Litigation on behalf of clients is at the core of our expertise as a law firm. Litigation is an art, a science, and a practical business reality. Whether we are appearing before the United States Supreme Court or a municipal court, and whether the controversy concerns a private business contract or a high-profile public issue, we have the litigation knowledge and skills to resolve the case efficiently and successfully.
We have served as lead counsel in extensive litigation of landmark cases in areas as diverse as government contracts, voting rights, county jail overcrowding, and water rights. Our cases have resulted in successful recovery of, as well as the successful defense against, claims of hundreds of millions of dollars for clients. Condemnation, constitutional and civil rights litigation, bond validation suits, voting rights and election litigation, employment litigation and environmental litigation are among the substantive areas of our litigation practice. In many cases, our knowledge of the client's base business, gained through years of general counsel and regulatory representation, cuts litigation costs and improves the product. Our representation includes:
Bickerstaff Heath attorneys have extensive experience representing governmental entities involved in open records and open meetings litigation. For example, we successfully defended the City in In re City of Georgetown, one of the leading Texas Supreme Court cases construing the Texas Public Information Act.
ELECTION CONTESTS AND RELATED LITIGATION
Our attorneys have extensive experience successfully representing local, state, and federal office-holders in election contests filed by unsuccessful candidates. For example, we successfully defended a district court judge-elect in a mandamus proceeding before the Texas Supreme Court seeking to force the Texas Secretary of State to declare our client ineligible to hold office. More recently, we have successfully represented candidates in election contests related to the offices of mayor, county commissioner, state representative, and congressman of United States.
LITIGATION RELATING TO COMPETITIVE BIDDING AND AWARDING OF CONTRACTS
Bickerstaff Heath is an effective advocate for governmental entities facing litigation relating to the bidding and the awarding of contracts to private contractors. Our in-depth competitive experience advising governments on contract issues paves the way for efficient and knowledgeable representation when governments are sued over bidding and contracting issues. We recently successfully defended a county in a dispute with a private contractor related to the amount of payment due for a road repair project.
Condemnation litigation is the representation of governmental entities in condemning land when the landowner is unwilling to sell for the price offered by the governmental entity. Our attorneys regularly lead governmental clients step-by-step through the condemnation process. In cases where the landowners challenge the condemnation, we have a history of successfully defending our governmental clients in the ensuing litigation.
WATER AND WASTEWATER SERVICE AREA DISPUTES
Many of our public clients serve the important function of providing water and wastewater service to their citizens. Our litigators have experience in helping clients protect their rights to provide that service. Recently, our attorneys prosecuted one of the few cases in which a city has successfully obtained a federal injunction to prevent a special utility district from obtaining a federal loan that could have given the district a forty-year monopoly over service area in the city limits.
MUNICIPAL PROSECUTION AND CODE ENFORCEMENT LITIGATION
As a local government experiences population growth, the need for litigation services in the areas of municipal prosecution and code enforcement also increases. Our attorneys provide comprehensive criminal prosecution and civil litigation services for cities and counties in the areas of code enforcement and land use restrictions. For example, our attorneys recently handled a complex criminal trial involving municipal building code violations by a local business in which the jury found eighteen separate convictions. Also, our attorneys have successfully resolved code enforcement violations for municipalities through civil litigation and septic system violations.
The United States Constitution is the foundation of American law, and few law firms have equal experience to Bickerstaff Heath in dealing with how that important document controls the rights and responsibilities of governmental entities in Texas. We have built our reputation successfully litigating on behalf of public clients in cases involving the right to vote, the right to due process, and the other rights granted by the Constitution. In addition, our law firm has extensive experience in defending clients in civil rights litigation, in property rights matters and in the employment context. The firm has extensive experience in the following major areas of constitutional practice:
Bickerstaff Heath has successfully defended numerous cases involving alleged violations of the federal Voting Rights Act, and our practice includes matters before the federal district courts in all four Texas districts and in the District of Columbia, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. In addition, the firm has advised more than one hundred governmental entities on voting districts and has prepared hundreds of submissions to the Department of Justice.
CIVIL RIGHTS AND EQUAL PROTECTION SUITS
The right to equal protection under the Texas Constitution and the United States Constitution protects citizens from unfair treatment by their governments. Our attorneys regularly defend governmental entities accused of violating these important constitutional protections. In a recent case, for example, we successfully defended a city against a lawsuit by one of its citizens who alleged that the city had violated the equal protection clause in the way it conducted its municipal elections. The federal district court dismissed the case against the city.
TAKINGS AND INVERSE CONDEMNATION SUITS
Both the Texas Constitution and the United States Constitution prohibit the government from taking private property without just compensation to the landowner. Our attorneys have experience in defending governmental entities in these kinds of "takings" suits. In a recent case, for example, our attorneys defended a county accused of accepting the services of a private contractor without providing just compensation.
FIRST AMENDMENT CLAIMS
Bickerstaff Heath attorneys represent governmental entities in lawsuits alleging that the government has unconstitutionally violated its citizens' constitutional right to freedom of speech. Among many such cases that our attorneys have tried, one of our attorneys successfully defended an East Texas school district in a First Amendment/retaliation personnel case based on the district's decision to non-renew a teacher. In another case, the same attorney successfully defended a public school district against allegations by a teacher who claimed she was denied a job interview for a promotion based on her exercise of her First Amendment right to send her children to a private religious school.
DUE PROCESS CLAIMS
Our attorneys represent governmental entities in lawsuits regarding alleged deprivations of property rights without due process of law. For example, our attorneys have successfully defended school districts in due process claims in both state and federal court regarding teacher's and administrators' contracts.
STATE CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES
The lengthy and highly detailed Texas Constitution is sometimes overlooked by lawyers who take law school courses on the United States Constitution but learn of the details of the Texas Constitution only through experience. Bickerstaff Heath attorneys have dealt with major state governmental issues and are intimately familiar with the Texas Constitution. Prior to founding the firm, Bob Heath spent eleven years as the Chair of the Attorney General's Opinion Committee and in that position was likely the person in this state who worked most closely with Texas constitutional issues.
SECTION 1983 LITIGATION
Federal law provides a mechanism for individuals to sue state and local governments for alleged violations of the United States Constitution or laws. Our attorneys have successfully defended clients in numerous "section 1983" suits. For example, we recently represented a junior college district in a suit in which a group of faculty members alleged a breadth of federal constitutional violations, including denial of the right to free speech and failure to provide a safe building. The federal district court dismissed the case, and the plaintiffs took nothing.
Bickerstaff Heath has a wide variety of experience representing clients in Labor and Employment litigation. We represent employers in both state and federal court in contested employment matters. Often, our attorneys are able to obtain favorable settlements for our clients prior to trial. When litigation is necessary, however, our firm has a solid record in labor and employment matters. Our Labor and Employment Litigation practice includes:
We defend employers against Title VII discrimination and retaliation claims. Our attorneys have extensive experience in winning and/or successfully settling these types of claims. In a recent case, we helped our client, an employer in the technology industry, win a unanimous jury verdict dismissing a former employee's allegations that the employer retaliated against the employee by failing to promote the employee and by including the employee in a reduction in force.
FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT
We represent employers in suits filed under the Family Medical Leave Act, which is the federal law that creates certain leave requirements for employers that have fifty or more employees. Where possible, we attempt to dispose of FMLA and other claims through state and federal motion practice, thus avoiding the need to go to trial. We recently assisted a client in reaching a successful resolution of an FMLA retaliation case in which a former employee claimed that the employer terminated the employee for taking FMLA leave.
TEXAS WHISTLEBLOWER ACT
The Texas Whistleblower Act protects public employees from retaliation from their employers for reporting a suspected violation of law. Our attorneys are experienced in defending public employers against lawsuits brought under the Act. Recently, for example, we obtained a favorable settlement for a client accused of placing an employee on probation in violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act.
TITLE VII AND AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT ACT
Bickerstaff Heath attorneys have experience in representing employers in Title VII and age discrimination lawsuits. For example, we helped a school district obtain a favorable settlement in a lawsuit filed by a former teacher who claimed that the district discriminated against the former teacher by failing to renew the former teacher?s teaching contract . In another case, we obtained a unanimous jury verdict on behalf of our client dismissing a former employee's allegations that the employer retaliated against the employee by including the employee in a reduction in force.
AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
We conduct training on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires most employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations to employees with disabilities. We are also prepared to vigorously defend our clients against lawsuits alleging ADA violations.
Real estate litigation is the prosecution or defense of disputes arising from the purchase or sale of real property. Our attorneys have represented plaintiffs in wrongful foreclosure matters, landlords in suits involving commercial real estate leases, and public clients in matters involving the purchase or sale of property.
Bickerstaff Heath attorneys have successfully represented numerous public and private sector clients in breach of construction contract matters. In particular, we have represented school districts in matters involving leaky roofs, installation defects in gym floors, noncompliance with handicapped facilities regulations, design defects, defective workmanship, and construction delay claims.
We advise and assist our governmental and private clients on matters related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Our attorneys represent clients dealing with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Corps of Engineers (COE), and other federal agencies on issues related to ESA and NEPA compliance. We also represent clients in litigation involving ESA and NEPA issues, whether initiated by the clients, federal agencies, or environmental groups.
We have advised our clients regarding ESA issues related to the construction of major facilities including a major water supply pipeline and high voltage electric transmission lines. We also have extensive experience defending and prosecuting NEPA claims on behalf of our clients. Our attorneys have litigated NEPA issues related to the ESA claims brought in connection with the multiple Edwards Aquifer lawsuits and defended municipalities in litigation involving NEPA challenges to highway and international bridge construction. We also have represented local governments in NEPA challenges involving the construction of highways and water delivery pipelines, an airport runway at a major international airport in Texas, the construction of a fuel pipeline, and the construction of an inspection station at an international crossing. Our attorneys have developed a comprehensive understanding of the ESA and NEPA, and we use that experience to effectively represent clients on matters with ESA and NEPA related aspects.
Bickerstaff Heath represents public clients in lawsuits alleging unsafe buildings and facilities and hazardous working conditions. In recent years, for example, we have successfully defended clients in lawsuits filed by individuals alleging exposure to mercury, benzene, and mold.
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT
We have extensive experience litigating NEPA challenges, including challenges to the construction of a transbasin water delivery facility, highway construction, construction of an airport runway, a fuel pipeline, an international bridge, and an inspection station at an international crossing.
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
We also advise and assist our clients with respect to ESA Section 9 enforcement issues, including implementation and enforcement of the Act. For example, our firm represented landowners in a federal case involving allegations that "takings" under ESA Section 9 were caused by Edwards Aquifer pumping and seeking court-ordered limitations on such pumping. We also represented two cities and several agricultural pumpers in a federal class action suit filed by the Sierra Club challenging pumping from the Edwards Aquifer on the basis that pumping caused "takings" of listed species in the Comal Springs and San Marcos Springs. Our firm represented the Texas Farm Bureau in a declaratory judgment suit co-filed with the State of Texas seeking a declaration that the USFWS's regulation defining "harm" for purposes of ESA Section 9 was ultra vires as applied. Our attorneys have also submitted amicus briefs before the United States Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit on various issues, including supporting a private landowner declaratory judgment action seeking to have the ESA declared unconstitutional as applied to "purely intrastate" listed species.
Bickerstaff Heath attorneys have a broad range of experience in representing both public and private clients in general civil litigation matters. We partner with our clients to prevail on their behalf, whether appearing in state or federal courts or in alternate dispute resolution arenas. And as more and more cases end during the pre-trial stages, our experienced trial attorneys have maintained an active trial docket while focusing more attention on the strategies and efficiencies for prevailing at the pre-trial level.
The following areas represent the breadth of our civil litigation practice:
Our firm prosecutes and defends clients in disputes involving contracts, including disputes involving interpretation of contract terms, breach of contract, and the ability to contract. Our lawyers have successfully handled breach of contract claims brought by employees and independent contractors and have prosecuted claims on behalf of property owners and neighborhood associations. Our cases for governmental clients, including school districts, cities, counties, and utilities, have included the special legal requirements unique to those entities. For example, we successfully prosecuted a breach of contract suit involving the transfer of an electrical utility service area on behalf of a municipality. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of our client, and the court of appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment.
LIBEL, SLANDER, DEFAMATION
We prosecute and defend claims that a person's good name has been disparaged in either written or verbal format. Recently, we represented a member of a non-profit corporation who was the defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed against the member by the board of directors of the corporation. The suit ended with a settlement that was favorable to our client.
Our firm's attorneys have a great deal of experience in representing governmental entities in personal injury matters. Personal injury is the prosecution of claims for injuries inflicted by another in an accident. Our attorneys have experience representing a city in a slip-and-fall case, a school district in a student discipline case, and a South Texas school district in a bus accident death case.
Bickerstaff Heath represents clients in appeals of district court cases and administrative appeals of agency decisions. Appellate litigation is the briefing and arguing of cases on appeal from a trial court or in a district court of matters on appeal from a state or federal agency. Several of our attorneys have extensive appellate experience as Assistant Attorneys General, representing the State of Texas in numerous appellate cases including, matters relating to water rights, condemnation, tax matters, the Texas Whistleblower Act, insurance claims, open records and open meetings, voting rights, and electric utility issues. Charles Kimbrough, as District Attorney for Caldwell County, handled more than 130 appellate matters, and Rose Spector, in her years as a District Court Judge and then a Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, heard hundreds of cases.
Although our appellate practice is primarily performed as lead counsel, we also have experience acting as co-counsel with lawyers from other areas of the state or nation. As an Austin-based practice, we have the location and resources to access the State's legislative history as well as the collections of the Supreme Court of Texas, the Austin Court of Appeals, and the state's largest law libraries.
We are able to provide amicus submissions, lead counsel appellate representation, co-counsel appellate representation, consultation with trial counsel regarding dispositive motions, jury charges, and other areas of error preservation, moot court preparation for oral argument, and consultation on brief submissions.
INSURANCE DEFENSE AND RELATED LITIGATION
Bickerstaff Heath attorneys understand the important role insurance plays in disputes. We represent insurers and insurance-related clients in insurance defense matters, insurance coverage litigation, and insurance claims handling and bad faith litigation. In addition, we regularly defend clients against constitutional claims, civil rights claims and state tort claims on behalf of insurance carriers.
Many insurers rely on Bickerstaff Heath to successfully and efficiently defend their policy-holders against claims involving alleged constitutional violations, civil rights claims, and state tort claims. In recent years, we have represented a municipality in a slip-and-fall case, school districts in employment and wrongful termination disputes, and a private juvenile correctional facility in a Title VII employment discrimination and retaliation claim.
INSURANCE COVERAGE LITIGATION
Insurance coverage litigation is the prosecution or defense of an insurer's rejection of a claim based on the policy description of covered claims. Bickerstaff Heath attorneys, in addition to having analyzed numerous insurance coverage issues and preparing opinion letters, have represented an employee benefits pool in a collection of stop loss claims and defended a viatical settlement provider in a fraud and negligent misrepresentation matter.
INSURANCE CLAIMS HANDLING AND BAD FAITH LITIGATION
Insurance claims handling and bad faith litigation is the defense of claims and lawsuits (quite often personal injury) that are brought by persons knowing the claims are without merit. Our attorneys have experience in examining insurance policies in order to advise insurance carriers and self-insurance pools as to potential liability based on allegations, and we regularly represent such clients in insurance claim matters. In addition, Bickerstaff Heath attorneys have handled numerous appeals in insurance-related matters.
Attorneys who practice Litigation