Appellate Law: David Gunn
Partner, Beck, Redden & Secrest
David Gunn says he intended to become a scientist, not a lawyer. But Gunn says that after he earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1982 and a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1984, he realized how much time scientists spend in the laboratory working with molecules and away from other people.
"I became a lawyer because I fell out of love with my molecule," Gunn says.
Gunn received a J.D. from Baylor Law School in 1987 and an LL.M. from the University of Houston Law Center in 1989. He worked from 1987 until 1990 at the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston, first serving as a briefing attorney for then-Justice Paul Pressler and later as a research attorney. Gunn says during his time at the 14th Court he realized he wasn't interested in a particular area of the law but liked doing appeals.
Following his stint at the court of appeals, Gunn says, he became an associate with W. James "Jim" Kronzer Jr., a top appellate lawyer in Texas at the time. Gunn says he worked in Kronzer's office until after Kronzer died in 1995. In 1996, Gunn joined Scott Rothenberg in a two-person partnership, which lasted until mid-1997, when he joined Holman Hogan Dubose & Townsend, now Alexander Dubose Townsend. Gunn says he joined Beck Redden & Secrest in 2003 and now heads the firm's appellate section.
Gunn says he has been lead counsel on more than 100 appeals and has argued 15 times before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and 11 times before the Texas Supreme Court. He says he has represented clients in all 14 intermediate courts of appeals and has argued before all but one of those courts.
In 2011, Gunn represented a widow defending a more than $3 million judgment at the 5th Circuit in Clark v. Kellogg, Brown & Root. A key issue in Clark is whether the so-called "featherweight" standard for determining proximate cause was appropriate to apply to the widow's claim that her seaman husband died of acute myelogenous leukemia after being exposed to benzene while working for Kellogg, Brown & Root. On Feb. 4, 2011, the 5th Circuit ruled in the widow's favor, but Gunn says the employer appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision on June 23, 2011, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the featherweight standard in an Illinois case, CSX Transportation Inc. v. McBride, giving a victory to Gunn's client as well.
"We were on pins and needles for a few months," Gunn says.
Alexander Dubose Townsend
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