“Paul and his team of dedicated attorneys are always available to provide common-sense solutions that quickly distill legal issues into advice and counseling that our business personnel and journalists consider valuable and useful. ”Christine E. Larkin, Senior Vice President / General Counsel & Secretary, A. H. Belo Corporation
“Paul is an outstanding lawyer. We can always count on him to know the law and give us trusted counsel.”Horacio Medal, General Counsel, Azteca America
“Paul is a seasoned litigator who brings deep industry knowledge to our most important cases.”Hillary Ebach, former General Counsel of Journal Media Group
“I appreciate how Paul and his team are mindful of our time and are able to deliver cost-effective legal services measured to the needs at hand. Accessibility and responsiveness. An understanding of our business and its challenging environment. Cost-effective solutions. All these things make Paul our trusted advisor and business partner.”Christine E. Larkin, Senior Vice President / General Counsel & Secretary, A. H. Belo Corporation
Paul C. Watler is a board-certified Texas civil trial lawyer widely-recognized for First Amendment, media law and “Bet-the-Company” cases. Paul’s court victories range from opening up Love Field in Dallas for long-haul airline service to winning one of the most frequently-cited Texas Supreme Court opinions on media libel law.
Paul has successfully represented numerous newspapers, television stations, media companies, websites and journalists in libel, anti-SLAPP (Texas Citizens Participation Act), public information, invasion of privacy, copyright, news gathering and commercial lawsuits. He argued for a national news media consortium to unseal court records in the Oklahoma City bombing case. Paul has been listed in Best Lawyers in America since 1995. He is currently among a select few lawyers recognized in four categories: commercial litigation, bet-the-company litigation, First Amendment law and Litigation – First Amendment.
Paul has represented a cross-section of leading Texas corporations in a variety of complex matters, including:
- Defending a Texas bank against claims arising from the Allen Stanford Ponzi-scheme case.
- Obtaining a verdict at jury trial to preserve the historical right to draw water 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 Paul’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 $160 million television station acquisition.
- Defending a San Antonio television station at jury trial against breach of contract claims by a former news anchor.
A newspaper reporter before attending law school, Paul has represented newspapers, television stations, and journalists throughout his legal career. Some of his notable cases include:
- Many of the first Texas cases against media outlets arising under the state’s anti-SLAPP statute enacted in 2011.
- 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 and Texas appellate opinions applying the “single publication rule” to internet publishers in libel cases.
- The leading Fifth Circuit and Texas Supreme Court opinions on personal jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants in cross-border defamation cases.
- Winning a Texas Supreme Court decision establishing the right of journalists under the state freedom of information law to obtain governmental records.
- Representing DFW daily newspapers in unsealing court records in a widely-reported priest sex abuse case.
- Defending a Texas newspaper in a libel suit over an article criticizing a conspiracy theory proffered by a physician who treated President Kennedy at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
- Defending a Texas 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, Paul frequently counsels news media clients on prevention of libel and privacy suits. His clients have received the highest awards in journalism, including the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, the Columbia/DuPont Gold and Silver Batons and the Peabody Award for excellence in broadcast journalism, for projects in which Paul provided First Amendment legal counsel.
Paul has handled a number of copyright, trademark, and unfair competition cases throughout his years of practice. He has routinely provided counsel to news media clients regarding fair use of copyrighted material. In the courthouse, Paul has:
- 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 at trial in a dispute over creation of a trade name.
Paul frequently appears as an advocate on First Amendment, media law and other issues in the Texas Supreme Court, Fifth Circuit and other appellate courts. He has handled appeals in libel, privacy, public information, anti-SLAPP, media, aviation, oil and gas, banking, securities, commercial law and criminal defense. He has argued winning cases in the Texas Supreme Court, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and intermediate state appellate courts across Texas. In addition to the Texas Supreme Court, Paul is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Third, Fifth and Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeal.
Examples of appellate cases or published opinions in cases handled include the following:
- TV Azteca v. Ruiz, 2016 WL 766927 (Tex. 2016, mt/rehearing pending). Specific personal jurisdiction against foreign media defendants in cross-border libel case.
- Tatum v. The Dallas Morning News, Inc., 2015 WL 9582903 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2015, pet. pending). Appeal of summary judgment granted newspaper defendants in libel case.
- Salomon v. Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, LLC, 2015 WL 5737935, (N.D. Tex. 2015). Granting motion to dismiss breach of contract action arising out of failed transaction for purchase of large-scale aerial camera business.
- Dallas Morning News, Inc. v. Mapp, S.W.3d 2015 WL 3932868 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2015). Reversing denial of newspaper’s Citizens Participation Act(anti-SLAPP) motion to dismiss libel case. Plaintiff was unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senate who complained of editorial regarding his controversial immigration platform.
- Cruz v. Van Sickle, 452 S.W.3d 503 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2014). Affirming dismissal under anti-SLAPP statute in favor of on-line news website arising from report on controversial judicial candidate.
- Mayfield v. Fullhart, 444 S.W.3d (Tex. App.—Hou. 2014) Affirming summary judgment for television station defendant in media libel case. First application of “single-publication rule” to internet defamation by Texas appellate court.
- In re Fort Worth Star Telegram, 441 S.W.3d 847 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth, 2014). News reporters erroneously excluded from juvenile court in “affluenza”-related case.
- Shipp v. Malouf, 439 S.W.3d 432 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2014). Reversing denial of anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss by television reporter in libel case arising from reporting on alleged massive Medicaid fraud scheme.
- Paselk v. State, 2013 WL 4791417 (E.D. Tex. 2013). Granting television station defendants’ motion to dismiss media libel case.
- Scripps Texas Newspaper, LP v. Carter, 2012 WL 5948955 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi, pet. denied). Appeal of denial of summary judgment in newspaper libel case involving plaintiff’s status as limited purpose public figure.
- In re Dallas Morning News, Inc., 2012 WL 611374 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2012) Denying mandamus in motion to quash subpoena of news reporter.
- Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts v. Attorney General of Texas, 354 S.W.3d (Tex. 2010). State employees’ dates of birth were not subject to disclosure under Texas Public Information Act.
- In re Rabb, 293 S.W.3d 865 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2009, original proceeding). First reported decision under Texas Free Flow of Information Act (reporter shield law).
- City of Dallas v. Dallas Morning News, LP, 281 S.W.3d 708 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2009). Appeal of summary judgment in favor of newspaper in public information act suit over access to mayor’s blackberry email.
- Nguyen v. Dallas Morning News, LP, 2008 WL 2511183 (Tex. App. – Fort Worth 2008). Trial court should have granted motion by newspaper intervenors to unseal court records in priest sex abuse case.
- Booker v. Blow, 2008 WL 152226 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2008). Affirming dismissal of suit complaining of newspaper’s failure to publish article exposing alleged conspiracy against inmate.
- 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 bars libel claims against Internet publishers on limitations grounds.
- Belo Corp. v. Publicaciones Paso Del Norte, S.A. De C.V., __ S.W.3d __, 2007 WL 2729867, (Tex. App.—El Paso, September 20, 2007). Interlocutory appeal of denial of defendants’ motion for summary judgment in media libel case. Reversed and summary judgment granted to defendants.
- KENS-TV, Inc. v. Farias, __ S.W.3d __, 2007 WL 2253502, (Tex. App.—San Antonio, August 8, 2007). Libel suit by Democratic candidate for state representative against Republican opponent and broadcasters. Interlocutory appeal of denial of defendants’ motion for summary judgment; reversed and summary judgment granted to defendants.
- Epstein v. Gray Television, Inc., 474 F.Supp. 835 (S.D. Tex. 2007); companion opinion, 2007 WL 295632. Opinions on personal jurisdiction and venue in media libel case over “bad medicine” news reports. Case non-suited by plaintiff-physician after venue transfer to South Carolina.
- Humane Soc. of Dallas v. Dallas Morning News, L.P., 180 S.W.3d 921, (Tex. App.—Dallas 2005). Summary judgment affirmed for medial libel defendants.
- Revell v. Lidov, 317 F.3d 467, (5th Cir. 2002). Dismissal affirmed of Internet libel case for lack of personal jurisdiction over defendants.
- Crumrine v. Harte-Hanks Television, Inc., 37 S.W.3d 124, (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2001). Police officer plaintiff contended privacy was invaded by news report that revealed his HIV-positive status. Summary judgment affirmed for defendants.
- Ford v. City of Huntsville, 242 F.3d 235, (5th Cir. 2001). Federal district must consider state open records law before sealing workplace discrimination case by female police officer.
- Legend Airlines, Inc. v. City of Fort Worth, 23 S.W.3d 83, Tex. App.—Fort Worth, 2000. Federal Airline Deregulation Act preempted local municipal bond ordinance restricting interstate airline service at Dallas Love Field.
- City of Garland v. Dallas Morning News, 22 S.W.3d 351 (Tex. 2000). Establishing the right of journalist’s under the state freedom of information law to obtain governmental records.
- Brown v. Wilson County, 1999 WL 33290666 (W.D.Tex.). Defendants’ motions to dismiss granted following plaintiffs’ dismissal of client.
- In re Continental Airlines, Inc., 988 S.W.2d 733, (Tex. App.—Fort Worth, 1998). Venue in declaratory judgment/injunction case.
- WFAA-TV, Inc. v. McLemore, 978 S.W.2d 568, (Tex. 1998). First Texas Supreme Court opinion establishing definition of “public figure” in a libel case. One of the most frequently cited defamation decisions in Texas law. Arose out of breaking news coverage of “Branch Davidian” shoot-out in Waco.
- US. v. Robinson, 119 F.3d 1205 (5th Cir. 1997). Reversing sentence of defendant in Hobbs Act robbery case.
- Morris v. Dallas Morning News, Inc., 934 S.W.2d 410, (Tex. App.—Waco 1996). Summary judgment affirmed for newspaper libel defendants in suit by police officers.
- Brown v. Hearst Corp., 54 F.3d. 21 (1st Cir. 1995). Summary judgment affirmed for defendants in media libel case following venue transfer from N.D. Tex. (Watler counsel in Texas).
- Houston Chronicle Pub. Co. v. Crapitto, 907 S.W.2d 99, (Tex. App.—Hou. [14th Dist.], 1995). First Amendment right of news media to open court in high-profile criminal trial.
- Upjohn Co. v. Freeman, 906 S.W.2d 92, (Tex. App.—Dallas 1995). Rule 76a sealing of court records.
- Rogers v. Dallas Morning News, Inc., 889 S.W.2d 467 (Tex. App.—Dallas 1994). Summary judgment affirmed for media libel defendants.
- Thigpen v. Sparks, 983 F.2d 644, 1993 WL 18577, C.A.5 (Tex.), February 16, 1993 (No. 91-1977, 91-1977).
- Dallas Morning News Co. v. Board of Trustees of Dallas Independent School Dist., 861 S.W.2d 532, (Tex. App.—Dallas 1993). Texas Open Meetings Act suit.
- Dallas Morning News v. Fifth Court of Appeals, 842 S.W.2d 655 (Tex. 1992). Rule 76a sealing of court records.
- Lewis v. A.H. Belo Corp., 818 S.W.2d 856 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 1991). Affirming summary judgment for newspaper libel defendants.
- Matter of Dallas Morning News Co., 916 F.2d 205, (5th Cir. 1990). First Amendment right of news media to open court in high-profile criminal trial.
- Buffalo Ranch Co., Ltd. v. Thomason, 727 S.W.2d 331, Tex. App.—Hou. [1st Dist.], 1987. Dispute over oil and gas royalties.
- Kneeland v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 806 F.2d 1285 (5th Cir. 1987). Texas Open Records Act case.
- A. H. Belo Corp. v. Southern Methodist University, 734 S.W.2d 720 (Tex. App.—Dallas 1987). Texas Open Records Act case.
Paul’s long-standing success representing media outlets earned him recognition as the “Go-To Lawyer” for media litigation in the Lone Star State by Texas Lawyer.
Paul has won million dollar-plus verdicts at jury trial for plaintiffs and defendants in commercial cases.
Paul’s court experience covers a wide range of complex cases including libel, employment, aviation, health care, 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.
- Special Texas Supreme Court Advisory Committee
- American Bar Association
- State Bar of Texas
- Public Affairs Committee, Past Chair
- Advertising Review Committee, Inaugural Member
- Dallas Bar Association
- Media Relations Committee, Former Chair
- The University of Texas at Austin – Moody College of Communication, Advisory Council
- Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas
- Past President
- Twin Bridge and Oak Highlands Homeowner’s Associations, Past President
- North Texas Public Broadcasting (KERA), Former Board Member
News & Events
Save the Plane — Or Save Yourself From a Libel Suit?
Texas Supreme Court Opinions Firm Up Anti-SLAPP Rights for Online Journalists
Paul Watler Writes on Free Speech and Privacy Aboard Airplanes
Jackson Walker Hosts Texas Association of Broadcasters
Paul Watler Leads Effort to Vacate Media Gag Order
Jackson Walker Congratulates Its Best Lawyers in America 2016
Jackson Walker Secures Appellate Victory for ‘The Dallas Morning News’ in Libel Suit by Senate Candidate
Jackson Walker Helps Texas Broadcasters Association Defeat or Amend Adverse Bills During 2015 Texas Legislative Session
Paul Watler on Discovering His Late Father’s Connection to the Monuments Men
Paul Watler Appointed to University of Texas Moody College of Communication Advisory Council
Paul Watler Speaks at Ethics CLE on Media Training for Lawyers
Old-School Investigative Sports Reporting: Still Relevant After All These Years
Stacy Allen, Bob Latham and Paul Watler Attend Texas Association of Broadcasters’ Awards Gala
Paul Watler Presents 2014 James Madison Award on Behalf of Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas
Jackson Walker Defends Texas Broadcaster in Precedent–Setting Libel Case
Jackson Walker Successfully Represents Clients in Open-Courtroom Case
Jackson Walker Congratulates Its Best Lawyers in America 2015
Paul Watler Featured in ‘Texas Press’ on Defamatory Statements
Paul Watler Speaks: My Night of Selfies
Protecting what matters
Jackson Walker Wins Victory for ‘Dallas Morning News’ in Public Records Case
Jackson Walker attorneys selected for 2014 The Best Lawyers in America
Jackson Walker Congratulates Its Best Lawyers in America 2014
Jackson Walker Doubles Down on Data Center Services
Paul Watler Presents James Madison Award on Behalf of Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas
Jackson Walker Congratulates Its Best Lawyers in America 2014
Paul Watler and Steve Fogle Speak at ‘Investigative Reporters and Editor’s Conference 2013’
Jackson Walker Congratulates Its 50 “Texas Super Lawyers”
Jackson Walker Congratulates Its Best Lawyers in America 2013
Jackson Walker Hosts ‘Managing Litigation as a Business’ Seminar