Civil justice groups back Dallas attorney for open appellate seat on Texas’ busiest court
DALLAS – Several Texas civil justice groups have endorsed John Browning, a Dallas attorney with nearly three decades of experience practicing law, to become a justice on the state’s most active court of appeals.
The Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas has two open spots up for grabs in 2018.
Since announcing his candidacy for place 11, conservative-minded groups such as the Texas Civil Justice League, Texans for Lawsuit Reform and Texas Bipartisan Justice Committee have endorsed Browning.
“I am incredibly gratified and humbled to have the support of these groups,” Browning told the Record. “I view their support as recognition of my commitment to a fair and balanced civil justice system in Texas.”
The Fifth Court serves six counties, including Collin, Dallas, Grayson, Hunt, Kaufman and Rockwall, and receives around 2,000 appeals a year, most of which are civil – making the court the largest and busiest in Texas.
And while Browning says he’s grateful to have the support of so many pro tort reform groups, his duty, if elected, will always be “to interpret the law as it was written and fairly apply it to the facts of the case in a manner unswayed by any personal opinions or leanings.”
Legal reform has been a central theme in the Texas Legislature for the past two decades. Many of the measures enacted ultimately need clarification from the state’s appellate courts.
“Over the course of 28 years of practice, I’ve witnessed a variety of reforms including not just tort reform but changes to our discovery and procedural rules,” Browning said.
“While certain tort reform measures did result in a decline in certain types of lawsuits, such as medical malpractice suits, my experience has been that other areas of the law – such as commercial litigation over business disputes, employment law, or intellectual property cases – have witnessed an increase.”
Browning says rapid technology developments have also spawned new areas of legal concern, such as online defamation for example.
“My practice, like that of many lawyers, broadened over the years in response to the needs of my clients,” Browning said. “A small business owner or individual who might have sought my counsel in connection with a personal injury liability lawsuit in years past now has to deal with changes in areas like our employment laws or with issues like cyber liability.
“Not surprisingly, our state’s appellate courts have had to confront not only changes in substantive areas of law, but also the many ways in which technology is impacting the law, including the kinds of evidence that can now be admitted, such as text messages or tweets.”
Browning was recently invited by Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht to address the high court’s advisory committee on the possible adoption of new rules, which involve such subjects as attorneys’ researching prospective jurors online, and what are appropriate ethical limits for judges engaging on social media.
“I hope that, if elected, I can use my background as a nationally recognized authority on technology and the law to assist the Fifth Court of Appeals with the technology-related legal issues that are coming up more frequently,” Browning said.
“I have seen many of these reforms come into play, including the spread and great importance of electronically-stored information. I’m even a contributing author, along with a federal judge, to a book on e-discovery in Texas.”
One relatively recent reform, the Texas Citizens’ Participation Act, the state’s “anti-SLAPP” law, has witnessed the development of a growing body of case law, as appellate courts throughout Texas have been deciding how the law applies to many situations.
“I’ve argued on both sides of such TCPA cases, so I feel uniquely-qualified to examine any legal issues that might be present if such a case were to come before me as a sitting justice,” Browning said.
“My role as a justice would be to protect, defend, and interpret our laws, not to rewrite them or legislate from the bench.”
Browning, who will take a pay cut if elected, says his practice experience is fairly broad, encompassing personal injury and wrongful death cases, product liability, commercial litigation, employment, intellectual property, defamation, professional liability, consumer law, and even family law, probate, and criminal law.
In 2015, he was appointed by the Supreme Court of Texas to the Professional Ethics Committee of the State Bar, a 9-member body that writes the ethics opinions that govern and guide Texas lawyers.
Browning has also been recognized throughout Texas and nationally for his legal writing. One of his past syndicated columns, Legally Speaking, use to appear in the Record.
A National Merit Scholar, Browning went through Rutgers on a full academic scholarship. He also received a scholarship to attend the University of Texas School of Law.
He worked throughout college, where he met his wife of 28 years, Lisa.