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Thomas S. Leatherbury
Thomas S. Leatherbury
Senior Partner — Appellate
Senior Partner — Appellate

Thomas S. Leatherbury

Thomas S. Leatherbury

Trammell Crow Center
2001 Ross Avenue
Suite 3900
Dallas, Texas 75201

start quote symbolI love oral arguments. I love the courtroom. I love the constitutional issues I work on, especially in First Amendment cases. I have broad experience that benefits clients and allows me to help younger lawyers, in client work, in CLEs and in pro bono work.end quote symbol
Thomas S. Leatherbury

Experience Highlights

  • (U.S.); (5th Cir.); (W.D. Tex.) – Represented the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several other non-profits as amicus curiae in obtaining, from the U.S. Supreme Court, successful reinstatement of a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of Texas law H.B. 20, which regulates how social media companies moderate content

  • (11th Cir.); (M.D. Fla.); (Bankr. M.D. Fla.); (D.D.C.) – Defended District Court litigation brought by two United Mine Workers of America funds that sought to recover Coal Act liabilities by reopening decades old bankruptcy case to argue that all Coal Act liabilities had previously been discharged; on appeal to Eleventh Circuit, obtained favorable ruling that all Coal Act liabilities had been discharged in prior bankruptcy

  • (U.S.); (5th Cir.); (W.D. Tex.) – Obtained summary judgment defending the State Bar of Texas against a First Amendment mandatory bar challenge; on appeal, the Fifth Circuit vacated and granted partial summary judgment and a preliminary injunction to the three plaintiffs, but upheld the vast majority of the Bar’s challenged initiatives as constitutional; the U.S. Supreme Court denied our opponents’ cert petition

  • (W.D. Tex.) – Obtained dismissal of negligence, gross negligence, and civil conspiracy claims against a television network brought by an individual featured on a documentary television program

  • (NY App. Div.) – Obtained affirmance of dismissal of defamation and tortious interference claims by hedge fund against publisher of national newspaper

  • (5th Cir.); (E.D. Tex.) – Obtained affirmance of 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

  • (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 

  • (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

  • (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


  • 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)
  • 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), 2013–2022; Litigation: Appellate (Texas), 2009, 2010, and 2015–2022
  • Legal 500 U.S., Supreme Court & Appellate – Supreme Court, 2010–2019; Supreme Court & Appellate – Appellate, 2010–2019; Energy: Litigation, 2016; Dispute Resolution: Appellate, 2020–2022
  • Lawdragon, 500 Leading Litigators in America, 2023
  • The Best Lawyers in America© (BL Rankings, LLC), (Dallas): Litigation–First Amendment, 1993–2023; Commercial Litigation, 2005–2023; Appellate Practice, 2007–2023; Bet-the-Company Litigation, 2009–2023
  • The Best Lawyers in America© (BL Rankings, LLC), “Lawyer of the Year” in Appellate Law (Dallas), 2007–2020
  • The American Lawyer, Tony Mauro Media Lawyer Award, 2021
  • State Bar of Texas, Patrick Wiseman Award for Civil Rights, 2021
  • Yale University, Yale Medal, 2021
  • American Gateways, Law Firm Awardee (team member), 2021
  • 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, 2020
  • 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), 2003–2020 and 2022
  • 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
  • Commissioner: Texas Access to Justice Commission
  • Adviser: American Law Institute’s Restatement 3d of Torts: Libel and Privacy
  • Council Member: State Bar of Texas Appellate Section (2018−Present)
  • President: Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, 2021-2022 (Past President-Elect, 2020-2021; Past Treasurer, 2019-2020; Past Secretary, 2018-2019)
  • Member: American Academy of Appellate Lawyers
  • Member: Texas Bar College
  • Member: Yale Campaign Committee
  • 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)
  • 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
  • “Abortion Fund Libel Suits Seek the Line Between Fact and Opinion,” Bloomberg Law, October 25, 2022 (quoted)
  • “Practical Ways of Dealing with Sealing Requirements – A Lawyer’s Perspective,” State Bar of Texas, The Advocate, Fall 2022 (author)
  • “Controlling Social Media Content: Reasonable Regulation or Stifling Free Speech?,” Dallas Bar Association, August 17, 2021 (panelist)
  • “January 6, 2021: Looking Back and Looking Forward,” SMU Dedman School of Law “Flashclass,” January 14, 2021 (panelist)
  • “Developments in Texas Ant-SLAPP Litigation,” Austin College’s Kenneth L. Street Law Symposium, February 28, 2020 (panelist)
  • “Fundamentals of Texas State Court and Federal Court Summary Judgment Practice,” V&E Houston Office, October 22, 2019 (speaker)
  • “Changes to Motions to Dismiss in Texas,” State Bar of Texas’s Business Disputes Course, September 25, 2019 (panelist)
  • “The Ethical Appellate Practitioner,” State Bar of Texas Advanced Civil Appellate Practice Course, September 5, 2019 (speaker)
  • “Texas Citizens Participation Act,” UT Law Conference on State Federal Appeals, June 21, 2019 (speaker)
  • “Hate Speech and Incitement – Fifty Years after Brandenburg v. Ohio,” V&E New York Office, June 17, 2019 (speaker)
  • “50 Years After Brandenburg v. Ohio,” ABA Forum on Communications Law 24th Annual Conference, January 31, 2019 (moderator)
  • “Are You SLAPP Happy Yet?,” V&E Houston Office, October 30, 2018 (speaker)
  • “Newsgathering Rights,” Yale Law School Access and Accountability Conference, October 27, 2017 (speaker)
  • “Austin Bar Association Civil Appellate Section CLE,” V&E Austin Office, January 19, 2017 (speaker)
  • “Communications Law in the Digital Age – ‘Newsgathering Liability,’” Practising Law Institute, 2009–2021
  • “Rule 76A: A Primer in Sealing and Unsealing,” The Advocate, Vol. 72, Fall 2015 (co-author)
  • “Different Views of Briefing Waiver in the Courts of Appeals,” State Bar of Texas Advanced Civil Appellate Seminar, 2011
  • “Recent Developments in Media, Privacy, and Defamation Law,” ABA’s Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2, Winter 2010 (co-author)
  • Poliner v. Texas Health Systems: Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Restores Peer Review Immunity,” Health Law Litigation, 2009 (co-author)
  • “Enforcement of Arbitration Clauses,” State Bar CLE program, Practice Before the Texas Supreme Court, 2007
  • “The Fourth Estate Under Fire,” Duke Law School, 2007 (panel member)
  • “Hatfill: Are Standards for Defamation More Stringent for Matters of Public Concern?,” Communication Lawyer, Winter 2006
  • “ALI Takes Position on Foreign Judgments (Including Those Against the Media),” Communications Lawyer, Fall 2005
  • “Martha Stewart’s Explanations of Innocence: Securities Fraud or Protected Speech?,” Communications Lawyer, Winter 2004 (co-author)
  • Annual Texas Survey of Media Privacy & Related Laws, Media Law Resource Center (co-author)
  • “Representing Media Clients and Their Employees in Newsgathering Cases: Traps for the Unwary,” Communications Lawyer, Summer 2002 (co-author)
  • Numerous other ABA and Media Law Resource Center seminars and publications