Chris Johns is a founding partner of Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP, a trial and appellate boutique with offices in Austin and Houston. Chris focuses on eminent-domain trials and civil appeals. He has won cases for his clients in courts across the country—from state and federal trial and appellate courts to the United States Supreme Court. He also teaches a course on eminent domain and private-property rights at the University of Texas School of Law.
Chris grew up in Buckhannon, West Virginia, where he attended public schools. He went to Brigham Young University on academic and piano scholarships and, after his first year of college, served for two years as a full-time volunteer for his church in Oakland and San Francisco. There, Chris spent most of his time in neighborhoods unlike anything he’d ever seen in rural West Virginia. Still, he can’t imagine a better education: speaking with thousands of people about their lives, hopes, and fears; becoming fluent in Spanish; observing communities that thrived and others that failed; and making friends with individuals from many countries and many walks of life, from gang members to high-level government officials. Chris decided during his volunteer service that he eventually wanted to become a lawyer and advocate, so he studied English upon return to BYU, graduating magna cum laude in 1997.
Chris received his J.D. with high honors from the University of Texas School of Law, where he was editor in chief of the Texas Law Review, a member of the Chancellors honor society, and a member of the Order of the Coif. He received Dean’s Achievement Awards in several of his classes. After graduation, Chris clerked for the Honorable Phyllis A. Kravitch of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He then attended the University of Oxford, where he received a postgraduate law degree and authored a frequently cited dissertation analyzing the relationship between property and the law of obligations. He entered private practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, where he worked with former Texas Solicitor General Greg Coleman in the firm’s national Supreme Court and appellate practice.
Chris has testified about property rights on invitation from the Texas Legislature, lectured at the University of Texas School of Law, received multiple pro bono service awards, helped train UT’s moot-court teams, and appeared as a legal expert on television news programs. Texas Super Lawyers Magazine named him to its 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 lists of “Super Lawyers” and to its 2013 and 2014 lists of “Rising Stars,” a distinction reserved for the top 2.5% of Texas attorneys who are under 40 years of age or have been practicing law for fewer than 10 years. He is also a barrister in the Lloyd Lochridge American Inn of Court.
Chris is licensed in Texas and New York and is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern, Southern, and Western Districts of Texas, several other federal courts across the country, and all state courts in Texas.
Chris volunteers for the Boy Scouts of America, serving as a Scoutmaster to one of the highest achieving troops in Central Texas. He is also an accomplished pianist, teacher, soccer player and coach, and former Spanish interpreter.
Most important, Chris is lucky to be married to an amazing woman, to have three fun and loving sons, and to share life with wonderful friends and family.
B.A., English, magna cum laude, Brigham Young University, 1997.
J.D., with high honors, University of Texas School of Law, 2002.
B.C.L., University of Oxford (Trinity College), 2004.
Rationis Enterprises Inc. of Panama v. Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co.,
426 F.3d 580 (2d Cir. 2005):
Briefed and argued an admiralty appeal to the Second Circuit, which reversed a liability determination and rendered a take-nothing judgment on claims exceeding $100 million.
Rowe Entertainment, Inc. v. William Morris Agency, Inc.,
167 F. App’x 227 (2d Cir. 2005):
Coauthored the winning brief in an appeal where the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of civil-rights and antitrust claims against major booking agencies.
Sereboff v. Mid Atlantic Medical Services, Inc.,
547 U.S. 356 (2006):
Coauthored the winning merits brief and sat second chair for this statutory-construction case at the U.S. Supreme Court, which held 9-0 for his client.
Microsoft Corp. v. AT&T Corp.,
550 U.S. 437 (2007):
Wrote the Software and Information Industry Association’s amicus brief, which the U.S. Solicitor General cited to support Microsoft’s successful petition for certiorari.
Allen v. Russian Federation,
522 F.Supp.2d 167 (D.D.C. 2007):
Coauthored the successful motion to dismiss in a highly publicized investor suit.
Southwest Intelecom Inc. v. Compass Bank,
253 F. App’x 372 (5th Cir. 2007):
Wrote the prevailing brief for Compass Bank, with the Fifth Circuit affirming dismissal of UCC and common-law claims.
Tomlinson v. Estate of Theis,
2008 WL 160202 (Tex. App.—Austin Jan. 18, 2008, no pet.):
Authored the winning brief in a will challenge involving a multi-million-dollar estate.
S&D Trading Academy, LLC v. AAFIS Inc.,
2008 WL 2325167 (S.D. Tex. June 3, 2008), aff’d, 336 F. App’x 443 (5th Cir. 2009):
Coauthored the successful motion for summary judgment, convincing the district court to apply the Texas Securities Act to bar the plaintiffs’ claims.
Tuley v. Azle Group, Inc.,
Cause No. D-1-GN-07-000143 in the 353rd District Court, Travis County, Texas (2008):
Wrote and argued BASF’s winning motion for summary judgment in a case involving chemicals spilled during transport.
_________ v. _________ [details confidential by agreement] (2008):
Authored a detailed complaint against a Fortune Global 10 company, alleging trade-secret misappropriation and other claims, prompting the defendant to agree to a high-eight-figure settlement.
State of Texas v. 7KX Investments,
No. 03-10-0069-CV in the Third District Court of Appeals, Austin, Texas (2011):
Coauthored the successful summary-judgment response at trial and the merits brief on appeal in an important groundwater-rights case, which settled just days before oral argument for $5.5 million (just $300,000 less than the jury verdict).
Anglo-Dutch Petroleum International, Inc. v. Greenberg Peden, P.C.,
352 S.W.3d 445 (Tex. 2011):
Submitted an amicus brief on behalf of several Texas law firms and participated in oral argument, helping convince the Texas Supreme Court to reverse and render judgment in favor of a client in a fee dispute with its lawyer.
Singh v. Newman,
No. 1:2009-CV-00523 (W.D. Tex. 2011):
Working with co-counsel, successfully tried a securities-fraud case to a jury, which issued a complete defense verdict.
_________ v. _________ [details confidential by agreement] (2012):
With Joe Marrs, represented a business owner making DTPA and Insurance Code claims against an insurance carrier and agency for misrepresenting property coverage and obtaining a settlement of $500,000, netting the client $300,000.
United States ex rel. Gonzalez v. Fresenius Medical Care of North America,
689 F.3d 470 (2012) (reviewing 748 F.Supp.2d 95 (W.D. Tex. 2010) and 761 F.Supp.2d 442 (W.D. Tex. 2010)):
With Ryan Downton, represented a nephrologist and his medical clinic against a disgruntled employee’s claims of Medicare fraud, with the jury and judge awarding a take-nothing verdict and judgment for our clients. Mr. Johns argued the case to the Fifth Circuit, which affirmed the judgment.
Jiménez v. Texas,
No. 12-117 in the Supreme Court of the United States (2012):
With Zev Kusin, filed an amicus brief on behalf of the president-elect of Mexico, the governor of the State of Mexico, and the State of Mexico itself, supporting the cert petition of an undocumented Mexican woman who was deprived funds to hire a competent expert witness in a criminal case that turned on expert medical opinion.
In re Parker Family Trust,
2014 WL 4055992 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi Aug. 14, 2014, no pet.):
With Joe Marrs, successfully defended against a former trustee’s attempt to challenge the appointment of new trustees.
Domel v. Birdwell,
2014 WL 4347815 (Tex. App.—Eastland Aug. 29, 2014, pet. denied):
With Randy Howry, successfully defended a jury verdict on appeal for a buyer asserting a negligent-misrepresentation claim related to the sale of a ranch.
In re State of Texas,
2014 WL 4915402 (Tex. App.—Austin Oct. 31, 2014, no pet.):
Successfully defended a trial court’s order requiring the State to divulge the valuation report and work file of an appraiser it claimed was a consulting expert.
Hindes v. La Salle County, Texas,
2015 WL 5037033 (Tex. App.—San Antonio Aug. 26, 2015, no pet.):
After obtaining dismissal of claims against governmental defendant in the trial court, coauthored the winning merits brief and successfully defended the dismissal on appeal.
Burks v. XL Specialty Insurance Co.,
2015 WL 6949610, __ S.W.3d __, No. 14-14-00740-CV (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] Nov. 10, 2015, no pet.):
Obtained reversal of trial court’s ruling, allowing former corporate officer and director proceed with breach-of-contract claim for improper denial of D&O coverage, leading to confidential settlement.