New Requirement on Local Counsel Attendance at Mediation

Who attends mediation for a client is a decision that has to take into account several requirements.  There are the local rules requiring mediation, the Court’s orders requiring mediation, either in general, specific to a case or really really specific to a case, i.e. Ms. X is required to attend, and perhaps a mediator’s suggestions or requirements as far as who should be there. While the requirements regarding attendance of clients have always been fairly concrete and contemplate usually a single key person with a certain level of authority, the requirements regarding counsel have not always been beyond the attendance of lead counsel, but a major recent development changes that in a lot of cases.

Swearing In of New EDTX US Attorney; First Annual Northeast Texas Southeast Oklahoma Regional Rendezvous Honoring Law Enforcement

Joseph D. Brown was sworn in as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas on February 26, 2018, but had his formal administration of the oath at the Paul Brown (Joe’s uncle) courthouse in Sherman last Friday, April 13.    Mr. Brown serves as the chief federal law enforcement officer in the Eastern District of Texas, an area covering 43 counties with a population of more than 3.5 million.

Prior to his appointment as United States Attorney, Mr. Brown served for 17 years as the elected Criminal District Attorney of Grayson County, Texas.   From 2009 to 2014 he  served as a board member of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department where he helped to oversee the administration of Texas’ juvenile prison and probation system.

He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in Government and received his juris doctorate degree from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.

Following his formal swearing in, many attendees headed to my partner Clyde Siebman’s ranch in Oklahoma for the First Annual Northeast Texas Southeast Oklahoma Regional Rendezvous Honoring Law Enforcement, which was sponsored by the North Texas Crime Commission, Judge Paul Brown American Inn of Court, Eastern District of Texas Bar Association and Women Lawyers of the Eastern District of Texas. Invited guests include the U.S.Attorneys for the Eastern District of Texas and the Eastern District of Oklahoma, North Texas/Oklahoma Federal SACs; District Attorneys, County Sheriffs, OSBI and Texas Rangers of the Red River Valley, as well as other honored guests.

Judge Gilstrap Named 2018 Baylor Lawyer of the Year

U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap had an unusual ceremony in his courtroom Friday.  Called to an unscheduled hearing about an unidentified confidential matter, he was asked to “unseal the courtroom,” allowing the bailiff to open the doors to the public, which included his staff, courthouse employees and colleagues. The judge was then told that there was a “jury of his peers” waiting in the jury room, and when he invited the jury to enter, his wife led a crew of Baylor law school alumni and Gilstrap’s current and former colleagues on the EDTX bench, accompanied by the Baylor fight song. (No, seriously).  They included former EDTX judges David Folsom and T. John Ward; Clerk of Court David O’Toole; Texarkana EDTX judge Trey Schroeder; Marshall’s Magistrate Judge Roy Payne, and Lufkin trial lawyer George Chandler, as well as Baylor Law’s dean Brad Toben by satellite.

 

Baylor Law School now
Baylor Law School back when we had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to attend classes.

The reason that Judge Ward and George Chandler were in the room was for the announcement was that Judge Gilstrap would join them as a recipient of the Baylor “Lawyer of the Year” award.  The award began in 1961, making Judge Gilstrap the 58th Baylor Lawyer of the Year.” Other past recipients of the award from the EDTX include the late former Marshall EDTX Judge Sam B. Hall, Jr. in 1992, and former Tyler EDTX Judge Leonard Davis more recently.  For trivia buffs, it also means that the late Marshall lawyer Ernest Smith (no relation) now has two former partners, Judge Hall and Judge Gilstrap, who have been named Baylor Lawyer of the Year.

The recipient of the award is selected annually by the Baylor Law Alumni Association executive committee. The award is the highest honor given by the association, and is given to an outstanding alumnus who has brought honor and distinction to the Law School and to the legal profession. Criteria for recipients include legal accomplishment, involvement and service in the profession and active interest in Baylor Law.

Dean Toben told the assembled group that he likes to characterize it as a Baylor lawyer who is bright, a model of integrity, and one who illustrates through their life and service a sense of compassion, empathy, and an ability to reach out to others. He said it’s also someone who has a servant-led life that is influenced by faith.  He also noted that Judge Gilstrap’s colleagues have established a scholarship at Baylor Law School to benefit deserving students, in perpetuity.

Congratulations to Judge Gilstrap, and we’re all looking forward to the traditional dinner later this spring commemorating the honoree.

Judge Gilstrap Succeeds Judge Clark as EDTX Chief Judge

United States District Judge Rodney Gilstrap will assume the position of Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Texas on Thursday, March 1, 2018. He will replace Chief Judge Ron Clark who will take senior status at that time. For those keeping track, that will mean that the district has four of its eight active judgeships filled, with two judges on senior status, both in the Beaumont Division.  Three of the four vacancies have pending nominations.

February 2 Marshall/Tyler Patent Scheduling Conferences & Larger Filing Trends

The most recent batch of bimonthly patent case scheduling conferences was held earlier this week in Marshall, and as usual I have a brief rundown of the results compared to the last conference at the end of November, as well as the ones in September and July for longer term trends.
I am also comparing the results to the cases heard a year ago, since that tells us a lot about filings trends and how they’re affecting the docket.  The trend also bears some relating to recent data from other sources that I thought might be of interest.

Habemus nominees

The White House officially announced three judicial nominees for the Eastern District of Texas earlier today.  The nominees are:

  • Jeremy Kernodle of Dallas
  • J. Campbell Barker of Austin
  • Michael Truncale of Beaumont

The Eastern District currently has three vacancies in its eight judgeships, with two in Tyler and one in Plano, with a fourth coming in March when Chief Judge Ron Clark of Beaumont takes senior status.

As readers may recall, last year the White House nominated Jeff Mateer of Austin for the Plano slot, however his nomination was not resubmitted this month.  As readers may also recall, last year former Dallas state court judge Karen Gren Scholer of Dallas was nominated by President Obama for the Plano spot.  She was renominated by President Trump last year, but for a Northern District spot in Dallas, was voted out of committee October 26, and is waiting for a floor vote.

The U.S. Attorney picture is somewhat clearer – last year President Trump nominated Grayson County (that’s Sherman) district attorney Joe Brown.  Joe has been voted out of Judiciary as well and is awaiting a floor vote.

General Order 17-24; Local Rule Amendments (Filing of Sealed Documents & Summary Judgment Procedures)

While I was cavorting in Plano last week, the Court issued General Order 17-24, which is the annual revisions to the local rules. Public commentary regarding the local rule amendments is being accepted through Thursday, November 30 , 2017. Comments should be sent to

U.S. District Clerk David O’Toole

William Steger U.S. Courthouse, Room 106

211 West Ferguson St.

Tyler, TX 75702,

or to ClerkOfCourt@txed.uscourts.gov(link sends e-mail).

The rule amendments will be effective December 1, 2017 unless otherwise noted in the general order (so as to coincide with the FRCP amendments).

The two that will be of the most interest to practitioners will be those changing (1) the procedures for filing under seal; and (2) the procedures for summary judgment briefing, but there are a few others that deserve brief mention.