The Honorable Alan D. Albright was sworn in, as District Judge of the Western District of Texas, Waco Division in September of 2018. Both authors of this blog attended the investiture ceremony Judge Albright on May 1 at the Baylor Club at McLane Stadium in Waco. In addition, one of us (David) was on the Investiture Committee.
Judge Albright previously served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Austin Division of the Western District of Texas. However, from 1999 to 2018, he was in private practice, predominantly as a patent litigator with the firm of Bracewell LLP, and was admitted to the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers. As a result, Judge Albright arrives at the bench as one of the most patent litigation-experienced jurists in the United States. This experience (and the desire to apply it in the Waco court), combined with a recent paradigm shift in the application of venue rules for patent cases (arising from the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent TC Heartland case), has the potential to yield a truly historic transformation for the Waco Court. Judge Albright is actively working to make that transformation a reality.
Numerous technology and other sizeable companies reside in, or have a substantial presence in the Western District of Texas, perhaps most notably including those in Waco’s nearby neighbor city of Austin, Texas. Even with, and perhaps because of, the venue-related constraints from the TC Heartland case, some in the patent litigation field view the Western District of Texas as a new, viable venue for many patent cases.
Judge Albright shares the view that the Waco Court could well become one of the nation’s patent litigation hubs. Both authors of this blog fully expect Waco, as a court with a patent litigation-experienced and knowledgeable Court and staff, with local rules and practices that are both balanced and lawyer-friendly, and with a docket load that will afford parties flexibility in trial settings, will quickly become a top patent litigation docket.
Judge Albright has stated that he "will design my standing orders and other court practices in such a way that patent cases, and all cases in my court, will run smoothly and cost-effectively. I want to provide a venue in which everyone in a case knows that they got a fair shake. Basically, I want to provide the most desirable venue option possible for lawyers and litigants alike, regardless of their side of the docket.” In his approach in steering the Waco court in such a direction, Judge Albright is seeking to innovate and to be flexible in many ways that may depart from fellow jurists’ practices, or at least from the perspectives of practicing litigators of some other courts.
“I do not at all mind when parties, for example bring their discovery disputes to me,” Judge Albright explains. “Some litigants fear bringing legitimate, pre-trial disputes to a court, for fear of receiving more punishment than relief. That will not happen in my court.”
Other features of his planned local practices include: (1) invitations to submit audio renditions of briefs for his listening before hearings; (2) adaptive case management conference arrangements that, only when apparently beneficial, will invite party representative participation, but also allows for telephonic participation for party and attorney convenience; (3) encouraging younger lawyers’ argument and other trial and hearing participation; (4) allowing parties to select their trial dates, as well as significant input in scheduling order deadlines; and (5) fashioning contextually-adaptive, early disclosures to avoid wasted briefing and delays.
On the personal side of matters, Judge Albright is very pleased to assume his role in Waco, Texas.
“I have found the Waco community to be particularly welcoming, generous and friendly, even when people I meet have no idea that I am a federal judge,” he says “I very much like what I have found here. I will do everything I can to invite the public to better know their federal district court and its impact on their lives and community. I have no plans to leave Waco, even if there were to be a bench opening in Austin, for example,” he says. “I plan to remain here, and very much look forward to integrating into this thriving and growing community.”
The Waco area provides outlets for some of Judge Albright’s personal passions. Such things as Waco’s Zoo Run, Silo Marathon and the upcoming Miracle Match Marathon aligns with his love for running that’s led him to complete 26 marathons. Judge Albright’s growing participation in certain of Baylor Law School’s programs, including guest lecturing in its famed Practice Court program satisfies Judge’s teaching and mentoring desires. When having time to spend with his two sons, Waco’s many outdoor and sports venues and events will likewise make Waco a good fit for him and his family in this new chapter of life.
Only the future will reveal the full impact of Judge Albright’s arrival in Waco, Texas. Based on what other cities, such as Marshall, Texas, experienced after becoming a significant patent litigation venue, there is potential for a significant impact on Waco itself. Whatever the eventualities, there is a palpable “buzz” throughout the Texas legal community about a potential sea change from developments surrounding Judge Albright’s arrival.
We, the authors of this new blog, are enthusiastic supporters of Judge Albright, the Waco court, and the direction things are heading. This is the reason that we started this blog, so that we can provide information on cases and happenings in Waco patent cases as the venue evolves. We hope to provide interesting and useful insight, and welcome all comments and ideas. If you have questions or ideas for posts, please contact us! We look forward to covering the hottest court in the land!
-Erick Robinson and David G. Henry, Authors