County Bar Association.

During the hotline, volunteer attorneys answered questions from 500-600 callers on diverse topics relating to housing, bills/debts, unemployment benefits, health insurance, stimulus checks, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans and other covid-related legal topics. A follow-up WNC COVID Legal Hotline was organized and held about six months later.

John gives special thanks to both Katie Russell-Miller of Pigsah Legal Services and the Buncombe County Bar Association Pro Bono Committee for their help in setting up the WNC COVID Legal Hotline. John and his team found and used a new software program, Telzio, which helped direct phone calls to the right legal specialists and otherwise enabled the hotline to run smoothly. John later introduced Carole Oliver of the North Carolina Bar Foundation to Telzio. NCBF then began using the software program in its yearly 4ALL-Lawyers on Call Legal Hotline.

John, a native North Carolinian, lives with his wife Caroline and two children in Asheville, where in addition to his litigation practice with Roberts and Stevens, he serves as chair of Pisgah Legal Services’ Board of Directors. John is also an adjunct professor of law at his undergraduate alma mater, UNC Asheville, which he graduated from in 2007, with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics. John graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law, with honors, in 2011, and then clerked for the Honorable Calvin Murphy of the North Carolina Business Court for two years before joining Roberts and Stevens. John is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, UNC Asheville’s National Alumni Council, and has been selected a North Carolina Super Lawyers Rising Star every year since 2019.

When asked why he devotes so much of his time to pro bono legal work, John said it was “ . . . because the people of North Carolina have given me a license to practice law, and I feel I have an obligation to try and pay them back.”

John is, without doubt, paying back the people of North Carolina who, in return, owe him their thanks and admiration for his ongoing pro bono legal service.