“I have a lot of compassion for farmers. I have never met anyone who works harder than a farmer,” says attorney Kindelle McCullen with Stubbs & Perdue.
From New Bern, McCullen, like many from eastern North Carolina, comes from a family with farming roots. Her grandfather raised grain, tobacco and soybeans on a small farm in Craven County. Her father grew up on that farm where he planted row crops and ran tractors until he left for college. While McCullen grew up far from the farm, their perspectives give her a deep appreciation for the tireless work required to run a farming enterprise.
In her law practice, McCullen says she strives to be just as hardworking and dedicated as the farmers she admires. In person, she is warm and compassionate with an easy laugh and an affinity for bluegrass music.
McCullen handles federal criminal defense and civil litigation cases from the offices of Stubbs & Perdue in Raleigh and New Bern. A large portion of her practice is devoted to white collar federal cases; in particular, she defends farmers, tobacco brokers, warehousemen and insurance agents in criminal and companion civil cases stemming from federal crop insurance claims. In addition, she serves as a Criminal Justice Act panel attorney for the Federal Public Defender’s office for the Eastern District of North Carolina where she represents indigent defendants facing a variety of federal criminal charges such as drug and firearm offenses.
“Like all defendants, our agricultural clients have a lot to lose. The penalties are severe and can include fines, property seizure and prison time. In our farming cases, so often the farms are family operations. The families have been farming for generations and have worked tirelessly to accumulate land and equipment and build a family legacy. What they have, they want to be able to pass on to future generations,” she explained.
Criminal charges place those legacies in jeopardy. After the conclusion of the criminal case, a civil action likely follows adding another layer of financial exposure to consider in attempting to resolve the criminal charges. “My clients and their families need a great deal of reassurance and counseling to weigh their options, and I am humbled that they rely on me to provide them with the advice they need to reach the best possible outcome,” she says.
A Prosecutor’s Perspective
After graduating from law school, Mc- Cullen spent a year as an assistant district attorney in Greenville, North Carolina handling district court offenses and superior court appeals. “Prosecutors have an important job to do, and in my experience, they do it well. My work in the DA’s office allows me to understand the interests of the prosecutor. It makes me more balanced and realistic in shaping our defense strategy.”
“I am upfront with my clients regarding the risks so that they understand the possible exposure and the potential penalties. Discerning and familiarizing yourself with the facts early is crucial. My goal is to avoid surprises.”
A Long Row to Hoe
“Our cases can take years to resolve. During that time, I definitely bond with my clients. I get to know their families and their businesses. In addition to mounting an effective defense for our clients, we seek to minimize the impact on their families and their resources,” said McCullen. “We want our clients and their families to know that we are doing everything possible to secure the best resolution, and we can tell that they appreciate our efforts. It is incredibly rewarding to know that you have had a hand in preserving an important family legacy that may last for generations to come.”