After three-plus years with the U.S. Department of Justice, Charles Fowler has returned to McKool Smith as a principal of the firm in Austin. The move bolsters McKool Smith’s appellate practice.
Fowler honed his appellate skills as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Central District of California, in Los Angeles, and the Western District of Texas, in Austin. As an assistant U.S. attorney in those appellate divisions, Fowler spearheaded unprecedented constitutional and statutory arguments.
Fowler previously worked at McKool Smith as an associate from 2013 to January 2020. Prior to that, Fowler clerked for Judge Harris Hartz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
Dispatching to California in 2020 for the appellate experience was a strategic move, said Fowler, who is native to the Austin area. The Central District of California is the country’s largest federal judicial district.
“I was looking for a role that was appellate specific. Those don’t come open terribly often,” Fowler said.
In his new role, Fowler will focus on complex commercial and intellectual property litigation.
“Charles’ time as a former federal prosecutor, coupled with his history with the firm, makes him a natural fit for our growing appellate practice,” McKool Smith Chairman and Managing Principal David Sochia said in a news release. “As we continue to build out this offering, it’s increasingly important to seek attorneys, like Charles, who have relevant, yet diverse and unique trial and appellate experience.”
Fowler obtained his law degree from the University of Texas and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas A&M University.
Get to know more about Charles Fowler:
Why did you decide to return to McKool Smith?
I had a very good experience at McKool Smith as an associate and I believe that during my time with the government, I developed a specialty or emphasis in appellate work that complements the firm’s excellent trial practice and thought that I could leverage that here.
What are some of the key lessons you gained from your experience at the DOJ?
It was very valuable to be the lead attorney working up and developing strategy in a large volume of complex appellate matters. I think that is something that will translate well to the type of complex matters we’re handling here at the firm at the trial level, supporting trial teams on legal issues, case strategy, motion practice, as well as appeals here.
It was also, I think, very valuable to get a good grounding in the criminal docket that our federal courts are handling, because it is a large piece of what our federal judges are doing. And it’s an important piece of what our federal judges are doing. I think it gives valuable perspective to have a good understanding and grounding in really the whole spectrum of the business of our federal courts that we’re practicing in.
Can you talk about some of the most interesting cases you handled in the Department of Justice?
Soon after I started in the Central District of California, the COVID-19 pandemic ground jury trials to a halt for what would end up being a period of about 15 months. The decision to suspend jury trials was not unanimous. There were a couple of district judges who did not see suspension of jury trials, at least in every case, as justified. One judge in particular started dismissing criminal indictments under the Speedy Trial Act when defendants refused to agree to continuances. I co-wrote the brief appealing the first dismissal under the Speedy Trial Act in the COVID-19 era, went on to present oral argument in that case in the Ninth Circuit, succeeded in getting that dismissal reversed, and then after that, successfully opposed en banc rehearing. That was a super interesting case because it was really, at the time, an unprecedented constitutional and statutory issue.
More recently, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in New York Rifle & Pistol Association vs. Bruen, which was a Second Amendment case, criminal defendants have launched a series of attacks on federal gun laws under the Second Amendment. I was tasked with coordinating the office’s second amendment litigation in the wake of the Bruen case. That has led to filing a number of briefs and handling a number of Fifth Circuit oral arguments on novel Second Amendment issues in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision, including, for example, a case argued back in February. The case name is United States vs. Quiroz, which involves a second amendment challenge to 18 USC 922(n), which is the statute criminalizing receipt of a firearm while under felony indictment. That is a second amendment challenge that no circuit to date had addressed. So that was another novel constitutional issue that I handled.