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 implemented.
In re ASARCO, LLC, 2011 Bankr. LEXIS 2880 at *26-27 (Bankr. S. D. Tex. 2011).
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 claims.
According to Bill Stutts, who worked with Judge Davis at Baker Botts, described his former colleague as “measured and thoughtful,” stating:
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 room.
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 world.
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 overall effectiveness.
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.