Graves Dougherty has been a leader in appellate law in Texas for over sixty years. We handle appeals in cases we try as well as cases tried by other lawyers.
We often submit amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs discussing the policy implications of cases pending in state and federal appellate courts, including the Texas Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Drawing on both our trial and appellate experience, we also provide valuable assistance in the trial court on dispositive motions, jury instructions, and error preservation. Ten members of our appellate team have been recognized in Best Lawyers in America™ published by Woodward/White, Inc. in various areas of substantive legal expertise, including administrative law, commercial litigation and First Amendment law. Four members of the Appellate section, Bill Christian, Jim Hemphill, Mary Keeney and Pete Kennedy, are board certified in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. The depth of our experience and skill equips us to handle appellate matters in all areas of civil law. Browse our focus areas below.
AMICUS CURIAE BRIEFS
When the Texas Supreme Court considers issues that will have a substantial impact beyond the litigants in the case, companies and interest groups have hired Graves Dougherty to file friend-of-the-court briefs to provide guidance and advocacy on the broader implications of the Court’s decision.
- Graves Dougherty filed an amicus brief on behalf of a land trust in a case considering the validity of state rules regulating the production of groundwater. Guitar Holding Co. v. Hudspeth County. Underground Water Conservation Dist. No. 1, 263 S.W.3d 910 (Tex. 2008).
- On behalf of a workers’ compensation carrier, Graves Dougherty provided guidance to the Texas Supreme Court when deciding whether Texas public policy allows workers’ compensation insurers to indemnify punitive damage awards. Fairfield Ins. Co. v. Stephens Martin Paving, LP, 246 S.W.3d 653 (Tex. 2008).
- Graves Dougherty filed an amicus brief on behalf of several non-profit conservation groups in a case deciding whether a state agency had to hold a hearing to consider the environmental impacts of a proposed amendment to a water rights permit. City of Marshall v. City of Uncertain, 206 S.W.3d 97 (Tex. 2006).
Graves Dougherty has represented defendants in high-stakes appeals of class actions:
- In a dispute over the sufficiency of the dividends paid by an automobile insurance company, Graves Dougherty convinced the Texas Supreme Court to overturn an order certifying a statewide class of policyholders. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Lopez, 156 S.W.3d 550 (Tex. 2004). On remand, Graves Dougherty obtained dismissal of the entire case. Lopez v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. , No. 13-06-276-CV, 2008 WL 2744609 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi June 30, 2008, no pet.)
- Graves Dougherty obtained a take-nothing judgment in a class action involving alleged underpayment of franchise fees to municipalities in Texas, overturning a multi-million dollar judgment against the client. Houston Lighting & Power Co. v. City of Wharton, 101 S.W.3d 633 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2003, pet. denied).
EMPLOYMENT AND CORPORATE LAW
Graves Dougherty represents clients in appeals important to businesses and corporations in Texas:
- In a landmark decision, Graves Dougherty persuaded the Texas Supreme Court to modify its long-standing precedent and strengthen the enforceability of non-compete agreements. Alex Sheshunoff Management Services v. Johnson, 209 S.W.3d 644 (Tex. 2006).
- Graves Dougherty defended an outside auditor against multi-million dollar claims arising out of a corporation’s bankruptcy. Turoff v. McCaslin, 222 S.W.3d 664 (Tex. App.—Waco 2007, no pet.).
- Graves Dougherty defended an order dismissing a securities fraud case against a company’s former executive at an early stage of the litigation. Perry v. Cohen, 285 S.W.3d 137 (Tex. App.—Austin 2009, pet. denied).
Insurance companies have turned to Graves Dougherty for representation in appeals of statewide importance:
- In three related appeals, Graves Dougherty turned back efforts by the State to order a reduction in homeowners’ insurance rates and to sanction the insurer for allegedly excessive rates. State Farm Lloyds v. Geeslin, 267 S.W.3d 438 (Tex. App.—Austin 2008, no pet.); Geeslin v. State Farm Lloyds, 255 S.W.3d 786 (Tex. App.—Austin 2008, no pet.); Tex. Dep’t. of Ins. v. State Farm Lloyds, 260 S.W.3d 233 (Tex. App.—Austin 2008, no pet.).
- Graves Dougherty represented a workers’ compensation carrier in a case that affirmed the carrier’s statutory right to subrogation in personal injury suits. Tex. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Ledbetter, 251 S.W.3d 31 (Tex. 2008).
- With many millions of dollars at stake, Graves Dougherty prevailed in a long-running dispute over the proper interpretation of a workers’ compensation rule governing hospital reimbursement fees. Tex. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Vista Community Med. Ctr., LLP, 275 S.W.3d 538 (Tex. App.—Austin 2008, pet. denied).
MEDIA AND FIRST AMENDMENT LAW
Representing media entities both large and small, Graves, Dougherty has helped shape the development of defamation law in Texas:
- In a case that set the standard for the First Amendment’s protection of parody in Texas, Graves Dougherty lawyers represented a publisher from a defamation claim brought by a judge and district attorney. New Times, Inc. v. Isaacks, 146 S.W.3d 144 (Tex. 2004), cert. denied, 545 U.S. 1105 (2005).
- In a unanimous decision, the Texas Supreme Court rendered judgment in favor of a magazine publisher represented by Graves Dougherty lawyers that was accused of business disparagement. Forbes, Inc. v. Granada Biosciences, Inc. , 124 S.W.3d 167 (Tex. 2003).
- Graves Dougherty lawyers have prosecuted accelerated, interlocutory appeals in order to terminate defamation litigation and related litigation in its early stages. Wang v. Tang, 260 S.W.3d 149 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2008, pet. denied); Cox Tex. Newspapers, L.P. v. Penick, 219 S.W.3d 425 (Tex. App.—Austin 2007, pet. denied); New Times, Inc. v. Doe, 183 S.W.3d 122 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2006, no pet.).
Graves Dougherty has applied its appellate experience to the pro bono representation of clients in consequential cases:
- Graves Dougherty participated in an appeal decided by the U.S. Supreme Court that clarified the point at which a criminal defendant is entitled to counsel under the Sixth Amendment. Rothgery v. Gillespie County, Tex, 128 S. Ct. 2578 (2008).
- On behalf of participants in a federal-state temporary assistance program, Graves Dougherty invalidated a Texas rule that threatened to terminate the participants’ medical benefits in violation of federal law. Comacho v. Tex. Workforce Comm’n, 408 F.3d 229 (5th Cir. 2005).
- Representing a man with mental retardation who had been on Texas’s death row for thirty years, Graves Dougherty persuaded the State’s highest criminal court to commute his sentence to life imprisonment. Ex parte Bell, 152 S.W.2d 103 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004).
PROPERTY AND OIL & GAS LAW
Graves Dougherty has achieved significant results in appeals involving the rights of landowners and royalty owners:
- Graves Dougherty represented landowners who reversed a condemnation judgment in an opinion that provides important guidance on the limits to the government’s ability to take land through the power of eminent domain. Whittington v. City of Austin, 174 S.W.3d 889 (Tex. App.—Austin 2005, pet. denied).
- Graves Dougherty represented property developers in an appeal that invalidated municipal ordinances that imposed illegal fees on the development of real property. Greater New Braunfels Home Builders Ass’n v. City of New Braunfels, 240 S.W.3d 302 (Tex. App.—Austin 2007, pet. denied).
- On behalf of a group of royalty owners, Graves Dougherty defended a ruling that a natural gas company had underpaid royalties by improperly deducting post-production costs in violation of the terms of the lease contracts. Yturria v. Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Onshore, LLC, 291 Fed. Appx. 626 (5th Cir. 2008).
For many years, Graves Dougherty has represented utility companies in appeals from contested cases before the Public Utility Commission involving complex regulatory issues:
- Graves Dougherty represented two telecommunications carriers before the Texas Supreme Court in a case that clarified the Commission’s authority to resolve unfair competition allegations. AT&T Communications of Texas, L.P. v. Southwestern Bell Tel. Co., 186 S.W.3d 517 (Tex. 2006).
- On behalf of an electric utility, Graves Dougherty convinced the Texas Supreme Court to strike down the portion of an agency rule that prevented the utility from recovering its full carrying costs on a multi-billion dollar true-up balance. CenterPoint Energy, Inc. v. Pub. Util. Comm’n, 143 S.W.3d 81 (Tex. 2004).
- Graves Dougherty prosecuted an appeal reinstating a Commission order authorizing a utility to recover certain costs associated with the restructuring of the electric power industry. CenterPoint Energy Houston Elec., LLC v. Gulf Coast Coalition of Cities, 263 S.W.3d 448 (Tex. App.—Austin 2008, pet. granted).