May 2008


Oink

Few who read this blog may be old enough to remember Carole Keeton Strayhorn Rylander McClellan’s 1986 run for Congress, but I do.

Back in ’86, Carole “Keeton McClellan”–as she was then known–made enemies of her Democrat compatriots when she abruptly resigned from the State Board of Insurance with a full three years left on her term, and promptly switched parties so that she could run against the revered and longserving District 10 congressional representative, J.J. Jake Pickle. It wasn’t so much that people begrudged her ambition, but that she would so brazenly and inelegantly attempt to displace an LBJ-era icon in Central Texas politics who was literally beloved by his constituents.

In fact, so deserving of his constitutents’ affection was Congressman Pickle that I remember a tale told at his 2005 funeral that, throughout his years in Congress, he kept his home telephone number listed in the Austin phonebook so he was always—literally—just a phone call away from those who elected him.

Well, the Washington Times reports today that, ‘lo and behold, Mama Carole may have had something to do with her son’s recent partisan about-face with his former boss, 43.

Yesteryear

Lil’ Scotty’s on the left.

Thx to the Washington Times and the Austin Chronicle

Boondoggle

Ever get the feeling that the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and TxDOT are flat-out lying to you about the supposed nirvana that will be a future Central Texas criss-crossed by toll roads?

Yeah, me too.

Well, here’s the proof. Austin American Statesman reporter Ben Wear cajoled a colleague to drive I-35 during rush hour while he cruised worry-free down the SH 130 toll road and then record who arrived at the toll road’s southern terminus first. According to Wear:

The tollways have been sold as a speedier alternative to the ravages of I-35 rush hour traffic. Toll road proponents have said that truckers, in particular, will flock to Texas 130 (and, eventually, Texas 45 Southeast) because time is money to them. Even with a $24 cash toll for truckers ($6 cash for passenger cars and pickups, $5.40 with a toll tag), the argument goes, it’s worth it to save the time.

So I decided to test that claim. I’d drive the tollway during rush hour and recruit a colleague to drive I-35 at the same time, then compare notes.

* * *

So last Monday morning, after synchronizing our watches on a frontage road just north of Texas 130’s departure from I-35, and agreeing that both of us would drive no faster than 70 mph in unrestricted traffic, we headed off, me to the tollway and Andrea on I-35. Who got to the intersection of FM 1327 and I-35 first?

* * *

Taking the toll road cost me nine minutes. And the toll I paid. But that’s not all it cost.

My total mileage: 54.8 miles, 11.5 miles more than the direct I-35 route. My Taurus tells me that I got 23.7 miles per gallon, so the extra mileage cost me a little less than a half-gallon of gas. That’s another $1.75 or so. I averaged 60.6 mph, Andrea 57.7 mph.

So, at rush hour, I paid almost $6 to get there 20 percent slower.

Fantastic. Small wonder the brain trust at TxDot was recently forced to admit a $1 billion “error” in its budget forecasting.

Thx to the Statesman’s Ben Wear

Fishbowl D.C. has been dutifully covering the buyout offers extended to longtime Washington Post employees as the paper struggles to remain competitive in the internet age.

Part of the Post‘s strategy has been to offer buyout packages to its full-time employees so that the paper can convert them into contract employees who require less financial overhead. The buyouts of the more lucrative news personalities will not result in any real change in their job functions at the Post, but will instead serve to alleviate the remunerable concerns of the paper.

Well, just this month, one of the men who put the Washington Post on the map and who happens to be Assistant Managing Editor accepted the paper’s buyout offer: Bob Woodward.

Even though the buyout may be a mere formality with no real effect, it still seems like the end of an era when the financial times force the Post to break with it’s longtime resident legend.

Thx to FishBowl DC

Following up on our earlier discussions of what metric best delineates BigTex vs. MidTex, (Gross Revenue or Profits Per Partner or Revenue Per Lawyer), Tex Parte Blog injected a new contender into the fray: Profitability Index (PPP / RPL). PI measures “whether equity partners are taking home more or less than the average revenue brought into the firm.”

Below, I’ve compiled the numbers for all the BigTex and MidTex shops (in descending GR order) that are more than just single-city or single-practice outfits, or Texas satellites of BigLaw. The outliers (both high and low) for each metric are highlighted.

Laid bare

Despite the thoughtful comments of a poster over at Greedy Texas, I still adhere to the belief that BigTex is more a measure of overall size, and therefore, relative market dominance. While I can’t argue that Fulbright’s PPP, RPL, and PI indices put it much more solidly in line with most MidTex firms, I remain convinced that a firm that brings in some $300 million more than most MidTex shops can’t be labled as anything less than BigTex. I don’t think a credible argument can be made that a firm bringing in some $650 milion per year cannot provide an order of magnitude difference in capability than a firm with a third the business. Inefficient and relatively unprofitable perhaps, but Big nonetheless.

I think the best example of how, perhaps at least PI is not as instructive a measure of a firm’s relative market standing as is GR, is evidenced by comparing the PIs of Akin Gump and Kelly Hart, which on their face, are not terribly disparate (1.41 v. 1.25). However, if you look at their respective GRs, Akin Gump brought in $700 million more than did Kelly Hart during FY 2007.

Thx to Tex Parte Blog

Appellate nirvana

Ever since I’ve been licensed, I’ve never understood the infatuation with garishly-large jury verdicts. Trial lawyers seem to bray about and tout them as a measure of the validity of the plaintiff’s claims, ignoring that such victories are illusory until confirmed upon appeal, where the arbiters are less easily swayed by factors unrelated to the law and merits of the case.

The only jury verdict I’ve ever considered worth bragging about is Joe Jamail’s $10.53 billion jury award ($7.53 billion in actual damages and $3 billion in punitive damages) on behalf of Pennzoil against Texaco, because it is the only one of such magnitude of which I am aware that was largely upheld on appeal (the trial court’s $3 billion punitive award was reduced to $1 billion). See Texaco, Inc. v. Pennzoil Co., 729 S.W.2d 768, 774, 866 (Tex. App.–Houst. [1st Dist.] 1987, writ ref’d n.r.e.).

Today, the sister court of the Houston appellate court that upheld the Pennzoil verdict smote down another large jury verdict initially touted as a huge win for the plaintiff.

In 2005, a Texas jury awarded a Vioxx plaintiff $24.5 million for mental anguish and economic losses and $229 million in punitive damages, in total, over a quarter-billion dollar verdict.

Whoopee.

Texas’s punitive damage caps automatically lowered the punitive award from $229 million to $26.1 million–quickly lopping off some $200 million of the jury’s award.

Well today, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals ended all the jubilation that may have existed over the once mighty jury verdict, reversing same and rendering judgment that the plaintiff take nothing on legal sufficiency grounds.

From a quarter billion to zero.

Thx to How Appealing, WSJ Law Blog, and the Texas Appellate Law Blog

Gobbbbbbllllle!!!!!!

It is rare that any happening in Lubbock makes the headlines over at How Appealing, but alas, Lubbock recently found itself featured therein thanks to something that could only happen in West Texas.

The Lubbock Avanlanche-Journal reported that a wild turkey (the real thing, not the libation) unsuccessfully attempted to enter the courthouse through an upper-floor window.

If there was any doubt as to the identity of the culprit, one had to look no further than the outline in the broken window pane for the authorities to make a positive identification. That, and the stunned turkey lurking in the bushes below.

Thx to How Appealing and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

The best

Proposals are now under consideration by the Austin City Council regarding how to redevelop the City’s Seaholm water treatment plant–due to be decommissioned and moved in 2009.

Of the several proposals submitted, my favorite (and that of the Austinist as well) is the proposal put forth by Stratus Properties, which would feature an HEB as part of the mixed-use development.

The Whole Foods headquarters is great, but I’ve found that my family uses it more for a fun downtown eatery or for the ice-skating at Christmas than for actual grocery shopping. Now, an HEB on the other hand, would be a great place to pick up some groceries on the way home from work to save my wife the trouble.

Thx to the Austinist

Next Page »