Paul C. Watler has been a trial lawyer for more than 30 years helping clients fight for their rights at the courthouse. He focuses his practice on complex commercial and media litigation. He is a board-certified civil trial lawyer and has won million dollar verdicts at jury trial in federal and state courts for plaintiffs and defendants.
Mr. Watler was named by Texas Lawyer magazine as the "Go To" lawyer for media litigation in the state of Texas, placing him among an elite group of the state's top 29 lawyers across all practice areas.
Mr. Watler has been a leader in shaping Internet law applied to content providers. In a case of first impression under Texas law in the Fifth Circuit, the federal appeals court held that the single publication rule can be used to bar libel claims against Internet publishers on limitations grounds. In another leading case for Internet publishers, Mr. Watler successfully argued that Web bloggers should be protected against being hauled into distant courts with which they lacked minimum contacts.
Mr. Watler's litigation victories include the first Texas Supreme Court opinion defining a public figure in a libel case, a suit which arose out of the Branch Davidian incident in Waco, Texas. He has successfully defended Texas newspapers and broadcasters in numerous libel and privacy cases for more than 20 years, many of which have been high-profile. Mr. Watler's media clients have included major metropolitan and national newspapers, magazines, and wire services, as well as television stations in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Beaumont, Waco, New Orleans, Boston and Aiken, S.C.
Mr. Watler also has notable experience in health care and antitrust law. He has served as lead counsel for a major Texas hospital system in a case involving an antitrust counterclaim for an attempt to monopolize the market for managed care health services. He represented a hospital system's officer/directors in a medical malpractice action. He was also a member of trial team that successfully defended a major Texas newspaper publisher in a jury trial against antitrust claims by a chief competitor.
Mr. Watler has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 1995, where he is currently recognized in three categories, Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, and First Amendment Law. Mr. Watler has been named one of the 250 Best Lawyers in Dallas by D Magazine and has been named a "Super Lawyer" by Thomson Reuters annually since 2003.
Mr. Watler's trial experience covers a wide range of complex cases including libel, employment, securities, banking, media, intellectual property, antitrust, oil and gas, and real estate. He has successfully defended business clients against an assortment of claims such as tortious interference, intentional infliction of emotional distress, Lanham Act claims, unfair competition, false advertising, copyright and trademark infringement, securities fraud, employment discrimination, and wrongful termination He has maintained certification as a specialist in civil trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 1990.
Attorney Profile: Paul Watler — Protecting what matters
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- Obtaining a verdict at jury trial to preserve the historical right to draw water for beneficial use from the Edwards Aquifer by one of the largest employers in New Braunfels, Texas. The judgment included an award of more than $500,000 in attorney fees to Mr. Watler's client.
- Securing the right of a start-up Dallas-based airline to offer long-haul service from Love Field in Dallas in a highly publicized "David v. Goliath" fight over the Wright Amendment.
- Obtaining a defense verdict at jury trial to vindicate a Dallas-based media corporation in a dispute over a television station acquisition.
- Defending a San Antonio television station at jury trial against breach of contract claims by a former news anchor.
- The leading decision by the Texas Supreme Court defining a public figure in a libel suit.
- The first Texas case recognizing the privilege of a news reporter as a defendant in a libel suit to not disclose the identity of confidential news sources.
- The leading Fifth Circuit opinion applying the "single publication rule" to an Internet publisher in a libel case.
- The leading Fifth Circuit opinion on personal jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants in an Internet defamation case.
- Winning a Texas Supreme Court decision establishing the right of journalists under the state freedom of information law to obtain governmental records.
- Representing metropolitan daily newspapers in unsealing court records in a widely-reported priest sex abuse case.
- Defending a leading Texas daily newspaper against allegations of computer hacking in connection with the high-profile news report of the "confession" of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
In addition to success in the courtroom, Mr. Watler frequently counsels news media clients on how to prevent libel and privacy suits. His clients have received the highest awards in journalism, including the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting and multiple presentations of the Columbia/DuPont Silver Baton and the Peabody Awards for excellence in broadcast journalism, for projects in which Mr. Watler provided First Amendment legal counsel.
- Defended a national magazine publisher against trademark/trade name infringement claims.
- Pursued trademark/trade name infringement claims on behalf of a regional cable news network.
- Defended a Texas cable news network and network affiliate broadcaster against claims of copyright infringement for use of a studio portrait in news reporting on the high-profile "cadet murder case" in Fort Worth.
- Represented a major Texas hospital system in the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall against claims of unfair competition and false advertising.
- Defended a major Dallas/Fort Worth advertising agency in a dispute over creation of a trade name.
- Nguyen v. The Dallas Morning News, L.P. et al., 2008 WL 2511183 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth June 19, 2008). Diocesan records of alleged sexual misconduct by a Catholic priest filed with court ordered unsealed under Tex.R.Civ.P. 76a.
- Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts v. Attorney General of Texas, 244 S.W.3d 629 (Tex.App.—Austin, January 17, 2008, pet. pending). Privacy case affirming right to access dates of birth of public employees.
- Nationwide Bi-Weekly Administration, Inc. v. Belo Corp., et al., 512 F.3d 137, 36 Media L. Rep. 1065 (5th Cir. 2007). Single publication rule can be used to bar libel claims against Internet publishers on limitations grounds.
- Belo Corp. v. Publicaciones Paso Del Norte, S.A. De C.V., 243 S.W.3d 152 (Tex.App.—El Paso, September 20, 2007). Interlocutory appeal of denial of defendants' motion for summary judgment in newspaper vs. newspaper libel case. Reversed, and summary judgment granted to defendants on absence of malice issue.
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Mr. Watler is a member of the State Bar of Texas, the Dallas Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, the College of the State Bar of Texas, and the Media Law Resource Center. He is a Life Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and the Dallas Bar Foundation.
Mr. Watler has served several terms as chair of the Media Relations Committee of the Dallas Bar Association and chairman of the Public Affairs Committee of the State Bar of Texas. He was selected to serve on the inaugural Advertising Review Committee of the State Bar of Texas to help implement the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct regulating lawyer marketing and solicitation. Mr. Watler was appointed by the Texas Supreme Court to a Special Rules Advisory Committee tasked with writing court rules for controversial judicial by-pass abortion access legislation enacted by the Texas Legislature.
Mr. Watler served as president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas in 1996-99 and is on the Foundation's board of directors. He also serves on the board of directors of North Texas Public Broadcasting (KERA). He formerly served on the board of directors of the Lake Highlands Family YMCA and as president of the Oakhurst and Twin Bridge homeowner associations. He was a youth soccer coach for 10 years and an adult leader in Boy Scout Troop 890.
More about Paul C. Watler: Biography | Experience | Recognition | Speeches / Publications | News
Mr. Watler was announced in Texas Lawyer's October 2007 "Go-To Guide" as the "Go-To-Lawyer" for Media Law. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 1995, where he is currently recognized in four categories: Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, First Amendment Law, and First Amendment Litigation. He was named a "Super Lawyer" by Thomson Reuters (2003-2014). He was awarded the James Madison Award by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and was twice named Associate of the Year by the Texas Association of Broadcasters. As a newspaper reporter before attending law school, Mr. Watler received news writing awards from Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Texas Press Association.
More about Paul C. Watler: Biography | Experience | Involvement | Speeches / Publications | News