New Courts: New Legal Landscape?

On November 6, the Blue Wave hit Texas like a tsunami. You didn’t hear? Perhaps you are not a close follower of the Texas courts of appeals. Democrats took control of the Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio courts of appeal. The change is historic: these courts have been controlled by Republicans for the past two decades.

What impact could this have for businesses involved in litigation? Among other things, court watchers expect the following:

  • Fewer summary judgments to survive,
  • That use of arbitration clauses to avoid court will be reined in, and
  • That high-dollar judgments will have a greater chance of survival.

For clients who have faced the expense and delay of Anti-SLAPP motions to dismiss, closer scrutiny of that overused tactic is also expected. And, businesses in the oil patch may face increased litigation costs from courts of appeals that favor maintenance of the jury system. Read more

How to Beat the Pros in Court

You’ve probably had your share of “Best Lawyers” and “Super Lawyers” tell you about their selection in the past several months. While I’m pleased to be recognized on several such lists, what I really want to convey to my up-and-coming colleagues is this: Don’t be intimidated by those who have a lot of accolades, or even decades in the chair. There is no head-to-head matchup behind these marketing awards that determines who is the “best” lawyer.

While experience and expertise cannot be bought, information is free. Here are a few free tips to help the less experienced or less-connected attorney out-do the opposition in a courtroom battle. Read more

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Craig Enoch’s New Trial Tip – plus more!

I was honored to have had the opportunity to work with former Texas Supreme Court Justice Craig Enoch recently on the Mesa Petroleum Partners case, which resulted in a $117 million judgment plus interest for our client, T. Boone Pickens.

I sat down with Justice Enoch to ask about his insights into trial and appellate practice based on his decades of experience as a trial judge, court of appeals chief justice, and Supreme Court justice – as well as an advocate at his own law firm. Not only did he share inside knowledge about how judges view cases, he gave me a tip about new trial motions that not many trial lawyers know.  Read more

Litigation Lessons from a Top-Flight Expert Witness

Author’s Note: On the one-year anniversary of our trial victory for T. Boone Pickens and Mesa Petroleum Partners, I am sharing an interview with one of our key expert witnesses, Ricardo (‘Rick”) Garza. Rick was an amazing person and loved to share his knowledge of petroleum engineering with lawyers and juries. I am very sad to report that Rick passed away on October 27, 2017. He will be terribly missed.

 

As any good trial lawyer knows, the success of your case is greatly affected by your team, including co-counsel, local counsel, Texas Bar Todayparalegals, jury consultants and expert witnesses, among others. I have had the pleasure of working with Ricardo Garza, one of the best engineering expert witnesses you’ll find anywhere, most recently during a 3½ -week trial in the West Texas town of Pecos. Our team represented Mesa Petroleum Partners LP in the hotly contested case involving oil and gas investments.

That trial ended with a unanimous $146 million jury verdict on behalf of our client, and Rick’s expertise contributed to that impressive win.

A petroleum engineer for more than 40 years, Rick has been an expert in hundreds of lawsuits and has participated in more than 50 trials. I  sat down with Rick to get his insights about trying a case when the subject matter is, to put it lightly, complex. The answer, it turns out, is equal parts expertise and arts & crafts. Read more

Storytelling is No Substitute for Mastery of the Evidence

A lot of trial lawyers extol the virtues of storytelling when they talk about developing winning strategies. And while I love a good story as much as the next lawyer, jurors are being sold short if your trial strategy relies too heavily on a well-told story alone.

Want to know what really sells? Take a look at the display windows at Neiman Marcus, as an example. If you’ve ever strolled by the high-end department store, you may have noticed these elaborate and beautiful glass-encased displays. The next time you walk by, take a closer look and you’ll see it’s more than just pretty. Those windows are actually well-thought-out tableaus, meticulously designed by artists with an appreciation for subtlety, an attention to detail and a facility for subliminal storytelling. They know their audience and the subject matter they have to present.  Read more

Lessons from the John Wiley Price Trial

I recently observed the John Wiley Price public corruption trial as a commentator for Fox 4 News.  Price, a longtime Dallas County Commissioner, was charged with public corruption, mail fraud and tax fraud. After an eight-week trial and eight days of deliberation, he was acquitted on the public corruption and mail fraud charges and the jury deadlocked on the tax fraud charges.

The government had a lot riding on this case.  The FBI had been investigating Price and some of his business associates since the early 2000s. So, it was educational, as a litigator, to watch such a high-stakes case play out and ultimately unravel under the glare of the public spotlight. Read more