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Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin, P.C. is pleased to provide you with our Fall 2018 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, School Law, Employment Law, Motor Vehicle Litigation, Premises Liability, Land Use, Zoning, and Regulatory Taking, Homeowners Association Law, and Insurance Law.



Our prospects for success in this emotional, high-profile case seemed remote after the jury returned a $1 million verdict against our client. It’s not easy to overturn a jury’s verdict – but we did.

THOMAS P. BRANDT, LAURA O’LEARY, and KATHRYN VAUGHAN obtained an appellate victory in this high-profile disability discrimination case brought against a North Texas school district by a profoundly disabled young man. The parents of the young man believed that he had been abused by a teacher at the school district. The jury, despite the evidence, was persuaded by the emotional impact of the young man who was vulnerable and unable to communicate. Against all odds, we were able to convince both the district court and the appellate court that the jury’s verdict was based on emotions and not on evidence. The plaintiff sued the school district in federal court, alleging claims for disability discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. After a two week trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. After the trial, the district court granted the school district’s motion for judgment as a matter of law, finding that no reasonable juror could have found the school district liable. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, after oral arguments, affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the lawsuit, finding that the plaintiff had not presented evidence of intentional discrimination by the school district against the disabled student.


In a case arising out of a shoot-out between rival motorcycle clubs at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, we obtained victory for our client, the county sheriff. The shoot-out between the Bandidos and the Cossacks and their respective supporters on May 17, 2015, left 9 people dead, 18 people wounded, and spawned 33 lawsuits involving 138 plaintiffs. We are representing the county, its district attorney, and its sheriff in these cases. In this particular case, filed in state court, we were able to convince Judge Jim Jordan to grant summary judgment in favor of the county sheriff. STEPHEN D. HENNINGER successfully argued the motion and obtained the victory for the sheriff.


In this multi-plaintiff case against a North Texas school district, the final chapter was closed when we obtained summary judgment on the one remaining claim – retaliation. This victory marked the end of a very successful representation of the school district as to all of the plaintiffs’ claims.

THOMAS P. BRANDT and JOHN F. ROEHM III achieved a dismissal of a lawsuit against a North Texas school district. Plaintiffs sued the school district in federal court alleging claims for discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation under Title VII and Section 1983. Plaintiffs were teachers with the school district. The school district filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiffs have not exhausted their administrative remedies and they have failed to state a claim for relief. The district court granted the motion in part by dismissing all claims against the school district except for a retaliation claim by one of the Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs appealed to the Fifth Circuit which affirmed the district court’s decision. The school district filed a motion for summary judgment on the remaining retaliation claim which was granted by the district court. Plaintiff did not appeal this decision.



In a case which was broadcast on a local news station and involved video of a law enforcement officer using force, we obtained judgment in favor of the officers, the sheriff, and the county.

THOMAS P. BRANDT and JOHN F. ROEHM III achieved a dismissal of a lawsuit against a North Texas county, its sheriff, and several deputies. Plaintiff sued the Defendants in federal court alleging claims for First Amendment free speech; Fourth Amendment for unlawful search and entry, false arrest, manufacture of probable cause, excessive force, and malicious prosecution; and Fourteenth Amendment for denial of medical care and equal protection. Plaintiff also sued the county for failure to train, supervise, discipline, and discharge personnel.


In a case involving concerns about possible child abuse, a parent sued a school district, a superintendent, a teacher, and a counselor alleging that they had interfered with his parental rights.

THOMAS P. BRANDT and JOHN F. ROEHM III achieved a dismissal of a lawsuit against a North Texas school district, superintendent, a teacher, and counselor. Plaintiff alleged claims under the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment for interference with his familial association/child-parent relationship and privacy. The school district and the individual Defendants filed motions to dismiss arguing the Plaintiff had failed to state a claim for relief and that the individual Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. The district court granted the motions and dismissed Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice.


In a case alleging false arrest and excessive force arsing out of police encounter at a residence, we obtained a judgment in favor of the city and its police officers.

STEPHEN D. HENNINGER and CAROLINE SILEO achieved a dismissal of a suit against a North Texas city and several of its current and former police officers. The Plaintiff sued in federal court, alleging claims for false arrest and excessive force after an encounter with police at a residence. The city filed motions to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff had failed to adequately plead any legal claims against the Defendants. The district court agreed and entered an order and judgment dismissing all claims with prejudice.


In a case which arose out of a failed political campaign and a failed criminal prosecution of the defeated candidate, we were able to obtain a recommendation for dismissal by the U.S. magistrate judge.

THOMAS P. BRANDT and JOHN F. ROEHM III achieved a recommendation from the U.S. Magistrate Judge to dismiss a lawsuit against a North Texas county. The Plaintiff sued in federal court alleging claims for malicious prosecution under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Plaintiff sued the County for the actions of its former County Judge. The county filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for relief. The U.S. Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending the granting of the motion to dismiss which was adopted by the district court.


In a high-profile police shooting case which left one young man dead and another wounded and which led to the conviction of the officer, we obtained judgment in favor of the city’s police chief.

THOMAS P. BRANDT and JOHN D. HUSTED successfully defended the Chief of Police of a North Texas city from a federal lawsuit brought by the family of a teenager who was shot multiple times by an off-duty police officer previously employed by the city. Specifically, the federal court dismissed the Plaintiff’s failure to train and hiring claims against the chief, as FHMBK successfully argued that the chief was not deliberately indifferent in the hiring and training of the police officer involved in the shooting.


In a civil rights case arising from a fatal shooting, we obtained judgment in favor of a county sheriff and two investigators.

THOMAS P. BRANDT and CAROLINE SILEO successfully defended a county sheriff and two investigators against a lawsuit brought by a prisoner stemming from the incidents surrounding his criminal conviction for shooting and killing his father. The prisoner alleged various state and civil rights claims, and FHMBK filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice. The court agreed and dismissed the claims with prejudice.


In a case brought by parents of a disabled student asserting discrimination based on disability, we were able to obtain judgment in favor of a North Texas school district.

THOMAS BRANDT, FRANK VALENZUELA, and LAURA O’LEARY prevailed on motions to dismiss on behalf of a large Texas school district and one of its teachers in federal district court in the Northern District of Texas. Plaintiffs were parents asserting claims individually and on behalf of their disabled son. Plaintiffs claimed alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, assault, civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. FHMBK filed motions to dismiss all of Plaintiffs’ claims, and the court granted the dismissal.


In a case involving claims of sexual harassment and retaliation, we obtained summary judgment in favor of a North Texas school district.

THOMAS P. BRANDT and STEPHEN D. HENNINGER obtained summary judgment for a North Texas school district in a case filed under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. Plaintiff alleged that he was sexually harassed by a co-worker and sued for a hostile work environment. He further alleged that the school district unlawfully retaliated against him when he complained about the sexual harassment by terminating him. The school district contended that the Plaintiff had been fired for his own improper and sexually harassing behavior. The school district filed a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of all claims, which was granted by the district court.



FHMBK is pleased to announce that its litigation team, led by Thomas P. Brandt, has been selected by Texas Lawyer as Litigation Department of the Year finalist. “We are humbled by this award and are grateful to our clients for entrusting us with their legal needs,” said Brandt.

“This award is a testament to our team of dedicated and talented legal professionals who have consistently delivered incredible results while maintaining the highest standards of integrity. The track record of success we have compiled for our clients grows out of the firm’s core values of integrity, excellence, commitment, and teamwork.”

Pictured above (l-r) are members of FHMBK’s governmental entities group, Christopher Brandt, Laura O’Leary, Frank Valenzuela, Thomas P. Brandt, John Husted, Stephen Henninger, and Caroline Sileo (not pictured, John F. Roehm, III)


An awards banquet was held Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at the Belo Mansion to honor and celebrate those firms and attorneys who have excelled in the State of Texas. To access the Texas Lawyer article, click here.



FHMBK is once again proud to have four of its attorneys named to 2018 list of Texas Super Lawyers. This is the tenth consecutive Super Lawyer selection for both DON MARTINSON and JOSHUA T. KUTCHIN. This is the eight selection for THOMAS P. BRANDT and GEORGE L. LANKFORD.N D. MARTINSON and GEORGE L. LANKFORD also received the honor of being selected by their peers for inclusion in the 25th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America for

Insurance Law.





Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin, P.C. would like to congratulate KATHRYN VAUGHAN and LINDSEY HARDY on becoming Members with the firm.Since joining the firm in 2015, Ms. Hardy has contributed significantly to the firm in the area of insurance defense litigation.

Ms. Vaughan joined FHMBK in 2016 and since that time has distinguished herself in the area of insurance coverage and coverage litigation.

Please join us in congratulating Ms. Vaughan and Ms. Hardy for this significant accomplishment.


FHMBK is pleased to announce that CHRISTOPHER BRANDT has joined the firm as an associate. Christopher is a recent graduate of Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law after obtaining his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame. Christopher’s work will focus on civil rights, employment law, and appellate law.



THOMAS P. BRANDT participated in a panel discussion on Religious Liberty at the Baylor University Law School on March 23, 2018. The discussion was sponsored by the Baylor Law School chapter of the Federalist Society.




THOMAS P. BRANDT and Janet Spugnardi, Deputy City Attorney for the City of Irving, made a presentation at the Judge Abner V. McCall Inn of Court meeting held September 12 at Baylor University. Mr. Brandt and Ms. Spugnardi spoke on Strategies and Pitfalls When Dealing with the Media in High Profile Litigation.


THOMAS P. BRANDT spoke at this year’s Advanced Government Law Course held in San Antonio on July 19, 2018 on the topic of “Square Pegs in Round Holes – Cops as Healthcare Providers and Social Workers”.

FRANK VALENZUELA also spoke at the Advanced Governmental Law Course presenting on July 20, 2018 an update on the Texas Whistleblower Act.

THOMAS P. BRANDT spoke at the 2018 TML-IRP Attorney Workshop on August 24, 2018. Mr. Brandt’s presentation focused on ADA issues in law enforcement.

FRANK VALENZUELA spoke at this year’s Texas Advanced Paralegal Seminar on Civil Rights in Schools: A Litigation Update on September 27, 2018.

THOMAS P. BRANDT and LAURA O’LEARY spoke at the annual General Assembly of the Catholic Bar Association in Dallas on October 12, 2018 on the topic of Transgender Litigation.



LAURA O’LEARY will be joining S. Anthony Safi, of Mounce, Green, Myers, Safi, Paxson & Galatzan, P.C., in El Paso, Texas in presenting at the University of Texas School Law Conference in Austin on February 28, 2019. Mr. Safi and Ms. O’Leary will be speaking on “The Crossroads: Section 504, the ADA, and Chapter 21.” The presentation will provide a comparison of the causes of action for employment discrimination based on disability under Section 504, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code, plus a brief look at recent developments in Section 504 student litigation.


For access to FHMBK’s most recent Insurance Law newsletters, click the links below:

Pictured above, Kathryn Vaughan and Jennifer Kelley

June 2018

July 2018

August 2018

September 2018

October 2018



Congratulations to firm member, Frank Valenzuela, for completing the Spartan Race Dallas Beast on October 27, 2018. This year’s race was a grueling slog through more than 13 miles worth of mud and more than 30 obstacles. Though completing it alone in 2017, this year Frank was joined by his wife, two oldest sons, and a cousin. By completing the Dallas Beast, Frank completed his first Spartan Race Trifecta of this year and his second overall.


In August, member Laura O’Leary, competed in the Snipe Class U.S. National Championship regatta in Green Lake, Wisconsin.




FHMBK’s Copy Center Manager, Felicia Hargraves, poses with the Chick Fil A cow after participating in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 5K walk on October 27, 2018. Felicia is also a volunteer with the organization.