New Federal Judges
On April 26, the U.S. Senate confirmed nominees Gregg Costa , who will become a judge in the Southern District of Texas’ Galveston Division, and David Guaderrama , who will take his bench in the Western District of Texas in El Paso. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn , R-Texas, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, praises the confirmations. “I’m thrilled Mr. Costa and Mr. Guaderrama, both of whom have impeccable credentials and a passionate commitment to upholding the law, were confirmed today,” Cornyn says in a statement. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett , D-Austin, chairman of the Texas Democratic Congressional Delegation, also is pleased with the confirmations and wishes more nominees like them would be confirmed by the Senate. “While this process took far too long and there remain too many unfilled judicial vacancies in Texas, this vote represents modest progress,” Doggett says in a statement. Texas now has four vacant U.S. District Court benches. Guaderrama, a U.S. magistrate judge in the Western District, says he’s honored to become a U.S. district judge. “I look forward to taking the Oath of Office and continuing to serve the community of El Paso and the Western District of Texas,” he says in a statement. Costa, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District, says, “I’m humbled by this tremendous honor and I’m excited by getting started.” He says he plans to be sworn in next week. Costa’s appointment will impact the government’s criminal prosecution of former executives with the Stanford Financial Group of Houston. Costa was the lead prosecutor during R. Allen Stanford’s criminal trial in U.S. District Judge David Hittner ‘s court in Houston. In March, a jury found Stanford guilty of 13 of 14 criminal counts against him. The trial of Stanford’s co-defendants is set to begin later this year. Costa says Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Varnado will take his place on the trial team.
Suit Against NFL
Thirty-one former professional football players sued the National Football League in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, alleging the NFL failed to warn them about the dangers of head injuries they suffered during their playing days. The plaintiffs in April 25′s Lee Roy Jordan, et al. v. National Football League include some of the most famous men ever to wear a Dallas Cowboys star on their helmets. Randy White, Rayfield Wright, Walt Garrison, Charles Waters, Preston Pearson, Bob Lilly and Jordan all are former Cowboys who became famous playing for the team in the 1970s and now are in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor or the NFL Hall of Fame. Matthew Matheny of Beaumont’s Provost Umphrey represents the plaintiffs. “Obviously a lot of law firms wanted them to be clients . . . and I’m sure they had spoken with many law firms,” Matheny says. But all 31 hired Provost, retaining Matheny and firm founder Walter Umphrey to represent them. The firm believes the case is “a worthwhile cause for an outstanding group of men,” Matheny says. Brian McCarthy, NFL vice president of communications, says the league denies the allegations in the suit. “The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so. Any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league’s actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions,” McCarthy writes in an email. Numerous former NFL players have sued the league this year, also alleging they were not warned about how head injuries could affect them long term. In January, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation selected a U.S. District Court in Philadelphia to handle all of the former NFL players’ litigation. Matheny, 34, was too young to remember most of his clients’ playing days. But his father, a longtime Cowboys fan, filled him in. “Believe me, these were household names when I was growing up,” Matheny says.
On Board at the OCA
On May 7, Lubbock County court administrator David Slayton will become the new administrative director of the Texas Office of Court Administration . Former director Carl Reynolds retired March 31. “I’m real excited about the opportunity to go and work with the Supreme Court and the chief justice and all the great employees at OCA,” Slayton says. As OCA director, he will supervise technical and administrative services for courts across Texas, supervise more than 200 employees and oversee a $45 million annual budget. High court spokesman Osler McCarthy says, “David Slayton is and has been for several years a real wonder child in court administration up in Lubbock. . . . He’s really shown himself to be a remarkable administrator.” When he starts as director, Slayton says he hopes to lead the OCA to reach out and help counties without professional court administrators, continue to expand electronic filing across the state, and test “innovative ideas” such as regional public defender offices and new court-performance measurement tools. In his position as director of court administration in Lubbock County, Slayton says he supervised administration of the county’s district and county courts-at-law. Previously, he was court services supervisor for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas. Slayton holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas Tech University and a master’s in public administration from Troy State University, which is now called Troy University.
Race for Chair
Frank E. Stevenson, a Dallas partner in Locke Lord, will take the gavel as chairman of the State Bar of Texas board of directors on June 14 during the Bar’s annual meeting in Houston. Stevenson defeated Jo Ann Merica, special counsel at Sedgwick in Austin, in the race for chairperson at the April 13 State Bar board meeting in Fort Worth. “I think Frank is going to do a wonderful job, and I look forward to serving the lawyers of Texas in a different capacity,” Merica says. Asked about his decision to run, Stevenson says, “I had been encouraged by several members of the Bar board to consider doing this.” State Bar president Robert Black, managing shareholder of MehaffyWeber in Beaumont, says Stevenson will be involved in a major effort to inform the lawyers of Texas of the many benefits available to them through the Bar. “We want to make sure everyone on the board is getting out there and talking about all the benefits that are available” to lawyers, Black says. He says Bar members can realize “an amazing amount of savings” on many goods and services, including rental cars and vehicle insurance. Stevenson has served on the State Bar board since 2010 and on the Dallas Bar Association board since 1999, serving as the DBA president in 2008. He has served on the Dallas Bar Foundation’s board since 2007. After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1980, Stevenson joined Locke Lord’s predecessor, Locke Purnell Boren Laney & Neeley in Dallas. His practice focuses on administrative, transportation, real estate and finance law.
Paul Hastings opened an office in Houston on April 23 staffed by four partners, including three who formerly practiced at large Houston-based firms. The partners are Greg Nelson, a tax lawyer who came from Baker Botts; Paris Theofanidis, a finance lawyer from Vinson & Elkins; and Steven Tredennick, a private equity and mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer who was at Bracewell & Giuliani. Kevin Fisher, a finance and restructuring partner, moved to the Houston office from Paul Hastings’ San Francisco office. Greg Nitzkowski, managing partner of Paul Hastings, says his firm has eyed Houston for the past three years because it’s a major energy industry market, but started work a year ago on opening an office. He expects the office to grow to 25 to 30 lawyers within the first year. The firm has a number of energy clients, including Calpine Corp. of Houston, he says. Fisher says Paul Hastings’ move into Houston is part of the firm’s global energy initiative. Tredennick says it’s “less about a Houston office and more of a global energy practice.” Nelson, who will chair the office, says one of the reasons he made the move to Paul Hastings is because of its commitment to growing its energy practice, and its offices in major finance centers such as New York City. The Houston office is the 19th office for the New York-based Paul Hastings, which also recently submitted applications to open an office in South Korea. The Houston office opened its doors today, but Fisher has been in Houston for about four months laying groundwork for the new office. Nelson joined on April 9, Theofanidis on April 2, and Tredennick on Jan. 23. “Paris was a good colleague and we wish him well,” Scott Wulfe, V&E’s managing partner, says in a statement provided by the firm. Maria Boyce, partner in charge of the Houston office of Baker Botts, writes in a statement: “Houston is a great place for the practice of law. We wish Paul Hastings and Greg Nelson the best of luck.” In a statement, Bracewell managing partner Mark Evans writes, “Steve is a talented attorney and a great friend, we wish him all the best in his new role.”