A former federal prosecutor, Kearns founded and leads Brooks Pierce’s white-collar defense practice. Among other honors and awards, he is listed in The Best Lawyers in America© in White-Collar Criminal Defense (2010-2018), North Carolina Super Lawyers Top 10 attorneys (Thomson Reuters, 2016-2017, Top 100 since 2012), Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business in White-Collar Crime and Government Investigations (Band 1) (2012-17), and Business North Carolina’s “Legal Elite” in Criminal Defense (2008-16). In addition, Best Lawyers has repeatedly named him "Lawyer of the Year" for Greensboro in White-Collar Criminal Defense (2013, 2016, & 2018), and Benchmark Litigation has recognized him as a "Local Litigation Star" for North Carolina in White-Collar Crime (2015-2016). 

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A former federal prosecutor, Kearns founded and leads Brooks Pierce’s white-collar defense practice. He regularly represents businesses and professionals in government and criminal investigations related to health care, real estate, environmental issues, bank fraud, public corruption, tax evasion, insider trading and securities, money laundering, mail fraud, wire fraud, false statements, federal benefits, computer crimes, embezzlement, false pretenses, identity theft, conspiracy, professional licensing, and other types of cases. 

Among other honors and awards, Kearns is listed in Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business in White-Collar Crime and Government Investigations (Band 1) (2012-17), The Best Lawyers in America© in White-Collar Criminal Defense (2010-2018), and North Carolina Super Lawyers Top 10 attorneys in all categories (Thomson Reuters, 2016-2017, Top 100 since 2012). In addition, Best Lawyers has repeatedly named him "Lawyer of the Year" for Greensboro in White-Collar Criminal Defense (2013, 2016 & 2018). 

 

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Kearns began his legal career as a law clerk to Chief Judge Sam J. Ervin, III, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, later served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, and in private practice has handled cases in federal courts across the United States. He is one of few lawyers whose federal trial experience includes both civil and criminal jury trials, and whose federal litigation experience includes “all four tables”: prosecution and criminal defense, civil plaintiff and civil defendant. He has also handled dozens of appeals in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 2nd, 4th and 9th Circuits.

Kearns has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in Bet-the-Company Litigation and Commercial Litigation (2010-2018), has been named among the North Carolina Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters) "Top 10" attorneys in all categories for 2016 and 2017 (Top 100 since 2012), and was recognized by The Best Lawyers in America©  as its “Lawyer of the Year” for Greensboro in Bet-the-Company Litigation (2015).

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Kearns has represented publicly traded corporations, privately held companies, financial institutions, small businesses, healthcare entities, municipalities, individuals, and the United States government in a wide range of matters including fraud, qui tam/whistleblower litigation, class-action defense, unfair trade practices, antitrust, shareholder disputes, breach of contract, environmental, real estate, construction, labor and employment, tax, intellectual property, transportation, and consumer protection.

He has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in Bet-the-Company Litigation and Commercial Litigation (2010-2018), has been named among the North Carolina Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters) "Top 10" attorneys in all categories (Top 100 since 2012), and was recognized by The Best Lawyers in America©  as its Lawyer of the Year for Greensboro in Bet-the-Company Litigation (2015).

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Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers

Annually selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in White-Collar Criminal Defense (Greensboro Lawyer of the Year 2013, 2016, 2018), Bet-the-Company Litigation (Greensboro "Lawyer of the Year" 2015), and Commercial Litigation (2010-2018) 

Repeatedly recognized among North Carolina's Top 10 attorneys by North Carolina Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters) (2016-2017) (Top 100 since 2012; listed for White-Collar Criminal Defense since 2010)

Recognized by Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business for White-Collar Crime and Government Investigations (2012-2017)

Selected among Business North Carolina’s "Legal Elite" in Criminal Defense (2008-2017) 

Recognized by Benchmark Litigation as a “Local Litigation Star” for North Carolina in White Collar Crime/Enforcements/Investigations (2015-2017)

"Robinson O. Everett Professionalism Award" (North Carolina Bar Association, 2010)

President, N.C. Bar Association, 2016-17

Permanent Member, Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference

North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission, a Commission of the North Carolina Supreme Court, 2014-present

Magistrate Judge Merit Selection Panel, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, 2011

President, Federal Bar Association, Middle District of North Carolina Chapter, 2010-11

Criminal Justice Act Appellate Panel Committee, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 2008-2014

Chair, N.C. Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, 2007-08

Chair, N.C. Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, 2004-05

Ex Officio Member, American Law Institute

Fellow, American Bar Foundation

Board of Directors, Greensboro Police Foundation

Board of Directors, Greensboro Sports Council

Co-Director, Rotary Youth Leadership Program, 2007

Board of Directors, University of North Carolina School of Law Alumni Association, 2000-06

Board of Directors, Davidson College Alumni Association, 2007-2010

Board of Directors, National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, 2006-07

Chair, Greensboro Bar Association Pro Bono Committee, 2000-01

Founding Chair, Greensboro Bar Association Young Lawyers Section Domestic Violence Project, 1999-2001

Advisory Board, Court Watch of North Carolina

Secretary, Rest Haven Summer Sunday School, Pamlico River, Beaufort County, NC

Finance Board & Deacon, Grace Community Church, 2004-06

Adjunct Law Professor, Trial Advocacy, University of North Carolina School of Law, 2008-15

Adjunct Law Professor, Trial Advocacy, Elon University School of Law, Spring 2008

Trial Advocacy Instructor, U.S. Department of Justice, National Advocacy Center, 2007

Faculty, National Institute for Trial Advocacy Southeast Regional, 2006 & 2007

"Criminal Intellectual Property: Responding to Investigations and Defending Against Indictments," UNC Law School Festival of Legal Learning, February 2015

"Federal Criminal Health Care Fraud: Responding to Investigations, Defending Against Indictments, and Handling Related Civil Claims," UNC Law School Festival of Legal Learning, February 2013

"Federal Criminal Case Law Update," North Carolina Bar Foundation, 2006-14

"Internal Corporate Investigations and Disclosure to Law Enforcement," North Carolina Bankers Association Security Summit, 2012

White-Collar Crime Panel, 2011 Criminal Justice Section Annual Meeting, North Carolina Bar Foundation

"When Insiders Pose a Hidden Danger: Conducting Internal Corporate Investigations," N.C. Bankers Association Security Summit, September 2011

"2010 White-Collar Crime Update - Fourth Circuit and Supreme Court," North Carolina Bar Foundation, April 2010

"Environmental Criminal Investigations & Enforcement," UNC Law School Festival of Legal Learning, February 2010

"Corporate Investigations: Government, Criminal, and Internal," UNC School of Law Festival of Legal Learning, February 2009

"Appellate Process" U.S. Department of Justice, National Advocacy Center, 2005

"Environmental Citizen Suits" Real Estate Section Annual Meeting, North Carolina Bar Foundation, 2000

"Sigurjonsson v. Iceland: The European Court of Human Rights Expands the Negative Right of Association," 27 Case W. Res. J. Int'l L. (1995), reprinted in 5 Irish Student L. Rev. (1995)

Note, "Crawford v. Air Line Pilots Association: The Fourth Circuit Determines What Expenses a Union May Charge to Nonunion Workers," 72 N.C. L. REV. 1732 (1994) 

Recent Publications & Media

Speaking Engagements

February 6, 2017

Kearns Davis Addresses Local Bar Associations

Kearns Davis, Brooks Pierce partner and president of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA), recently spoke to the Wake County Bar Association and the High Point Bar Association. At both events, Davis updated bar association members on the public service activities of the NCBA, including the...Read more
October 27, 2014

Davis Presents Federal Criminal Law Update 2014

Kearns Davis again gave the Middle District of North Carolina's Fall CLE "Criminal Law Update" at the October 20th program. Other presenters included Randy Loftis of Constangy, Brooks & Smith; Jamie Dean of Womble Carlyle; and the Honorable Joe L. Webster. For additional information, see the...Read more

Recent Publications & Media