NEWSLETTER AND LEGAL UPDATES: FALL 2012
SUCCESS BASED ON LONG LASTING
RELATIONSHIPS FORGED IN INTEGRITY,
EXCELLENCE, COMMITMENT AND TEAMWORK.
Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin, P.C. is pleased to provide you with our Fall 2012 Newsletter and Legal Update. Below you will find information regarding successes and activities of our attorneys.
Please click the hyperlinks for updates regarding Constitutional/Civil Rights, Local Government, Products Liability, Employment Law, School Law, Commercial Trucking litigation, Premises Liability, Zoning, Land Use and Taking, and Insurance Law. Please call us with your questions or comments.
FHMBK NAMED AMONG TEXAS’ TOP RANKED LAW FIRMS FOR 2012
Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin, P.C., is proud to announce that it has earned a place on the 2012 Texas’ Top Ranked Law Firms list published by the respected legal services information provider Martindale-Hubbell.
In order to be considered for the exclusive listing, at least one-third of a firm’s lawyers must possess an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating available.
“The AV Preeminent rating is reserved for lawyers recognized by their peers for the highest level of professional excellence,” says Don D. Martinson, director at Fanning Harper. “I’m impressed each day by the level of expertise, professionalism and the attention to detail that Fanning Harper lawyers demonstrate.”
Only 217 firms are included in the list, which has been published in the 2012 Texas’ Top Ranked Law Firms magazine. The magazine was included in the Oct. 31, 2012, editions of The Wall Street Journal and Texas Lawyer, in addition to being delivered to Texas subscribers of The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel and The National Law Journal.
FHMBK lawyers in the Martindale-Hubbell list earned an average peer-score rating of 4.9 on a five-point scale. Qualities considered for the ratings include lawyers’ legal knowledge, analytical capabilities, judgment and legal experience. FHMBK attorneys also earned high scores from clients for their communication abilities, responsiveness, quality of service and value.
CHEERLEADER CASE ATTRACTS NATIONAL ATTENTION
The “Kountze Cheerleaders’ Case” (Matthews, et al v. Kountze ISD and Kevin Weldon), a case being handled by FHMBK attorneys Thomas P. Brandt, Joshua Skinner and John Husted, has attracted national attention. The case, though still in the early stages of litigation, has already been covered, sometimes on multiple occasions, by the major television networks as well as by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Economist. The story has been covered on Good Morning America as well as other similar national broadcasts.
Widespread interest in the case has resulted in FHMBK receiving numerous requests for the most pertinent pleadings in the case. In order to address those requests, we have posted the most recent pleadings in the case here.
We will keep you posted as the case develops.
VICTORIES AND HONORS
DISTRICT COURT VICTORIES
THOMAS P. BRANDT, JOSHUA SKINNER, and LAURA O’LEARY successfully represented a North Texas community college district in an employment case alleging various Title VII claims, including that the former police officer employee was fired because of his race, ethnicity, religion, or in retaliation for his prior complaints. FHMBK moved for summary judgment. The federal district court granted summary judgment on all claims.
THOMAS P. BRANDT and JOSHUA SKINNER successfully represented a North Texas community college district in an employment case brought by two former police officer employees alleging that their employer violated Title VII by permitting a hostile work environment, by constructively discharging them, by failing to promote them and by retaliating against them for their prior complaints. FHMBK filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The federal district court, holding that the plaintiffs’ complaint was deficient, ordered the plaintiffs to replead their complaint. The plaintiffs failed to replead and FHMBK moved for dismissal for want of prosecution. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the case with prejudice.
THOMAS P. BRANDT, JOSHUA SKINNER, and LAURA O’LEARY successfully represented a North Texas school district in a case involving allegations that student-on-student bullying led to the suicide of an elementary school student. The plaintiffs alleged that the school district violated various special education laws as well as the United States Constitution. FHMBK moved for summary judgment, pointing to the lack of evidence that bullying had occurred, that it had caused the death of the child, or that school officials failed to properly respond to allegations of bullying. The federal district court granted the motion, dismissing all claims against the school district.
THOMAS P. BRANDT and JOSHUA SKINNER successfully represented an elementary school principal in the latest round of the long-running “Candy Cane” case. The plaintiffs alleged that the principal had violated the First Amendment rights of a parent who wished to distribute religious messages to other parents during an in-class “winter break” party. The principal told the parent that outside materials could be distributed on a distribution table in the library, but not in the classroom. FHMBK moved for dismissal of the claims against the principal based on qualified immunity. The federal magistrate judge recommended that the motion be granted, noting the lack of clarity in the law regarding the free speech rights of parents when attending school events.
THOMAS P. BRANDT, JOSHUA SKINNER, and JOHN HUSTED successfully defended the City Manager and several City Councilmembers of a North Texas City in an employment case brought by the former director of the City’s recreation department. FHMBK attorneys successfully defended the city officials against the former director’s allegations that she was denied her procedural and substantive due process rights when she was terminated.
THOMAS P. BRANDT and FRANK VALENZUELA successfully defended a North Texas independent school district against a claim of employment retaliation asserted by a former employee. FHMBK moved for summary judgment, pointing to the fact that the former employee had made no complaint that could serve as the basis for her claim and that the district was justified in terminating her based on her misconduct. The state district court dismissed the retaliation claim against the school district.
THOMAS P. BRANDT, FRANK VALENZUELA, and LAURA O’LEARY successfully defended a private substance abuse treatment center from the claims of two former clients. FHMBK moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that they had abandoned their claims and did not participate in the discovery process in violation of the rules of procedure and the court’s order. The federal district court dismissed the two plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice.
THOMAS P. BRANDT, JOSHUA SKINNER and LAURA O’LEARY successfully represented a North Texas school district against allegations that school district officials had attempted to intimidate witnesses and destroy evidence in a civil case involving allegations that student-on-student bullying led to the suicide of an elementary school student. FHMBK presented extensive evidence demonstrating the falsity of the plaintiffs’ claims. The federal district court denied the plaintiffs’ motion and praised the school district administrator for her sensitive and appropriate conduct.
SPEECHES AND PUBLICATIONS
Because of his recognized expertise, THOMAS P. BRANDT is frequently asked to comment on current legal issues. Below are links to some recent interviews. Mr. Brandt has given interviews on such topics as affirmative action, civil rights, and municipal liability.
To view all of Mr. Brandt’s most recent television appearances, click here.
To listen to the audio of Mr. Brandt’s appearance on KLIF-AM 570 with Kurt Gilchrist, click here.
On August 23, 2012, JOSH KUTCHIN presented a continuing education seminar at the Horace Mann Insurance Company, fully accredited by the Texas Department of Insurance, on Texas Tort Reform and Texas Judicial Reform. The seminar traced the historical evolution of these reform efforts, and analyzed recent developments and the current state of our substantive and procedural reform.
On September 10, 2012, FRANK VALENZUELA presented a talk concerning the HHS mandate to the Rockwall County Republican Women’s Club.
On October 13, 2012, FRANK VALENZUELA presented a talk concerning the HHS mandate to the Rockwall County Republican Men’s Club.
THOMAS BRANDT, JOSHUA SKINNER and LAURA O’LEARY made presentations at a seminar sponsored by the National Business Institute (“NBI”). The seminar was held in Fort Worth on November 28, 2012. The title of the seminar was “Texas Special Education Law.” Mr. Brandt and Mrs. O’Leary spoke on the topic “Establishing the Framework of Special Education Law.” Mr. Skinner spoke on the topic “Protecting the Rights of Children with Special Needs.”
THOMAS P. BRANDT has been asked to give a presentation at the 28th Annual University of Texas School Law Seminar. The presentation is scheduled to be held in Austin February 21 – 22, 2013. Mr. Brandt has been asked to talk about some of the differences between federal and state employment laws.
THOMAS P. BRANDT has been asked to give a presentation to the American Bar Association at its mid-year conference in February of 2013. Mr. Brandt has been asked to address issues of free speech and religious liberty in public schools based on his experiences in, among others, the “Candy Cane Case.”
HONORS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
On September 14, 2012, FHMBK celebrated THOMAS P. BRANDT’S 20th anniversary with FHMBK. Tom joined the firm in September 1992.
On December 5, 2012, FHMBK had the rare privilege of hosting a small gathering at Terrilli’s restaurant on lower Greenville Avenue, in honor of Kathryn Fagan, who is retiring this December after spending the last 10 years of her professional career with Kemper and Unitrin. Kaye has been a good friend of this firm for more than three decades, going back to the early 1980s when she worked for AIG; her friendship and her loyalty over the years have been much appreciated. We will greatly miss working with Kaye and wish her the best in her retirement.
This newsletter is established for informational purposes only. Nothing in this newsletter should be construed as individual advice, and the use of the e-mail link for communications with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.