John S. Garner

Practice Areas


  • Insurance
  • Maritime

Attorney Brief

For more than 25 years, John S. Garner has thrived as staff counsel for large and small firms alike practicing throughout the Gulf Coast in all states between New Mexico and Mississippi.  His practice has expanded to include a variety of legal services, ranging from criminal defense to domestic disputes in Chancery Court while specializing in numerous maritime cases involving civil litigation in federal and state courts.   Mr. Garner incorporates a wealth of legal knowledge with practical experience to bring confidence, support, and sound legal advice to a variety of clients in several states as a member of the state bars of New Mexico, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Mississippi.  As a member of the federal bar for the USDC for the Southern District of Texas and a member of the criminal defense bars in Louisiana and Mississippi, he continues to stand up for the constitutional rights of the individual while bringing courtroom skills learned at numerous criminal proceedings to the civil arena.

As a retired Naval Officer, his tours abroad in diverse and sensitive military operations allowed him to understand firsthand, the importance of our Constitution and the rights protected.  As examples, he saw a civil rights movement in China quickly and unexpectedly thwarted by the government at Tianamen Square while supervising a historic port visit to Shanghai, China.  He also assisted numerous sailors under his command avoid legal holds and other efforts to restrict their liberty and military careers by cooperating with local authorities in the Philippines and other Pacific regions abroad.  After returning to the States, and obtaining his legal education, he continues to enjoy protecting the rights of those charged with federal and state crimes while protecting the constitutional right to a fair trial in civil litigation.  To illustrate, Mr. Garner is one of a few select attorneys who has sought and been granted emergency relief in both civil and criminal proceedings that ensured basic constitutional rights to a fair trial while maintaining freedom of a criminal client while on bond.  Specifically, in Reingold v. Switfships, 126 F.3d 645 (5th Cir. 1997), and also at 210 F.3d 320 (5th Cir. 2000), Mr. Garner relied on civil appellate practice seeking both interlocutory emergency relief and relief from summary judgment to ensure a maritime case proceeded to a fair trial on the merits.  In successive appeals from the USDC W.D. LA (Hon. Richard T. Haik Presiding), Mr. Garner and the Reingold trial team argued and obtained relief on appellate review to ensure an owner of a vessel mold for hull construction received compensation for its use pursuant to Louisiana commercial law, including LUTSA and LUTPA.

Similarly, in an important criminal case, U.S. v. Tracy Richard, 1:2016cr00035 (USDC S.D. MS 2020) (Hon. Louis Guirola, Jr., presiding), through vigorous pursuit of a diminished capacity defense and challenges to competency of an intellectually disabled client, Mr. Garner set procedural precedent preserving constitutional rights before trial.  Through an emergency writ for mandamus, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s order of arrest and granted immediate release to ensure the client remained free on bond during all pretrial proceedings.  Through subsequent proceedings and a plea, a diminished capacity departure occurred at sentencing.  This case represents the importance of defending the disabled in a federal criminal proceeding and the necessity for clarifying confusing procedures governing competency during the initial phases of a criminal case.

Other decisions illustrate the overlap between criminal and civil proceedings where constitutional rights reach all fields of his legal practice.  Such decisions include: Kostmayer Construction, LLC v. Marquette, 2:15-cv-01395 (USDC EDLA) (Trial team proved considerable fault by the assist tugs because repairs occurred outside the permit boundaries and set precedent on the proof necessary to show a permit violation).  Crowe v. Marquette Trans Gulf Inland 2:14 – cv-01130 (USDC EDLA) (In a case of first impression, trial team presented sufficient evidence to bring a claim for fraud to trial against a Jones Act seaman to recover benefits paid); Boudreaux v. Transocean Deepwater, 2:08-cv-0686 (USDC EDLA) (Trial team relied on maritime McCorpen defense to resolve case and establish ability for a Jones Act defendant to bring claims for fraud under the general maritime law).

Other highlights of his legal career include: appointment as a law clerk for the Honorable Judge Bruce Black at the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico; received the Leon Feingold award at the University of Wisconsin for assistance to inmates; received an AMJUR award at the University of Wisconsin in legal process; obtained an LLM in admiralty from Tulane University; represented clients in numerous cases resulting in recovery of insurance proceeds after Hurricane Katrina; and continues to develop an expanding legal practice in both domestic and civil maritime litigation to capitalize on over 25 years of litigation experience.