Yesterday Blawgletter received the Texas-only data from a recent essay on the "influence" of each state’s highest civil and criminal courts around the nation.  We learned some tres interesting stuff.

Methodology.  Let’s look at how the essay measured influence first.  Jake Dear and Edward W. Jessen tallied all decisions, between 1940 and 2005, that the folks at Shepards desiginated as "followed" by another state’s highest civil or criminal court at least three times.  It then ranked each state according to how often its court or courts of last resort met the three-or-more-times-"followed" criterion.

Some have criticized the methodology.  Several supposed that it gives undue weight to rulings that expand liability — by, say, recognizing new causes of action.  That, they suggested, explains the disproportionate number of liberal jurisdictions at the top.  Places, in rank order for 1986-2005, like California, Washington, Massachusetts, Kansas (oops), New Jersey, Arizona (oops again), and Colorado (triple oops).

Paint us skeptical.

Limits on utility.  No doubt the number of "followed" opinions over long periods tells us little.  We can’t divine the ebbs and flows of influence from year to year or even decade to decade.  Nor do we know how often a state’s decisions earned the disagreement, if not scorn, of other states’ judiciaries — as the "criticized" or "questioned" designations might reveal.

But, still, we do get at least some sense of which states’ courts consistently persuade other states’ courts to follow them, which do a middling job, and which seldom convince anybody.

T for Texas.  Which brings us to that Texas data we mentioned at the outset.  It shows a fascinating — and in its way encouraging — phenomenon:  The Supreme Court of Texas (official site here) wielded by far the most influence during the six years when a balance of Democratic and Republican justices sat on it.

From 1940 until 2005, the Court issued 16 opinions that attracted the full agreement of a non-Texas high court on a point of law at least three times.  The relevant decisions line up thus:

1940 — 1
1970 — 1
1984 — 2
1985 — 1
1993 — 1
1994 — 3
1995 — 3
1996 — 1
1997 — 1
1998 — 1
2001 — 1

As you can see, during the six years from 1993 through 1998, the justices rendered 10 of the 16 decisions that won three "followeds" in the 65 years between 1940 and 2005.  That comes to 62.5 percent in less than 10 percent of the survey period.

Dems/Repubs.  What made one six-year period so remarkable?  Let’s add the number of Democrats/Republicans on the Court in each of those years:

1940 — 1   9/0
1970 — 1   9/0
1984 — 2   9/0
1985 — 1   9/0
1993 — 1   5/4
1994 — 3   5/4
1995 — 3   4/5
1996 — 1   3/6
1997 — 1   3/6
1998 — 1   3/6
2001 — 1   0/9

Hmmm.  In every one of the years from 1993 through 1998, the Court’s composition included a substantial number of justices from each of the major political parties.  And the Court’s two most prolific years, 1994 and 1995, happened just at the time of greatest uncertainty about which party would hold a majority.

The good news for balance on the Court unfortunately doesn’t obscure the overall bad news.  As we reported recently, the original essay ranked the Texas high courts — including the Court of Criminal Appeals — fourteenth for 1940 through 2005 and twentieth for 1986-2005.  But a fresh look at the data prompted the authors to adjust the rankings.  Texas fell to twenty-seventh and twenty-third for the same periods, respectively, as a result.  The UC Davis Law Review will soon publish the update.

What’ve we learned?  Three things, we think.  First, that having to listen to and consider colleagues’ differing views, as the Texas justices had to do from 1993 through 1998, produces higher quality decisions.  Second, that, due to the extraordinary Court of 1993-98, the Court’s performance improved from the period 1940-1985 to the period 1986-2005.  And, third, that making judges run for office in partisan elections may diminish their freedom to act as neutral arbiters.

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Photo of Barry Barnett Barry Barnett

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck…

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck Redden).

Barnett is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and Lawdragon has named him one of the top 500 lawyers in the United States three years in a row. Best Lawyers in America has honored him as “Lawyer of the Year” for Bet-the-Company Litigation (2019 and 2017) and Patent Litigation (2020) in Houston. Based in Texas and New York, Barnett has tried complex business disputes across the United States.

Barnett’s background, training, and experience make him indispensable to his clients. The small-town son of a Texas roughneck and grandson of a Texas sharecropper, Barnett “developed an unusual common sense about people, their motivations, and their dilemmas,” according to former client Michael Lewis.

Barnett has been historically recognized for his effectiveness and judgment. His peers chose him, for example, to the American College of Trial Lawyers and American Law Institute. His decades of trial and appellate work representing both plaintiffs and defendants have made him a master strategist and nimble tactician in complex disputes.

Barnett focuses on enforcement of antitrust laws, the “Magna Carta of free enterprise,” in Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s memorable phrase. “Barry is one of the nation’s outstanding antitrust lawyers,” according to Joseph Goldberg, a member of the Private Antitrust Enforcement Hall of Fame. Named among Texas’s top ten antitrust lawyers of 2023, Business Today calls Barnett a “trailblazer” among the “distinguished legal minds” who “dedicate their skill and expertise to the maintenance of healthy competition in various sectors” of the Lone Star State’s booming economy. Barnett is also adept in energy and intellectual property matters and has battled for clients against a Who’s Who list of corporate behemoths, including Abbott Labs, Alcoa, Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Broadcom, Comcast, Dow, JPMorgan Chase, Samsung, and Visa.

Barnett commands a courtroom with calm and credibility and “is the perfect lawyer for bet the company litigation,” said Scott Regan, General Counsel of former client Whiting Petroleum. His performance before the Supreme Court in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend prompted the Court to withdraw the question on which it had granted review. The judge in a trial involving mobile phone technology called Barnett “one of the best” and that his opening statement the finest he had ever seen. Another trial judge told Barnett minutes after a jury returned a favorable verdict against the county’s biggest employer that he was one of the two best trial lawyers he’d ever come across—adding that the other one was dead.

A versatile trial lawyer, Barnett knows how to handle a case all the way from strategic pre-suit planning to affirmance on appeal. He’s tried cases to verdict and then briefed and argued them when they went before appellate courts, including the Second, Third, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits, the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and (in the case of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend) the Supreme Court of the United States.

Barnett is a sought-after public speaker, often serving on panels and talking about topics like the trials of antitrust class actions and techniques for streamlining complex litigation. He also comments on trends in commercial litigation and the implications of major rulings for outlets such as NPR, Reuters, Law360, Corporate Counsel, and The Dallas Morning News. He’s even appeared in a Frontline program about underfunding of state pensions, authored chapters on “Fee Arrangements” and “Techniques for Expediting and Streamlining Litigation” (the latter with Steve Susman) in the ABA’s definitive treatise on Business and Commercial Litigation in Federal Courts, 5th, and commented on How Antitrust Enforcers Might Think Like Plaintiffs’ Lawyers.

Clients and other hard graders have praised Barnett for his courtroom skills and legal acumen.

A client in a $100 million oil and gas case, which Barnett’s team won at trial and held on appeal, said Barnett and his team “presented a rare combination of strong legal intellect, common sense about right and wrong, and credibility in the courtroom.” David McCombs at Haynes and Boone said Barnett “has a natural presence that goes over well with juries and judges.”

Even former adversaries give Barnett high marks. Lead opposing counsel in a decade-long antitrust slugfest said “Barry is a highly skilled advocate. He understands what really matters in telling a narrative and does so in a very compelling manner.”

Barnett relishes opportunities to collaborate with all kinds of people. At the Center for American and International Law (CAIL), founded by a former prosecutor at Nuremberg in 1947 and headquartered in the Dallas area, he has served on the Executive Committee, co-chaired the committee that produced CAIL’s first-ever strategic plan, supported CAIL’s Institute for Law Enforcement Administration and other development efforts, and proposed formation of a new Institute for Social Justice Law. CAIL’s former President David Beck said “Barry is extremely bright” and is “very well prepared in every lawsuit or professional task he undertakes.”

Barnett is also a Trustee of the New-York Historical Society, a Sterling Fellow at Yale, a member of the Yale University Art Gallery’s Governing Board, a winner of the Class Award for his work on behalf of his college class, and a proud contributor to the Yellow Ribbon Program at Harvard Law. Barnett’s pro bono work includes leading the trial team representing people who are at greatest risk of severe illness and death as a result of being exposed to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 while being detained in the Dallas County jail—work for which he received the NGAN Legal Advocacy Fund RBG Award.

At Susman Godfrey, Barnett has served on the firm’s Executive Committee, Employment Committee, and ad hoc committees on partner compensation, succession of leadership, and revision of the firm’s partnership agreement. He also twice chaired the Practice Development Committee.

Barnett understands that clients face many pressures. Managing the stress is important, especially in matters that take years to resolve. He encourages clients to call him whenever they have a question or concern and to keep the inevitable ups and downs in perspective. He wants them to know that he will do his level best to help them achieve their goals. He also strives to foster trust and to make working with him a pleasure.

Cyrus “Skip” Marter, the General Counsel of Bonanza Creek in Denver and a former Susman Godfrey partner and client, said Barnett is “excellent about communicating with clients in a full and honest manner” and can “negotiate for his clients from a position of strength, because he is not afraid to take a case through a full trial on the merits.” Stacey Doré, the President of Hunt Utility Services and a former client, said that Barnett is “an excellent trial lawyer and the person you want to hire for your bet-the-company cases. He is client focused, responsive, and uniquely savvy about trial and settlement strategy.” A New York colleague said, “Barry is a joy to work with as co-counsel. He tackles complex procedural and factual hurdles capably, efficiently, and without drama.”

Barnett’s wide-ranging experience and calm, down-to-earth approach enable him to connect with clients, judges, jurors, witnesses, and even opposing counsel. He grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas. He co-captained his high school varsity football team as an All-East Texas middle linebacker while also serving as the Editor of Key Club’s Texas-Oklahoma District, won the Best Typist award, took the History Team to glory, and sang in the East Texas All Region Choir. As Dan Kelly of client Vistra Corp. put it, Barnett is “a great person to be around.”

Barnett is steady and loyal. He has practiced at Susman Godfrey his entire career. He and his wife Nancy live in Dallas and enjoy spending time in Houston and New York. Their daughter works for H-E-B in Houston, and their son is a Haynes and Boone transactions lawyer in Dallas.

As a member of Ivy League championship football teams in his junior and senior years at Yale and a parent of two Yalies, Barnett has no trouble choosing sides for “The Game” in November. And he knows how important fighting all the way to the end is. On his last play from scrimmage, in the waning minutes of The Game on Nov. 22, 1980, he recovered a Crimson fumble.

Yale won, 14-0.