From 1989 to 2007, Judges Larry Kelly and Frank Monroe
occupied the bankruptcy bench in Austin, providing a period of judicial
continuity rivaled only by their colleagues in San Antonio (Judges Leif Clark
and Ronald King served at the same time from 1988 to 2012). Effective today on April 1, the Austin bar
will be welcoming its third new judge in six years as Judge Craig Gargotta
moves to San Antonio and Judge Tony Davis takes the bench. Here is an introduction to the newest jurist
to oversee Austin insolvency proceedings.
Judge Tony Davis spent his time as a student and a young
practitioner in three very different locales. He received a B.A. in economics and mathematics from the University of
Minnesota at Morris in 1980, was awarded a J.D. from the University of Virginia
School of Law in 1983 and then was admitted to the Oklahoma bar. He spent his early years as an associate
with Conner & Winters in Tulsa before making his move to Baker Botts,
LLP. Immediately prior to taking the
bench, Judge Davis was a partner in the Houston office of Baker Botts.
One of the most challenging cases that he worked on
was the Asarco case, which involved nearly $6.5 billion (with a B) in
environmental claims. According to the
Judge on that case:
Debtors' counsel, lead by Tony Davis with Baker
Botts, initiated and ultimately set in place a procedure for pre-trial,
discovery, mediation and trial schedule for the estimation of the environmental
claims that would have resulted in Court orders or settlements in months
instead of years even if all such claims had to be estimated to a final
judgment. This incredible process required Debtors' counsel to prepare for
multiple-tracked sites teams of environmental and bankruptcy lawyers toward
mediation, trial or settlement of each site, yet coordinated such that
overlapping legal issues, overlapping facts and experts, could be efficiently
re ASARCO, LLC, 2011 Bankr. LEXIS 2880 at *26-27 (Bankr. S.
D. Tex. 2011) [an enhanced version of this opinion is available to lexis.com
Some of his other noteworthy cases include representing
Ralph S. Janvey, the court appointed receiver in the Stanford International
Bank, Ltd. case and representing the Russian Federation in the short-lived
bankruptcy of Yukos Oil Company. (The
Yukos case involved a Russian company which moved its offices to the home of
its CFO in Houston and paid a retainer to Fulbright & Jaworski to qualify
for bankruptcy in the United States. The case was dismissed after about three months). Thus, he has experience chasing fraudsters
and oligarchs and cleaning up the financial fallout from environmental
According to Bill Stutts, who worked with Judge Davis at
Baker Botts, described his former colleague as "measured and thoughtful,"
He started practice in bankruptcy in Oklahoma during the
oil-patch bankruptcies of the 1980's. He is known to be
measured and thoughtful, and rarely (if ever) rash. Responsibility and an
expectation that others will be responsible can be hallmarks of his approach
to the practice. He is pretty well organized (I don't want to over-sell
his work habits too soon), having even found some time during practice to
write published law review articles. I believe that he really and
honestly views his upcoming service on the bench to be just that--service.
Mr. Stutts also characterized Judge Davis as a voracious
learner and said that by the time he handles his first chapter 13 hearing, he
will have studied until he knows as much as or more than anyone else in the
In a 2009 interview, Judge Davis stated that the
Bankruptcy Code had already seen "excessive reform." He said:
If anything, bankruptcy law has seen excessive reform.
The Bankruptcy Code, as originally enacted in 1978, has been and continues to
be such a remarkably flexible and efficient way to conduct a financial
restructuring under court supervision that it is the envy of the commercial
Since it was enacted, however, a number of special
interest groups have succeeded in carving out special interest legislation to
address or protect unique issues that apply to specific industries. These
numerous amendments have somewhat increased the complexity of the Bankruptcy
Code but, fortunately, have not materially impaired the Bankruptcy Code's
Law 360, Q & A with Baker Botts' Tony Davis, which
can be found here.
When asked what advice he would give
a young lawyer, he said:
Seek and take on responsibility - responsibility for
understanding the facts and issues involved in the case, responsibility for
advising clients, and responsibility for preparing for and conducting in-court
hearings and out-of-court negotiations. Accepting and discharging
responsibility is the surest way to develop the professional growth you need to
be an accomplished and successful lawyer.
This is good advice for lawyers of any age.
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