Martin Siegel has an extensive background in appellate and trial-level briefing and argument cutting across a broad range of substantive and procedural areas, including constitutional law, commercial disputes, product liability, personal injury, federal preemption, consumer protection, jurisdiction, venue, removal and remand, governmental immunities, ERISA, maritime, employment law and others.
Siegel’s experience began as a federal appellate law clerk and deepened over years of representation of corporate and institutional defendants, the United States, and individual and corporate plaintiffs. He has briefed and/or argued appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court; the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second, Fifth, Eleventh, and Federal Circuits; the Texas Supreme Court; and several state appellate courts.
Some of his more significant cases include:
Civil Rights and Constitutional Cases
Tolan v. Cotton
Siegel obtained reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court of the Fifth Circuit's decision dismissing Robbie Tolan's civil rights suit against Bellaire, Texas police officer Jeffrey Cotton for shooting him in violation of Tolan's Fourth Amendment rights. Cotton shot Tolan on Tolan's own front porch while Tolan, who was unarmed, was on his knees. Cotton was investigating a report of a stolen car after another officer mistyped Tolan's license plate number into a computer in his police car. The district court granted summary judgment to Cotton and the Fifth Circuit affirmed in an appeal Siegel argued. But the Supreme Court granted Siegel's petition for writ of certiorari and unanimously reversed without further briefing or argument. The Supreme Court held that the Fifth Circuit wrongly applied the standard governing summary judgment and ignored facts that could lead a jury to decide that Cotton violated Tolan's rights by shooting him without sufficient cause. See 134 S. Ct. 1861 (2014). The case has been widely covered in local and national media.
Kinney v. Barnes
Kinney sued Barnes for defamation, seeking only a court order requiring Barnes to remove a defamatory post about Kinney from websites he controls. The lower courts held that this sort of order would amount to an unconstitutional prior restraint against speech, and that Kinney's only recourse was a claim for money damages. In a case of first impression in Texas, the Texas Supreme Court agreed with Siegel and reversed these decisions, holding that a court can order websites to remove defamatory content, though future online speech cannot be enjoined. The case was covered by media including The New York Times, The Washington Post, several Texas newspapers, NPR, and Austin television stations. See 443 S.W.3d 87 (Tex. 2014). To read Kinney's brief, click here.
Harry F. Connick, et al. v. John Thompson
John Thompson spent 18 years on death row in Louisiana until investigators discovered blood testing withheld by New Orleans prosecutors at the time of his trial in 1985. After being released, he won a civil judgment against the district attorney's office under § 1983 based on the office's deliberate indifference in failing to train junior prosecutors in their constitutional duty to disclose exculpatory evidence. Siegel wrote a brief urging affimance of Thompson's award in the U.S. Supreme Court and before the Fifth Circuit en banc on behalf of centers in criminal law and ethics at NYU Law School, Stanford Law School, and three others. The brief argues that the need to train prosecutors in the law and ethics of required disclosure is vital and reflects a growing nationwide consensus. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court overturned Thompson's award in a 5-4 decision. Justice Ginsberg's dissent cites Siegel's brief. See 131 S.Ct. 1350 (2011). To read the amici brief in the Supreme Court in this case, click here.
Hernandez v. Mesa
Siegel filed an amicus brief on behalf of Dean Erwin Chemerinsky supporting the Hernandez family's petition for certiorari. The petition seeks review of the Fifth Circuit's en banc decision dismissing the family's claim of excessive force arising from a Border Patrol agent's shooting of fifteen year-old Sergio Hernandez. The agent was standing inside the United States when he shot and killed Hernandez, who was a few feet away inside Mexico. The brief argues that the Fourth Amendment should apply to the shooting, though Hernandez was a Mexican citizen. See Hernandez v. Mesa, No.15-118. To read the amicus brief in this case, click here. The brief was covered by Law360 and the Houston Press; to read the Law360 article, click here.
Veasey v. Abbott
Siegel representes a former Texas governor and Secretary of State as well as several current election officials as amici in the suit to invaliate Texas's restrictive new voter identification law, now pending in the Fifth Circuit. Siegel has two written two briefs in the case -- one to the original three-judge panel that initially heard the appeal, and a second to the en banc court. The latest brief argues that recent studies show how voter ID laws depress voter turnout, particularly in Texas. See Veasy v. Abbott, No. 14-41127 (5th Cir.) (pending). To read the amicus brief in this case, click here.
Evenwel v. Abbott
Evenwel argued in the U.S. Supreme Court that people ineligible to vote -- such as children and ineligible immigrants -- should not be counted when lawmakers configure and equalize the populations of voting districts. Siegel filed an amicus brief on behalf of several Texas state senators arguing that legislators at all levels provide vital constituent services to everyone, including many unable to vote, and that such services will suffer if only voters are counted when district lines are drawn, since nonvoters are likely to be packed into larger, lopsided, urban districts. The Court ruled against Evenwel and acknowledged, as Siegel argued, that changing how districts are apportioned could harm key constituent services. See 136 S. Ct. 1120 (2016). To read the Senators' amicus brief in this case, click here.
Greater Houston Small Taxicab Co. Owners Ass'n v. City of Houston
Siegel represented an association of sixty small taxi companies in their constitutional challenge to a Houston ordinance allocating 211 new taxi permits. The ordinance favors large, established taxi companies over their smaller competitors despite the small companies' claim that they provide the same level of service to passengers. Although the Fifth Circuit agreed with the association that laws arbitrarily benefiting certain private companies over others without aiding consumers -- "naked economic preferences" -- can violate the Equal Protection Clause, it ultimately upheld the ordinance. See 660 F.3d 235 (5th Cir. 2011). The opinion was described as one of ten of the most important issued by the court in 2011. James C. Ho and Michael D.Y. Sukenik, Ten of the Fifth Circuit's Most Important Opinions of 2011, Texas Lawyer, December 19, 2011 at 34. To read the association's brief, click here.
Moussazadeh v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice, et al.
Siegel represents amicus curiae The American Jewish Committee in this challenge by an inmate to Texas correctional system rules preventing him from eating a kosher diet. The district court found Moussazadeh insincere in his stated desire to keep kosher in light of past lapses in his religious practice, but AJC argues that Jewish law would not condemn him as disingenuous simply because his observance has been imperfect. See 703 F.3d 781 (5th Cir. 2012). To read AJC's amicus brief, click here.
Texas Democratic Party v. Benkiser
Siegel successfully represented the Texas Democratic Party and obtained affirmance of a district court decision holding that it was too late for the Republican Party to substitute a new candidate for Tom DeLay on the 2006 general election ballot after DeLay withdrew and ended his candidacy. The Fifth Circuit agreed that the Democratic Party had standing and that permitting the untimely replacement would violate the Constitution's Qualifications Clause and state election law. See 459 F.3d 582 (5th Cir. 2006). To read the Texas Democratic Party's briefs in this case, click here.
City of New York and Rudolph Giuliani v. United States and Janet Reno.
New York City challenged provisions of the 1996 welfare and immigration reform laws that invalidated local rules against disclosing the immigration status of aliens to federal law enforcement. In a case of first impression, the Second Circuit held that the federal provisions do not violate the Tenth Amendment’s bars on interfering with state operations or conscripting state officials to carry out federal tasks. See 179 F.3d 29 (2d Cir. 1999). Siegel wrote the federal government’s trial and appellate briefs and successfully argued the appeal in the Second Circuit. To read the United States’ brief in this case, click here.
Elizondo v. City of Garland
The Elizondo family sued a police officer who fatally shot their teenaged son. The district court dismissed and the Fifth Circuit affirmed. Siegel filed a petition for certiorari to resolve a circuit split on whether courts should consider an officer's provocation of an emotionally disturbed subject when assessing the reasonableness of the officer's use of deadly force to defend himself. The petition was profiled online by the National Law Journal, and several mental health and civil rights organizations filed supporting amici briefs, but the Court denied certiorari. See Case No. 11-1375 (2012). To read the petition, click here.
Westlake Petrochemicals, L.L.C. v. United Polychem, Inc., et al.
Siegel represented a California corporation, United Polychem, and its owner in appealing a $6.3 million damages award obtained by Westlake arising from an unconsummated $60 million sale of ethylene. The Fifth Circuit reversed the award and ordered entry of judgment in favor of United Polychem's owner, whom the district court held liable under a personal guaranty. It also reversed the award against United Polychem and remanded for a retrial on Westlake's damages using legal standards more favorable to United Polychem. See 688 F.3d 232 (5th Cir. 2012). To read United Polychem's brief, click here.
GDG Acquisitions, L.L.C. v. Government of Belize
Siegel's client GDG contracted to lease telephone equipment to the government of Belize and alleges Belize beached the lease and owes GDG approximately $14 million in overdue payments. The district court dismissed the case based on forum non conveniens and international comity, but the Eleventh Circuit reversed, agreeing with GDG that neither ground supports dismissal. The decision sets important precedent fleshing out the doctrine of prospective international comity and precluding foreign governents and companies from evading their contractual commitments to litigate in the U.S. It is also one of the first decisions to apply the U.S. Supreme Court's recent holding in Atlantic Marine Const. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court, 134 S. Ct. 568 (2013) regarding the preference for enforcing forum selection clauses. See __ F.3d __, 2014 WL 1599561 (11th Cir. 2014). To read GDG's brief, click here.
.Lone Star OB/GYN Associates v. Aetna Health Inc.
Siegel was brought in to argue this appeal to the Fifth Circuit after the briefing was completed and the court scheduled the case for oral argument. In a case important to doctors throughout Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, Siegel represented Ob/Gyn specialists who sued under Texas law to obtain timely payment of bills submitted to Aetna for treatment of Aetna health plan members. Aetna argued that the physicians' claims were preempted by ERISA, the federal law governing certain aspects of health plans. The court of appeals held in favor Siegel's client, rejecting Aetna's preemption argument and deciding that Texas law protects doctors from delayed payment. See 579 F.3d 525 (5th Cir. 2009).
Gus H. Comiskey, III and TC3, Inc v. FH Partners LLC
Siegel obtained reversal of a directed verdict in this seven-figure, complex commercial case. The appellant paid a substantial sum for land in Houston but, just as he was on the brink of acquiring the property, the lender refused to transfer title based on the unpaid debts of a prior owner and a cross-collateralization clause in loan documents. Accepting Siegel's argument, the court of appeals held that the trial court should not have precluded the appellant's claims from proceeding to trial against the lender. See 373 S.W.3d 620 (Tex. App. -- Houston [14th Dist.] 2012, rev. denied). To read the appellant's brief, click here.
Setien SA de CV v. Balli Steel, PLC., et al.
Setien SA de CV, a Mexican commodities trading firm, alleged that Balli Steel, a London-based steel broker, breached the parties' contract to sell 10,000 coils of cold rolled steel, costing Setien millions of dollars in damages when it could not provide the steel to its largest customer and lost other orders. In the resulting international arbitration, Siegel was asked to draft Setien's statement of claim and other briefs and argue the legal issues, including complex questions of agency, contract law and damages under the Texas Business and Commerce Code. The Arbitrator awarded over $2 million to Setien. Case No. ___ (Privately Administered Arbitration).
Holmes v. Jetall Companies, Inc.,
Siegel represents property owners against a real estate development company awarded nearly $1 million in lost profits damages when the property owners rejected a sale of land to the company. Siegel argued that the jury's award, which was upheld by the trial court, lacked any foundation in the evidence, and the court of appeals agreed, reversing the full lost profits award. To read Siegel's brief, click here.
Accolade Systems LLC v. Citrix Systems, Inc.
Siegel represented Accolade in this patent infringement case about technology that permits computers to be run remotely as "virtual machines" through wesites. The district court held that Accolade released claims against one defendant based on a settlement agreement executed with another. After Siegel's brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the parties entered into a favorable settlement resulting in withdrawal of the adverse district court decision. See Case No. 1009-1509. To read the appellant's (Nonconfidential) brief, click here.
Grigsby v. ProTrader Group Management LLC, et al.
In this arbitration, Grigsby claimed that the defendants violated securities laws and committed minority shareholder oppression by squeezing him out of the company he co-founded shortly before it was sold for $150 million. As part of the team representing Grigsby, Siegel briefed and argued summary judgment motions and other issues, including ratification, duties owed under the Texas Revised Partnership Act, the statute of limitations for 10b-5 claims under Sarbanes-Oxley, standards for recovery for shareholder oppression, and others. The arbitrators accepted Grigsby’s legal positions and awarded him $43 million in compensation (attorneys’ fees: $12,274,249.79; expenses: $977,466.04). Case No. AAA 70 180 00648 02. To read some of plaintiff Russell Grigsby’s briefs in this case, click here.
Products Liability and Personal Injury Cases
In re Volkswagen of America, Inc. and Volkswagen AG.
Siegel argued this appeal to the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Fifth Circuit (17 judges) in May 2008. The resulting decision sets the standard in this circuit for deciding motions to transfer venue and establishes the framework for appellate review of transfer decisions by the district courts. A panel of the court of appeals initially denied Volkswagen's petition for writ of mandamus seeking to order the district court to transfer the case under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), then reversed itself and issued the writ mandating transfer. Siegel persuaded the full court of appeals to rehear the petition en banc, though the court ultimately split 10-7 in favor of Volkswagen. See 545 F.3d 304 (5th Cir. 2008) (en banc).
To read the plaintiff-respondent’s en banc brief in this case, click here.
O’Neill v. SeaRiver Maritime, Inc.
Douglas O’Neill obtained a significant award under the Jones Act after he was injured by exposure to hydrogen sulfide while working aboard an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf. SeaRiver appealed, raising difficult issues involving the proof necessary to establish causation in toxic exposure cases and related Daubert questions. Siegel briefed the appeal for O’Neill. In a complete victory for O’Neill, the Fifth Circuit rejected SeaRiver’s arguments, affirmed the trial court’s evidentiary and Daubert rulings, and upheld the award. See 2007 WL 2491011 (5th Cir. 2007). To read O’Neill’s brief in this case, click here.
Bianchetti v. Delta Airlines, Inc.
Under the Warsaw Convention, airlines may be liable for death and indury caused by “accidents” that occur on board during international flights. An “accident” is defined as “an unexpected or unusual event,” but case law is unsettled as to when an airline’s failure to abide by its own policies constitutes an accident under the Convention. In this case in federal district court in San Francisco, Siegel represented the plaintiff and convinced the court that Delta’s failure to expedite medical assistance to a passenger stricken with deep vein thrombosis precluded summary judgement on the “accident” question. See __ F. Supp. 2d __, 2007 WL 3027351 (N.D. Cal. 2007). To read the plaintiff’s brief in this case, click here.
Barahona v. Toyota Motor Corp., et al.
The plaintiff sued Toyota when his son was rendered a quadriplegic following a collision, alleging that the defective design of the Toyota Echo’s seatback caused the injuries. Toyota twice filed writs of mandamus in the Court of Appeals and once in the Texas Supreme Court attacking various discovery and other rulings. Siegel wrote the plaintiff’s responses, obtaining denials of Toyota’s petitions. See 191 S.W. 3d 498 (Tex. App. Waco 2006, mandamus denied, Case No. 06-0449, Tex Sup. Ct., June 5, 2006). Siegel also briefed several Daubert, summary judgment and other motions, resulting in rulings favorable to the plaintiff. To read one of plaintiff’s responses to petitions for mandamus in this case, click here.
Ayala v. Ford Motor Co.
In this wrongful death case, Ford argued that it complied with applicable federal safety standards and was therefore not liable under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 82.008(a). When the plaintiffs responded that Ford’s inadequate disclosures to NHTSA rebutted the presumption of nonliability under § 82.008(b)(2), Ford replied that subsection (b)(2) is impliedly preempted under the reasoning in Buckman Co. v. Plaintiffs’ Legal Comm., 531 U.S. 341 (2001), a position the Sixth Circuit and other courts have adopted. Siegel handled the plaintiffs’ briefing, and the district court agreed with the plaintiffs that federal law does not conflict with § 82.008(b)(2) and that Buckman preemption applies only to fraud-on-the-agency theories of liability, not traditional state product liability claims. Case No. 2-04CV-395 (E.D. Tex. 2005). To read the plaintiffs’ brief on Buckman preemption, click here.
Gil Ramirez Group, LLC v. Houston Independent School District
Siegel served as co-counsel for appellant Gil Ramirez Group, LLC, a family-owned construction company denied contracts by the Houston Independent School District allegedly because it refused to pay bribes to an HISD trustee. The district court dismissed GRG's case as speculative, but the Fifth Circuit agreed with Siegel and held that GRG properly alleged injury under RICO. The Court also reinstated one of GRG's state law claims. See __ F.3d __, 2015 WL 2383797 (5th Cir. 2015).
Preston v. Dyer
Siegel was asked to defend an arbitral decision worth over $2 million in this divorce case. The arbitrator awarded spousal support payments pursuant to a pre-nuptial agreement, and the district court confirmed the arbitral award following briefing by Siegel. The court of appeals agreed with Siegel, upholding the award, and the Texas Supreme Court denied review. See 2012 WL 5960193 (Tex. App. -- Beaumont 2012, pet. denied). To read the Appellee's brief, click here.
Robert Kinney v. BCG Attorney Search, Inc., et al.
BCG sued Kinney claiming he breached an employment contract by divulging allegedly confidential, negative information about BCG's legal recruiting operations in an online post. The trial court denied Kinney's motion to dismiss the contract claim under Texas's new SLAPP law, enacted in 2011, but the court of appeals reversed, granting Kinney full dismissal of BCG's case. The court also sided with Kinney in affirming the dismissal of other claims asserted by BCG. The decision is among the first construing several provisions of the SLAPP statute, 27 Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 27.001 et seq. See 2013 WL 1432012 (Tex. App. -- Austin 2013). To read Appellant's brief, click here.
Rivera v. Heyman, Secretary, Smithsonian Institution, et al.
Siegel represented the Smithsonian in this employment discrimination case raising the novel question whether the Smithsonian, a unique and independent federal trust instrumentality dating to 1836, was subject to § 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, which covers only executive branch employees. Following Siegel’s briefing and argument, the district court agreed with the government that the Smithsonian is not in the executive branch and therefore not subject to § 501. As a result of the case, Congress amended the Act to include the Smithsonian. On appeal, which Siegel also briefed and argued, the Second Circuit upheld the remainder of the district court’s decision holding that the plaintiff had no additional remedy under § 504 of the Act a question on which several circuit courts had split or state and local civil rights laws. See 157 F.3d 101 (2d Cir. 1998). To read the Smithsonian’s brief in this case, click here.
Good Samaritan Hospital Regional Medical Center, et al. v. Shalala.
Three hospitals and Medicare providers sued HHS seeking to compel review of a decision not to reopen the hospitals’ claims for reimbursement of various significant expenses. Siding with the government after Siegel’s briefing and argument, the Second Circuit held that jurisdiction to undertake the requested review was lacking, and that challenged HHS regulations were permissible in light of the Medicare Act. The Second Circuit reached this conclusion despite Ninth Circuit precedent to the contrary. See 85 F.3d 1057 (1996). To read HHS’s brief in this case, click here.
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