Jackson Walker Secures Appellate Win for Media on Sealing of Evidence Following $740 Million Jury Verdict

August 7, 2019 | Client Results

Updated August 7, 2019, to include information about the impending hearing before the Supreme Court of Texas during the 2020-2021 term.

After a business dispute involving two companies—Title Source, now known as Amrock, and HouseCanary—that prize algorithms, software, and data as proprietary trade secrets concluded in 2018, the trial court ordered several exhibits that had been admitted at trial by both parties to be sealed or redacted. In response to HouseCanary’s public notice of its request to seal evidence presented in open court, Jackson Walker’s client, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, in cooperation with the Houston Forward Times, intervened in the trial court and filed an interlocutory appeal in the San Antonio Court of Appeals.

On July 10, 2019, the San Antonio Court of Appeals delivered an opinion in favor of the Reporters Committee. Justice Rebeca C. Martinez authored the opinion, with a concurring opinion by Chief Justice Sandee Bryan Marion, which held that the appeals court had jurisdiction over the appeal, that Texas Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 76(a) and the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act do not conflict, and that HouseCanary failed to follow the protective order agreed to by Title Source (Amrock) and HouseCanary before trial, which stipulated the procedures for sealing alleged trade secrets.

As a result, the appeals court held that the trial court abused its discretion when it sealed records without applying the agreed-upon procedures, and set aside the trial court’s order sealing the exhibits – making the exhibits open records that can be covered by the media because of protections provided by the First Amendment.

Representing the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was a Jackson Walker team including San Antonio associate Amanda N. Crouch, who argued in the Fourth Court on behalf of the Reporters Committee, Austin partner Joshua A. Romero, and Houston partner Charles L. Babcock, with assistance from Brenda Haby and Michelle Wyman.

For more information about Jackson Walker’s experience handling trial and appellate litigation related to First Amendment and media law, intellectual property, and trade secrets, visit our Trial & Appellate Litigation practice page.

The case, HouseCanary Inc. v. Title Source Inc. et al. (case no. 19-0673), is scheduled for oral argument before the Supreme Court of Texas on October 27, 2020. In August 2020, Law360 listed the case among the four cases to watch this term. Read more at “4 Texas Supreme Court Cases To Watch This Term.”

Meet Our Team

Amanda N. Crouch is a commercial litigator who regularly practices in state and federal court. Amanda has had the opportunity to demonstrate high-level responsibility in her practice that includes working directly with clients. She has gained direct experience handling injunctive relief, summary judgement proceedings, taking and defending fact and expert witness depositions, and leading mediations.

Joshua A. Romero is a trial lawyer who has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal courts across the country in complex commercial litigation and First Amendment litigation. Josh has successfully tried cases ranging from multimillion-dollar corporate disputes and consumer fraud cases to construction cases. In 2015, he assisted his clients in obtaining the largest settlement in Texas and the fourth largest settlement in the United States, as featured in the National Law Journal.

Charles L. Babcock is a nationally recognized trial and appellate attorney. Chip’s practice experience includes bet-the-company litigation, First Amendment litigation, commercial litigation, intellectual property litigation, government investigations, media litigation, and appellate litigation. In addition to receiving the Ronald D. Secrest Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award from the Texas Bar Foundation, Chip has been named a “25 Greatest Texas Lawyer of the Past Quarter Century” by Texas Lawyer and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.