After years of success in state and federal appellate courts, AZA announced its formal appellate practice group in 2021. In addition to traditional state and federal appellate work, AZA’s appellate team provides trial support on key legal issues and the jury charge, allowing AZA trial lawyers to do what they do best: try the case. Whether you need to hold onto a victory or get creative to reverse a loss, AZA’s appellate team brings AZA’s well-known out-of-the-box thinking and energetic approach to appellate issues.

AZA’s appellate lawyers have been busy. In the first full year of the formal practice group, AZA garnered nine wins in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Texas Supreme Court and intermediate Texas appellate courts. This success earned AZA’s appellate group a place on Texas Lawyer’s “Watch List” for 2023.

The practice group’s successes include:

  • In 2023 before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, AZA reversed a federal district court’s affirmance of an adverse agency ruling concerning the protection of its client’s confidential information in response to a FOIA request. Ryan, LLC v. Dep’t of the Interior, No. 22-10373.
  • Also in 2023 before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, AZA’s appellate team successfully held onto a summary-judgment victory that AZA’s trial team had obtained in favor of AZA’s client FMC Technologies, Inc. in a Fair Labor Standards Act case. Hebert v. Technip FMC, No. 22-20562. AZA convinced the Fifth Circuit to reject the plaintiffs’ argument based on recent United States Supreme Court precedent, Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. v. Hewitt.
  • In 2022, AZA defeated an insurance company’s appeal to the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals regarding coverage for over $5 million in defense costs incurred by AZA’s drilling company client in resolving underlying personal-injury lawsuits. Ohio Casualty Ins. Co. v. Patterson-UTI Energy, Inc., No. 14-22-00026-CV.
  • In 2022, AZA successfully argued at the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals that a local court was correct to toss a contractor’s frivolous attempts to use Texas’ anti-SLAPP law to delay an impending trial setting. AZA then defeated the contractor’s attempt to seek review at the Texas Supreme Court. This case is a poster child for the growing criticism that lawyers are using interlocutory appeals to simply delay cases. Upon remand, AZA’s trial lawyers obtained a decisive trial victory against the contractor with a $ 32.5 million jury verdict. Patriot Contracting, LLC and Stephen J. Friedman v. Mid-Main Properties, LP, 2017-19892, 650 S.W.3d 819 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2022, pet. denied).
  • Also in 2022, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Melinda Abbt v.City of Houston reversed a hostile work environment summary judgment order in a Houston firefighter’s case, setting two new precedents in hostile work environment cases. Abbt v. City of Houston, 28 F.4th 601 (2022).
  • In a single day in 2021, AZA appellate partner Judge Daryl Moore argued back-to-back governmental immunity cases for the City of San Antonio before the Texas Supreme Court. In early 2022, the Court ruled in favor of San Antonio, reversing the intermediate appellate court and dismissing both cases. City of San Antonio v. Armando D. Riojas, 640 S.W.3d 534 (Tex. 2022); City of San Antonio v. Jimmy Maspero, 640 S.W.3d 523 (Tex. 2022).
  • Also in 2021, AZA reversed an erroneous trial court ruling at the Texas Second Court of Appeals and convinced the Texas Supreme Court to affirm the appellate court regarding the scope of an arbitration provision in a dispute between the seller and buyer of oil and gas assets for the costs of environmental contamination. Wagner v. Apache Corporation, 627 S.W.3d 277 (Tex. 2021).
  • AZA convinced the Texas Supreme Court to become the first state high court to recognize that communications between nonlawyer patent agents and inventor clients are protected by the attorney-client privilege. In re Silver, 540 S.W.3d 530 (Tex. 2018).


The appellate group is headed by partner Jane Langdell Robinson. Ms. Robinson is Board Certified in civil appellate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She has been a co-author of O’Connor’s Texas Rules * Civil Trials, the premiere civil trial rules guide for Texas lawyers and judges, since 2018. She is also recognized by attorneys across the country as one of the Best Lawyers in America and as a Texas Super Lawyer for her appellate work.  She has argued many appeals, including before the Texas Supreme Court, Texas intermediate appellate courts, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ms. Robinson serves on the boards of directors for the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists (TACTAS) and the Montrose Center and is a member of the Houston Bar Association’s Appellate Council.  In addition to handling appellate matters on behalf of the parties, Ms. Robinson has prepared several amicus curiae briefs in both state and federal court.

Ms. Robinson is joined by AZA partner and former Harris County Judge Daryl Moore, a seasoned trial and appellate lawyer who also earned recognition as one of Harris County’s best judges when he served on the bench in the 333rd District Court. He was named Trial Judge of the Year for 2018 by the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists (TACTAS). He has prosecuted more than 100 appeals in state and federal courts and is Board Certified in civil appellate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He served on the Texas Pattern Jury Charge Committee (Green Book) and is a past President of TACTAS. He served as chair of the Civil Appellate Board Certification Committee from 2008 to 2011. He was chair of the Appellate Practice sections of both the State Bar and the Houston Bar Association and a director of the Litigation Section of the Houston Bar Association. Judge Moore has also taught trial and appellate law at three Texas law schools.

The group’s newest partner, Kelsi Stayart White, has spent her entire career at AZA after clerking for Judge Leslie H. Southwick, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Ms. White first gained substantial trial experience before specializing in appellate work. Because of that experience, she brings a trial lawyer’s practical perspective and communication skills to high-stakes motions and appellate briefs. Ms. White was named to the 2021 list of “Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch” for commercial litigation. She is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. During law school, Ms. White served as associate editor of the Texas Law Review.

Of Counsel JoAnn Storey focuses on appellate law and has been Board Certified in Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 1987. She is the past chair of the State Bar of Texas Appellate Section and past chair of the Houston Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Section. Ms. Storey  was a long-time member of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization’s Civil Appellate Law Examination Committee and Civil Appellate Law Advisory Commission. She is adjunct faculty at the University of Texas School of Law teaching appellate advocacy. She has an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell. Since 2005 she has been named to the Texas Super Lawyers list, a division of Thomson Reuters. And she is a Life Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation.

Associate Barbara DePeña is a trial and appellate lawyer. Ms. DePeña, a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, clerked for Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht of the Supreme Court of Texas as well as Judge Lynn N. Hughes of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. She joined AZA from a leading Houston firm where she handled complex commercial litigation matters involving breaches of contract, tortious interference, trade secret disputes, and copyright infringement claims.


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