With 2012 about to become history, it’s time to look back and reflect on those in the Texas legal community whose actions have made it a year to remember. Without further ado, here are the 2012 winners of Texas Lawyer’s Tongue-in-Cheek Awards.
Lubbock personal-injury solo Davis W. Smith may be the “top banana” in his firm, but he chose the gorilla as his service mark. After his competitors in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu matches began referring to Smith as “The Gorilla,” his staff picked up on the nickname. Smith began using the gorilla in his firm’s advertising and applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2011 to register the service mark, “Injured? Get the Gorilla.” The USPTO issued a notice of allowance for the mark on Jan. 10. Smith doesn’t just use the gorilla as his mark, he also has a 4,000-pound gorilla statue in front of his office and another gorilla figure on the roof. He’s the hands-down winner of The Aped Crusader Award.
Two people in Schultz, et al. v. Medina Valley Independent School District, an emotionally charged school prayer case, win The Just Say You’re Sorry Award. The settlement agreement in Schultz contained a non-disparagement provision that prohibits school district personnel from disparaging the plaintiffs. Upon learning of statements by the MVISD superintendent and one of the directors of the high school marching band, Fred Biery, chief judge of the Western District of Texas, issued what he titled a “Non-Kumbaya Order.” The March 19 order gave the two respondentsthe opportunity to sign a statement within 10 days that contained an apology for comments that the plaintiffs interpreted as disparaging toward them. Biery’s order also required the plaintiffs to sign a statement accepting the apology.
One law school’s cyberspace mistake earned it a place on the list of this year’s award winners. The Embarrassing Email Award goes to Baylor Law School, where administrators accidentally sent incoming students a spread sheet detailing each student’s score on the Law School Admissions Test, undergraduate grade-point average and the amount of any scholarships awarded. The spreadsheet, which was attached to an email that the admissions office sent out April 3, also included the students’ names, addresses, telephone numbers and other personal data. The admissions office subsequently sent another email asking that recipients of the first email act professionally and delete the data. But did all of them hit the delete button? Who knows?
Recipients of the By the Sweat of Their Brows Award are some Vinson & Elkins attorneys who represented the port in Port of Houston of Harris County, Texas v. Zachry Construction Corp., a breach of contract suit. In its Aug. 9 opinion in Port of Houston, the 14th Court of Appeals found that the port’s attorneys’ perspiration in the discovery phase of the case helped substantiate $11 million in attorney fees. According to the 14th Court’s majority opinion, an expert’s testimony at trial indicated that during discovery “two Port attorneys went to an un-airconditioned, metal container facility crammed full of boxes not organized in any manner,” pulled boxes outside one at a time “and sat under a tree in May” to find responsive material. Ah, the glamorous life of a lawyer!