James S. Renard and William A. Brewer III
Thirty years after the founding of powerhouse litigation boutique Bickel & Brewer, the firm has become as well known for its track record as it has for its unique advocacy model. The firm has developed a practice that operates in the forums of law, business, politics, and media.
The results of that unique advocacy model were evident earlier this year. In March, the firm’s community service affiliate, the Bickel & Brewer Storefront, achieved a decisive victory in a closely watched immigration case, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower-court ruling in City of Farmers Branch v. Villas at Parkside Partners.
The decision left in place a decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which declared unconstitutional a 2008 rental ordinance passed by the City of Farmers Branch that would have allowed local authorities to screen renters based on their immigration status.
“We believed the city was demonstrating hostility toward the Latino community through an unconstitutional ordinance,” says Brewer of the controversy, which attracted the attention of legal scholars, civil rights leaders, and media outlets nationwide. “One of the things we are most proud of is that this ordinance was never in effect—not even for a single day.”
The outcome is testament to Bickel & Brewer’s practice philosophy. The firm challenged the ordinance in court, coordinated opposition from a grassroots coalition, and engineered a public relations campaign to inform the public about the unlawful and harmful effects of the proposed ordinance. Newspaper editorial boards across the nation endorsed the firm’s position.
“We challenged this measure in every forum imaginable,” Brewer says. “Whether it was in the courtroom or in the court of public opinion, we never stopped advocating on behalf of our clients and those who joined us in opposing this pernicious measure.”
Partner James Renard helped lead the firm’s opposition to the ordinance. As a long-time partner in the firm, Renard has a unique perspective on the case and its impacts on the legal and political landscape.
“We hope the lessons learned in Farmers Branch will make clear to lawmakers and politicians across the nation that immigration is the province of the federal government,” says Renard. “What happened in this community is a lesson for others that may be considering similar unconstitutional measures.”
The Farmers Branch litigation is just one of many notable cases that Bickel & Brewer successfully resolved last year. With its reputation as a “go-to firm” for companies in high-stakes situations, Bickel & Brewer has developed one of the country’s most successful practices in the area of bet-the-business litigation, representing Fortune 500 companies and leading entrepreneurs.
For example, in 2013, the firm successfully defended 3M Company against claims of breach of contract and fraud arising from 3M’s sale of its European pharmaceutical business to Sweden’s Meda AB. Meda AB sought damages in excess of $200 million. Following a bench trial, Manhattan U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan ruled in 3M’s favor, finding that 3M did not breach its implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing or any of the warranties of a 2006 sales agreement.
Also in 2013, Bickel & Brewer successfully represented insurance executive Larry Anders and Summit Alliance Financial in an insurance dispute brought by T. Boone Pickens and Cowboy Athletics over claims that they had been defrauded out of millions of dollars in connection with the Gift of a Lifetime insurance program. With millions of dollars of insurance coverage in controversy, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the position advanced by Bickel & Brewer and dismissed the claims.
Bickel & Brewer continues to utilize its unique advocacy model in a wide range of corporate and community-impact cases. Recently, the Storefront undertook pro bono representation of Jim’s Shoe Repair in New York City. Jim’s is a fourth-generation family-owned business entangled in a real estate dispute that may force it from the iconic location it has called home since 1940. The local community has rallied to save Jim’s, and the dispute has captured headlines across New York.
“This store is a treasure to the community and all of New York City,” says Brewer, a long-time Jim’s patron. “We want to represent the interests of the business and family in every forum that is available to them. At the end of the day, the joy of this job is having an opportunity to advocate for the clients and issues in which you truly believe.”