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Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin, P.C. is pleased to provide you with our Winter 2013 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, School Law, Commercial Trucking Litigation, Premises Liability, Land Use, Zoning, and Regulatory Taking and Insurance Law.  Please call us with your questions or comments.

For additional updates and recently published papers on the following topics, please
click the hyperlinks below:


THOMAS BRANDT and JOSHUA SKINNER obtained a victory on behalf of a college professor who was sued for allegedly violating a student’s Due Process rights. This case, which arose out of a grade dispute, was orally argued by Mr. Brandt in New Orleans on December 5, 2012.  The Fifth Circuit agreed with our arguments and reversed the lower court’s decision which had denied the professor’s motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity.

The Plaintiff claimed he had a property interest in: the summer 2009 English course; the grade he received in it; and obtaining a four-year education.  He claimed that he had a liberty interest in:  his good name; his reputation; and continuing to play football for the University of New Mexico.  The three judge panel of the Fifth Circuit stated that the Fifth Circuit “has not held that college academic decisions implicate property or liberty interests, entitling a student to constitutional due-process protections.”  The Fifth Circuit held that the Plaintiff had neither alleged a denial of access to an education, even on a temporary basis, nor placed in legitimate doubt the academic nature of the professor’s actions.  The Fifth Circuit stated that the Plaintiff’s asserted property or liberty interests were not established “beyond debate” and that, therefore, the Professor was entitled to qualified immunity.


THOMAS BRANDT and JOSHUA SKINNER obtained a victory for their client, an elementary school principal, who had been sued in the famous “Candy Cane Case.”

On February 13, 2013, United States District Judge Richard Schell issued an order adopting the report and recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge.  The magistrate’s report and recommendation, issued September 25, 2012, recommended that the last remaining individual Defendant, an elementary school principal, be dismissed from the case.  Judge Schell adopted the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge and ordered that the claims against the Defendant be dismissed with prejudice.  As a result of this decision, all of the individuals represented by FHMBK have now been dismissed from this suit.  We are very pleased to have obtained a complete victory on behalf of all of our clients in this case.


THOMAS BRANDT, JOSHUA SKINNER, and JOHN HUSTED obtained a significant victory in the Kountze Cheerleader case.  This victory involved the dismissal with prejudice of all claims brought against the former Superintendent of Kountze ISD, Mr. Kevin Weldon.  On February 25, 2013, the Plaintiffs in Matthews v. Kountze ISD and Kevin Weldon filed a notice of non-suit with prejudice as to former Kountze ISD superintendent Kevin Weldon.  The Plaintiffs’ decision to dismiss Weldon from the suit came after FHMBK attorneys filed and argued a Motion for Summary Judgment on behalf of Mr. Weldon.  We are very pleased to have obtained this complete victory for our client, Mr. Weldon.


  • THOMAS P. BRANDT was recently quoted in a newspaper article which focused on the issue of guns in schools.  The article by Dan Freedman of the Hearst D.C. Bureau was entitled “NRA school safety leader says effort is for real.”  The article appeared in publications nationwide including the San Antonio Express News, the Beaumont Enterprise, the Midland Reporter-Telegram and the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • MARC FANNING was interviewed on 570 AM, KLIF on December 27, 2012, regarding Big Tex being underinsured and the ramifications of businesses not carrying enough insurance on their property in order to addresses losses like this.  Click here to listen to this interview.
  • MARC FANNING participated in a five person panel discussion on January 14, 2013, presented to the ADR section of the Dallas Bar Association regarding the new proposed Rule 169 for Expedited Trials.
  • On  Friday, January 18, 2013, JOSHUA T. KUTCHIN addressed the National Business Institute seminar in Fort Worth, Texas.  The seminar was entitled “Litigating the Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Claim” and Mr. Kutchin spoke on the topic of “Ethical Traps to Avoid” in the context of UM/UIM litigation.
  • THOMAS P. BRANDT was recently interviewed by Kurt Gilchrist of KLIF radio regarding District Judge John Dietz’s decision declaring Texas’ school funding system unconstitutional as part of an ongoing cycle to secure sufficient educational funding for Texas children.  Click here to listen to this interview.
  • THOMAS P. BRANDT was interviewed by FOX4’s Steve Eager regarding the murder of Kaufman County District Attorney Mark Hasse.  Click here to watch this video.
  • On February 21, 2013, FHMBK attorney FRANK VALENZUELA participated in a joint presentation to the University of Texas School Law Conference in Austin titled “Title VII v. TCHRA: Who Cares?” which addressed the differences between federal and state law remedies in employment cases.
  • On February 7, 2013, THOMAS P. BRANDT participated in a panel discussion at the ABA Midyear Meeting held in Dallas entitled GOD, THE LAW & THE SCHOOLHOUSE:  Religion in the Government Schools/Government in the Religious Schools.  The panelists discussed legal issues related to religious expression in public schools as well as the public’s support of religious schools.  Click here to read Mr. Brandt’s presentation paper.
  • THOMAS P. BRANDT authored an article which will appear in the March, 2013 issue of  the Texas School Administrators’ Legal Digest.  You may read his article, “Render unto Caesar: Candy Canes, Cheerleaders, and the Ten Lessons I Have Learned in Religious Liberty Litigation” by clicking  here.


FHMBK  is pleased to announce that NICHOLE M. PLAGENS has joined the firm. Nichole received her undergraduate degree in Politics from the University of  Dallas, graduating magna cum laude. She attended law school at Southern Methodist University, where she was a member of the SMU Law Review, served on the Board of Advocates, and participated heavily in trial advocacy competitions.

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.