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Thomas S. Leatherbury

Thomas S. Leatherbury Partner, Appellate

Tom Leatherbury, practice group leader of the firm-wide Appellate practice, is an appellate lawyer with forty years of experience in state and federal appeals and trials. During that time, he has worked on commercial, tort, intellectual property and health care cases, as well as class actions. Tom has made 37 appellate and countless trial court arguments, and has tried or handled the appellate-related portions of close to 20 jury trials.

Tom has also regularly represented traditional and digital publishers and broadcasters in all aspects of media litigation throughout his career, including libel, privacy and other torts, reporter’s privilege, newsgathering and access, misappropriation, and breach of contract actions.

Tom is also deeply committed to training young lawyers in Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses and to an extensive range of pro bono work, from family to immigration to constitutional law. Among many other honors, he was recently named a fellow in the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, was presented with the Dallas Bar Foundation Justinian Award, and was awarded a Presidential Citation from the State Bar of Texas for his commitment to helping its diversity and inclusion efforts.

Experience Highlights

  • (NY App. Div.) – Obtained affirmance of dismissal of a defamation and tortious interference suit filed against publisher of leading national newspaper
  • (5th Cir.); (E.D. Tex.) – Obtained dismissal of RICO, conspiracy, tortious interference, and defamation claims against local newspaper and its employees and owner
  • (Tex.) – Obtained reversal of lower appeals court decision against The Dallas Morning News in a defamation case arising out of a series of investigative articles on alleged healthcare fraud

Federal Appeals & Trials

  • (5th Cir.) — On behalf of Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and Dr. James Knochel, secured reversal of a record $366 million jury verdict in a physician peer review case; judgment was rendered in our clients’ favor, holding that they were immune from damages claims under the federal Health Care Quality Improvement Act; the United States Supreme Court denied plaintiff’s petition for certiorari
  • (N.D. Tex) — Successfully defended Lutron Electronics, Inc. in a $218 million patent infringement suit in a three-week jury trial; the jury found no infringement and further found the patent to be invalid
  • (5th Cir.) — Obtained reversal of a $13 million bankruptcy preference judgment
  • (5th Cir.) — Obtained reversal of a $2 million products liability judgment against a manufacturer
  • (W.D. Tex.) – Obtained dismissal for lack of jurisdiction based on amended legislation that mooted constitutional claims at issue in the case 

State Appeals & Trials

  • (Tex.) — Obtained reversal, partial rendition, and remand of an $84 million jury verdict on behalf of a major rental-truck company in a personal injury case ($45 million judgment)
  • (Tex.) — Obtained reversal in a multibillion dollar dispute over the regulatory accounting treatment of nuclear plants
  • (Tex.) — Obtained reversal in an insurance bad faith case in which the Texas Supreme Court imposed significant limits on punitive damages
  • (Tex. App. – Amarillo) — Successfully argued before the Amarillo Court of Appeals, obtaining reversal of trial court’s judgment and rendition of judgment in favor of our banking clients, holding that their actions complied with the bank’s articles of incorporation
  • (Tex. App. − Austin) — Obtained reversal and remand of a Public Utility Commission order denying $4 million in attorney’s fees
  • (Tex. App. − Dallas) — Obtained affirmance of the dismissal of a shareholder derivative action against a major health care organization
  • (Tex. App. − Dallas) — Obtained affirmance of a trial court order unsealing an arbitration award
  • (Tex. App. − El Paso) — Obtained affirmance of the actual damages portion of the largest reported wrongful death judgment against a railroad at the time
  • (Tex. App. − Beaumont) — Obtained affirmance of a trial court’s judgment approving the settlement of a nationwide consumer settlement class
  • (Tex. App. − Dallas) — Obtained reversal of a $30 million summary judgment in a breach of contract case
  • (Tex. App. − Houston [14th Dist.]) — Obtained reversal of a $17 million judgment against an insurance company in a bad faith case
  • (Tex. App. − Houston [14th Dist.]) — Obtained reversal of an $8 million judgment against a telephone company in an antitrust case
  • (Tex. Dist. − Dallas) — Obtained an order vacating an $18 million judgment against an insurance company in an alleged misrepresentation case
  • (Tex. Dist. − Dallas) — Handled legal issues for trial team that obtained a defense verdict in a $16 million breach of contract case

Media Litigation

  • (Tex. Dist. − El Paso) — Obtained a defense verdict for a national network in a libel trial
  • (Tex.) — Obtained mandamus relief for The Dallas Morning News in a case seeking to unseal discovery in a wrongful death suit
  • (5th Cir.) — Obtained affirmance of dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction for foreign publishers
  • Litigated in numerous federal and state trial and appellate courts on behalf of media defendants in defamation and invasion of privacy cases

Contact Details


T +
F +1.214.999.7792
Trammell Crow Center
2001 Ross Avenue
Suite 3900
Dallas, TX 75201
Local time: 3:09 PM
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Tom's Practices

  • Yale Law School, J.D., 1979 (Chair, Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization)
  • Yale College, B.A., History summa cum laude, 1976 (Phi Beta Kappa)
  • Admitted to practice: Texas; United States Supreme Court; all federal courts in Texas; U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fifth, Second, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Federal Circuits
  • Law clerk to the Honorable Robert M. Hill, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas, 1979–1980
  • Chambers USA, First Amendment Litigation (Nationwide), 2013–2019; Litigation: Appellate (Texas), 2009, 2010, and 2015−2019
  • Legal 500 U.S., Supreme Court & Appellate – Supreme Court, 2010–2019; Supreme Court & Appellate – Appellate, 2010–2019; Energy: Litigation, 2016
  • The Best Lawyers in America© (Woodward/White, Inc.), First Amendment Law, 1993–2020; Commercial Litigation, 2005–2020; Appellate Law, 2007–2020; Bet-the-Company Litigation, 2009–2020
  • The Best Lawyers in America© (Woodward/White, Inc.), "Lawyer of the Year" in Appellate Law (Dallas), 2007-2020
  • Texas Lawyer, Texas Trailblazer, 2019
  • Dallas Bar Foundation, Justinian Award, 2018
  • State Bar of Texas, Presidential Citation, 2018
  • Access to Justice Commission, Pro Bono Champion, 2014
  • Texas Civil Rights Project, Kristi Couvillon Pro Bono Award, 2013
  • Euromoney’s Benchmark Litigation, "Local Litigation Star" in Texas, 2013, 2016–2018
  • Euromoney’s Benchmark Appellate, "Fifth Circuit Litigation Star," 2012 and 2013
  • D Magazine, “The Best Lawyers in Dallas,” Appellate Law, 2011–2017
  • National Law Journal, “Appellate Hot List,” 2009
  • Legal Media Group’s (Euromoney’s) Guide to the World’s Leading Technology, Media & Telecommunications Lawyers, media section, 2003 and 2005
  • Selected to the Texas Super Lawyers list, Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters), 2003–2019
  • Texas Lawyer, Go-To Guide, Top-Notch lawyer, Media Law, 2007
  • Texas Lawyer, Go-To lawyer, Media Law, 2002
  • Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, James Madison Award, 1991
  • Director: SMU Dedman School of Law First Amendment Clinic; Adjunct Professor of Law 
  • Adviser: American Law Institute’s Restatement 3d of Torts: Libel and Privacy
  • Council Member: State Bar of Texas Appellate Section (2018−Present)
  • Secretary: Texas Supreme Court Historical Society (2018−Present)
  • Member: American Academy of Appellate Lawyers
  • Member: Texas Bar College
  • Associate Fellow: Jonathan Edwards College, Yale University
  • Chair: Yale Alumni Fund Board of Directors (2016−2018)
  • Member: Yale Law School Fund Board (2018−Present)
    • Past Member: Executive Committee of the Yale Law School Association (YLSA)
    • Editorial Board: Communications Lawyer
    • Past Chair, Board of Trustees: National Association of Law Placement (NALP) Foundation
    • Fellow: American Bar Foundation; Texas Bar Foundation; Dallas Bar Foundation
    • Research Fellow: The Center for American and International Law
    • Regular Faculty Member: ABA Forum Committee on Communications Law Media Advocacy Workshop
    • Past Lead Facilitator: ABA Forum Committee on Communications Law Annual Meeting, Hot Issues in Libel and Privacy
    • Member: American Law Institute (since 1998); Forum Committee on Communications Law, Council of Appellate Lawyers, Litigation and Tort & Insurance Practice Sections, American Bar Association; Litigation and Appellate Practice Sections, State Bar of Texas; Appellate and Business Litigation Sections, Dallas Bar Association; State Bar of Texas Pro Bono College
    • Past Director and Past President: Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas
    • Past President: Defense Counsel Section, Libel Defense Resource Center (now known as the Media Law Resource Center)
    • Past Chair: Media Relations Committee, Dallas Bar Association
    • Past Member: Governing Committee, Forum Committee on Communications Law, American Bar Association; Texas Supreme Court Rules Advisory Committee
    • Co-chair: MLRC/NAA/NAB Conference (2010−2016)
    • Adjunct Professor: Southern Methodist University, Spring 2004–Spring 2007 (Ethics of Communication; Communications Law)
    • Past Board Member: Texas Appleseed
    • Board Member: Dallas Downtown, Inc.
    • Member: Dallas Citizens Council
    • Board Member: Business Council for the Arts (Chair: 2009-2012)
    • Chair: Board of Trustees, Greenhill School (2000–2002)
    • Participant: The Aspen Institute, Justice and Society program (1996)