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Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin, P.C. is pleased to provide you with our Spring 2014 Newsletter and Legal Update. Below you will find information regarding successes and activities of our attorneys.

Please click the hyperlinks for updates regarding Local Government, Constitutional and Civil Rights Law, Products Liability, Employment Law, Special Education Law, School Law, Automobile/Trucking Litigation, Premises Liability, Land Use, Zoning, and Regulatory Taking, Insurance Law, and Homeowners Association Law. Please call us with your questions or comments.




THOMAS P. BRANDT, JOSHUA SKINNER and LAURA O’LEARY obtained a victory before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case involving a special education student who hung himself at school.  The Court held that in order for a student to recover under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act on the basis of a failure to provide necessary educational services, the student must first show that he was denied a free, appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  The Court applied a deliberate indifference standard in assessing the plaintiffs’ allegations of bullying and found that the school’s pattern of active responses to incidents involving the student precluded a finding of deliberate indifference.  To read the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion in its entirety, click here.

THOMAS P. BRANDT and JOSHUA SKINNER obtained another appellate victory in the long-running “Candy Cane” case, in which elementary school students brought suit against school officials alleging that they had violated the students’ First Amendment free speech rights by allegedly preventing them from distributing various religious materials at school during the school day.  This most recent victory involved a claim by the father of one of the students, alleging that his free speech rights were violated because he was not permitted to pass out religious materials to other parents during an in-class party.  The Fifth Circuit granted qualified immunity to the educator defendant, pointing out the difficulties faced by school officials when they address religious speech in public schools.  Please click here to read the Fifth Circuit’s opinion.


FRANK VALENZUELA obtained orders in state court granting a city’s and an appraisal district’s pleas to the jurisdiction focused on assertions of governmental immunity concerning breach of contract, negligence, fraud, promissory estoppel, and declaratory judgment claims.

THOMAS P. BRANDT, JOSHUA SKINNER, and JOHN HUSTED obtained a significant victory on behalf of the current and former councilmembers of a major north Texas city in a federal lawsuit brought by a former city employee.  Upon consideration of FHMBK’s motion for partial dismissal, the Court dismissed all claims, including due process and race discrimination claims, alleged against the councilmembers and ordered that the councilmembers be dismissed from the lawsuit with prejudice.

MARC H. FANNING obtained three summary judgments for two well-known grocery store chains in the North Texas area, disposing of three slip and fall premises type of cases in favor of our clients.



THOMAS P. BRANDT was interviewed by Phil Alvarado of Fox4 News in Dallas in February 2014 regarding Mr. Brandt’s representation of former Dallas police officer, Amy Wilburn.  The case arises out of a policy shooting that occurred in December of 2013.    Plaintiff alleges that he was unarmed when Officer Wilburn shot him.

On April 2, 2014, FRANK VALENZUELA appeared as a guest on the “GRN Live” morning show on 910 AM to discuss legal issues concerning the Affordable Care Act and the Hobby Lobby case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

FRANK VALENZUELA presented a talk to high school students on the history and context of Roe v. Wade, and he has been invited to speak on this same subject to students on two dates during the Summer of 2014.

JOSHUA SKINNER was featured on a podcast for the Federalist Society, speaking on the Supreme Court case Plumhoff v. Rickard, which involves the application of the doctrine of qualified immunity to police officers who used lethal force against a suspect fleeing in a motor vehicle.  The podcast is available at http://www.fed-soc.org/publications/detail/plumhoff-v-rickard-post-argument-scotuscast.



JOHN D. HUSTED recently became a Member with FHMBK.  Since joining the firm as an associate in 2008, Mr. Husted has distinguished himself in the areas of employment law, school law, local government defense, and constitutional law.  Please join us in congratulating Mr. Husted for this significant accomplishment.

FHMBK is pleased to announce that firm members JOSHUA A. SKINNER and FRANCISCO J. VALENZUELA have again earned recognition as two of the state’s top young lawyers with selections to the 2014 Texas Rising Stars list. This is the fifth consecutive selection to the exclusive annual listing for both attorneys.



JOSHUA SKINNER is scheduled to speak at the annual State Bar Bill of Rights Seminar on May 23, 2014.  Josh will be providing an update on recent developments in constitutional law affecting criminal suspects, criminal defendants and incarcerated individuals.   JOHN F. ROEHM III and JOHN D. HUSTED are co-authors with Josh on the paper that they will submit in conjunction with the talk.

FRANK VALENZUELA is scheduled to speak at the State Bar Government Law Boot Camp on July 30, 2014, about recent legal developments in Texas Whistleblower Act jurisprudence.

JOSHUA SKINNER is scheduled to speak at the annual State Bar Government Law Boot Camp on July 30, 2014. Josh will be speaking on the topic of “Basics of Qualified Immunity.”  THOMAS P. BRANDT AND NICHOLE PLAGENS are co-authors with Josh on the paper that they will submit in conjunction with the talk.

THOMAS P. BRANDT is scheduled to speak at the Suing & Defending Governmental Entities conference being held in Austin, Texas on Friday, August 1, 2014.  Mr. Brandt will be speaking on the subject of Qualified Immunity.