AZA has been successful in state and federal appellate courts for years and now has a formal appellate practice group. Successes include:
- The Texas Supreme Court became the first state high court to recognize that communications between nonlawyer patent agents and inventor clients are protected by attorney-client privilege. The Texas court found that inventor Andrew Silver, represented by AZA, would not have to reveal emails between him and his patent agent if they were communicating about the prosecution of the patent. Patent agents are often used by small, independent inventors because they are a more affordable way to obtain a patent.
- In a significant ruling upholding the ability of courts to protect individuals from threatening online speech, the Texas First Court of Appeals affirmed an earlier decision by a Harris County judge ordering two defendants to delete social media posts that had encouraged violence against a Houston businesswoman and her family. The ruling stems from a temporary injunction obtained by AZA in August 2018 on behalf of a Vietnamese-American businesswoman who was the target of malicious Facebook posts that accused her of being a secret Viet Cong operative. Multiple responses to the posts threatened violence against the businesswoman and her family. The temporary injunction entered in the 152nd District Court of Harris County required the defendants to delete posts that encouraged violence against the businesswoman or her family or that provided their home addresses.
- The Texas 14th Court of Appeals upheld a judge’s dismissal of a defamation lawsuit filed by Landry’s Inc. restaurant chain and its Downtown Aquarium that claimed the Animal Legal Defense Fund defamed Landry’s by criticizing the treatment of four endangered white tigers kept at the aquarium. The appellate court found that Harris County District Judge Steven Kirkland did not abuse his discretion when he denied Landry’s discovery and dismissed the company’s lawsuit. The motion for dismissal was filed by AZA under a Texas law that bars strategic lawsuits against public participation.
AZA has also been involved in cases that established groundbreaking precedent. After AZA refused to agree that its client’s corporate representative could be removed from the courtroom during the presentation of the plaintiff’s alleged trade secret evidence at a temporary injunction hearing, the case made its way to the Texas Supreme Court in 2016. The Texas Supreme Court created a new balancing hearing for excluding parties from the courtroom while trade secret evidence is presented, which was eventually codified in the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act. After the Texas Supreme Court proceedings, AZA obtained a winning jury verdict for its corporate client, whose representative remained in the courtroom throughout trial. Since then, AZA has sought and opposed relief at these exclusion hearings, known as M-I hearings, in numerous trade secret disputes.
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 (a distinction held by less than one percent of licensed lawyers in Texas). 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 has also been recognized by attorneys across the country as one of the Best Lawyers in America 2019-2021 for her appellate work.
Ms. Robinson is joined by 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 is also Board Certified in appellate law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and he serves on the Texas Pattern Jury Charge Committee (Green Book) and on the Board of Directors 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. Mr. Moore has also taught appellate law and edited O’Connor’s books on appellate law.
Associate Kelsi Stayart White is also in the appellate group. She focuses on dispositive motions and appeals in state and federal court in all areas of commercial litigation. She has handled cases involving contracts, trade secrets, insurance, noncompete agreements, employment disputes, and secured lending. Since joining AZA in 2016, Ms. White has gained substantial trial experience, including trying multiple cases to juries and the bench in both state and federal court, handling an international arbitration, and seeking and defending temporary restraining orders and temporary injunctions. 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. She served as a law clerk for Judge Leslie H. Southwick, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. During law school, Ms. White served as associate editor of the Texas Law Review.
Associate Hilary S. Greene also brings both trial and appellate experience to the group. Ms. Greene has handled cases for individuals, as well as mass-action litigation. Ms. Greene interned for U.S. District Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas while attending South Texas College of Law. In law school, she was on law review and won state and national advocacy competitions for briefs and oral advocacy. After graduation, she taught and mentored students competing in national moot court competitions on various topics, including constitutional law, bankruptcy, administrative law, health law, and civil rights law.