John Vail

John  Vail Photo
John Vail Of Counsel


John Vail brings nearly 50 years of legal experience to Fay Law Group, acting in an Of Counsel capacity for the firm. His diverse training, focus on community service, and considerable experience in State, Federal, and Supreme Court litigation make him a force to reckon with inside and outside of the courtroom. Continue reading to hear more about Mr. Vail in his own words.

Training Experience

I have extensive experience teaching substantive law, legal skills, and management skills. My audiences have ranged from experienced litigators and managers to lay advocates to support staff. I have designed as well as delivered training. I have regularly delivered management skills and advocacy training to staff members of foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who are visiting the United States as Fellows in exchange programs administered by Freedom House. My presentations consistently received “the highest praise” from those Fellows.


Married, one adult child. Excellent health. Recreational interests include hiking and bicycling.

Areas of Practice

  • Constitutional Law
  • Litigation & Appeals
  • Complex Litigation
  • Federal Appellate Practice
  • Federal Trial Practice
  • State Appellate Practice
  • State Trial Practice
  • US Supreme Court
  • Personal Injury – Plaintiff


  • English
  • French



  • Vanderbilt University School of Law, Nashville, Tennessee
    • JD – 1979
  • University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
    • AB – 1976


Past Employment Positions

  • John Vail Law, PLLC, 2013
  • Center for Constitutional Litigation, P.C., Vice President and Senior Litigation Counsel, 2002 – 2013
  • The George Washington University Law School, Professorial Lecturer in Law, 2007 – 2009
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Senior Counsel and Associate Director for Constitutional Litigation, 1998 – 2001
  • Center for Law and Education, Staff Attorney, 1997 – 1998
  • Catawba Valley Legal Services, Inc, Executive Director, 1990 – 1997
  • Catawba Valley Legal Services, Inc, Litigation Director, 1988 – 1990
  • Center for Defense of Human Rights, Budapest, Hungary, 1995
  • New Mexico Legal Services Support Project, Project Director, 1984 – 1988
  • Legal Services of Upper East Tennessee, Inc., Attorney, Senior Attorney, and Litigation Director, 1980 – 1984
  • National Labor Relations Board, Trial Attorney, 1980


Bar Admissions

  • Tennessee, 1979
  • New Mexico, 1985
  • North Carolina, 1989
  • District of Columbia, 1999
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1986

Professional Associations & Memberships

  • American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Board Member

Notable Work

Published Works

  • Big Business Acts the Bully, National Law Journal, August 4th, 2008
  • The Real Issue Is Jurors’ Rights, National Law Journal, February 4th, 2008
  • Big Money v. The Framers, Yale L.J. (The Pocket Part), December, 2005
  • Discrimination in Education: Some Thoughts on American Law and Experience, European Roma Rights Center (Budapest),, 2004
  • The Invisible Constitution (Review of Eponymous Book by Laurence H. Tribe), 45 TRIAL 4, April, 2009
  • Blame It on the Bee Gees: The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Civil Justice, 51 N.Y.L Sch. L. Rev.323, 2006
  • Courts Resist Calls for Intervention in Physician Expert Testimony, 19 California Litigation 3, 2006
  • The Menace of Mandatory Arbitration, 41 TRIAL 8, August, 2005
  • Justice in Plainclothes: A Theory of American Constitutional Practice (Review of Eponymous Book by Lawrence Sager), 41 TRIAL 2, February, 2005
  • Chipping at the Core of Justice 50 TRIAL 28, April, 2004
  • State Courts Do the Work Federal Courts Can’t – and Shouldn’t, 50 TRIAL 68, January, 2004
  • The Inside the Beltway Mentality: Three Beliefs Are Poisoning Our Legal System, NCATL Trial Briefs, Dec, 2003
  • Access to Courts and Choice of Forum, NLADA Federal Litigation Manual, 2003
  • Civil Rights Now, 38 TRIAL 59, September, 2002
  • A Common Lawyer Looks at State Constitutions, 32 Rutgers L.J. 977, Summer, 2001
  • Defeating Mandatory Arbitration Clauses, 36 TRIAL 70, January, 2000
  • Six Questions in Light of J. McIntyre v. Nicastro, 63 S.C. L. Rev. 517, 2012
  • Supreme Court Review: Mandatory Arbitration Revisited 48 Trial 1, January, 2012
  • The People Shall Judge, ATLA Docket, Summer, 2010
  • A Closer Look at State Constitutions (Review of The Law of American State Constitutions by Robert F. Williams), 46 TRIAL 6;, June, 2010

Representative Cases

Community Involvement

Community Service

I have served on numerous boards and committees over the years. My activities have been primarily related to law, civil liberties, poverty policy, and the environment.

I was President of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia 2005-2010, having served on its board since moving to the state in 1997. I was President of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina in 1996 and 1997, having served on its board for 4 years prior to my Presidency.

I have been President of my local bar association and have served on the Council (governing body) of the Litigation Section of the North Carolina Bar Association. I have served on other state bar committees. I am a member of the American Bar Association and several of its sections.

I was a convener of the Poverty Task Force of the New Mexico Conference of Churches and of the Immigration Reform Act Task Force of Catholic Social Services in New Mexico.

I was a member of the North Carolina Education and Law Task Force, which gave birth to the North Carolina Education and Law Project.

I originated the idea for the North Carolina Budget and Tax Policy Center and I was a founding member of the board of directors of its parent organization, the North Carolina Justice and Community Development Center.

I have been a member of the Executive Committee of the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club and have been active in the club for over 30 years. I was the first chair of The Advisory Commission for South Mountains State Park. I was a founder of the South Mountains Coalition and I helped that organization become the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina. I have served on my local planning and zoning commission. I remember with great fondness my years of service on the board of directors of the Tennessee Environmental Council.

I am a member of the board of directors of the Velocity Bicycle Co-op, a not-for-profit organization devoted to promoting bicycling and community development, in part through refurbishing bicycles for donation to low-income persons and through employing low-income youth in bicycling-related activities.

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