Melanie is Of Counsel in the Litigation and Real Estate sections of the firm’s Austin office. She has over 19 years’ experience in general business and real estate litigation, including disputes related to real property and real estate transactions, “business divorce,” agent/broker liability, commercial leasing, construction defects, land use, code enforcement, breach of contract, insurance bad faith, DTPA, breach of fiduciary duty, copyright and trademark infringement, theft of trade secrets, and representation of creditors in bankruptcy. She also serves as outside general counsel to clients, negotiating agreements and providing risk management. While a seasoned litigator, Melanie strives to guide clients to early dispute resolution whenever possible.
Prior to working in private practice, Melanie spent several years as the first staff attorney to the Honorable Judge John Dietz of the 250th District Court of Travis County, gaining invaluable experience in how cases are tried at the state court level before the bench and juries. She then went to work for an Austin litigation boutique, litigating commercial disputes in state and federal court as well as in arbitration, handling all aspects of cases from initial complaint to final appeal. Her recent experience includes a focus on real estate litigation, including commercial lease disputes, water code violations/drainage disputes, disputes over easements and dedications, and construction. Additionally, Melanie routinely uses her expertise to assist in closings of complicated real estate transactions where properties have become enmeshed in different types of litigation.
Melanie’s practice will focus on real estate litigation, land use and land use litigation, business disputes and business litigation.
- J.D., with honors, 1996, University of Texas School of Law
- A. B., cum laude, 1992, Smith College
- Texas, 1996
- U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
- State Bar of Texas
Representative Experience and Cases
- Successfully defended landlord against claims of fraud/breach of contract/breach of warranty of suitability brought by tenant who illegally converted restaurant into bar, and obtained a million dollar plus verdict for landlord for unpaid rent, accelerated rent and other damages after four-day bench trial (Co-Counsel with Racy Haddad, Director Coats Rose) – Travis County District Court; Weird Times LLC v. Sharon Ma, (Tex. App. Court Amarillo, decided December 6, 2017) 2017 Tex. App. LEXIS 11367. While principally a breach of contract dispute, case involved substantial land use issues, including whether tenant’s attempt to obtain conditional use permit and site plan before City of Austin to operate large outdoor music venue permit/cocktail lounge was achievable, and whether landlord misrepresented permissible uses for property which had been grandfathered by City of Austin as a restaurant.
- Lead counsel defending claims of theft of trade secrets and copyright infringement, brought against client in U.S. District Court California Central Division (Los Angeles). Obtained key summary judgment rulings on plaintiff’s failure to prove its damages that led to favorable settlement for client allowing it to stay in business. See Cellular Accessories for Less, Inc. v. Trinitas LLC, 65 F. Supp. 3d 909 (C.D. California 2014); Cellular Accessories for Less, Inc. v. Trinitas LLC, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130518, 2014 WL 4627090 (C.D. California September 14, 2014).
- Defended adult industry publisher from copyright infringement claims. (United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas).
- Successfully defended hospitality client who was operating a bar on 6th street from eviction by master leaseholder based upon allegations client was in breach of lease, in part due to building code violations involving operation of 100-year-old historic building on 6th Assisted client with negotiating with City of Austin and building owners regarding code violations.
- Obtained injunctive relief against former employee in hospitality/bar business who claimed he had an ownership interest in one of the businesses while wrongfully disseminating company information on a multitude of social media platforms.
- Member of trial team responsible for key briefing before District Court and Fifth Circuit representing plaintiff telecommunications company in contract dispute; 35 million dollar judgment awarded after jury trial in favor of plaintiff. Teleplus v. Avantel, S.A., No. SA 98-CA-849 WWJ, 2003 WL 23282491 (W.D. Tex. Apr. 9, 2003); In re Avantel, S.A., 343 F.3d 311, 61 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 1542 (5th Cir. 2003).