Thomas A. Burns is the founding shareholder of Burns, P.A. He is a board-certified appellate specialist with extensive experience defending and prosecuting lawsuits at the trial and appellate levels, in both state and federal courts.
Before returning to Florida in 2009, Thomas practiced for five years in Washington, D.C., with the appellate departments of Sidley Austin LLP and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. In Tampa, he practiced for three years in the appellate departments of Hill, Ward & Henderson, P.A. and Greenberg Traurig, P.A. In those capacities, he represented leading companies from diverse industries in a wide variety of disputes.
Thomas has substantial experience with appellate matters. He has drafted merits briefs, amicus briefs, petitions for writs of certiorari, petitions for writs of prohibition, and petitions for writs of mandamus in the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Eighth, Eleventh, D.C., and Federal Circuits, and various state supreme and intermediate appellate courts—including the Supreme Court of Florida and all five Florida district courts of appeal. In doing so, Thomas has presented dozens of oral arguments, including 19 in the Eleventh Circuit.
During his career, Thomas has received numerous honors. Super Lawyers has selected him as a “rising star” in appellate practice in 2015, 2016, and 2017 and as a “super lawyer” in appellate practice in 2018 and 2019. Similarly, in 2018 and 2019, Florida Trend selected him to its “legal elite” in appellate practice.
Representative past appellate matters include the exclusion of a toxicologist in a $63 million toxic tort case, a federal prosecution regarding a $37.5 million mortgage fraud conspiracy, an asserted $10 million personal injury from a medical device, a federal prosecution regarding $6.5 million pain clinic, a $4.6 million defamation judgment, a $2.5 million Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a federal prosecution regarding $2.5 million Medicare fraud scheme, and a $1.7 million personal injury judgment. Some current appeals involve an $820,000 breach of contract appeal and federal prosecutions regarding a 13-day jury trial regarding an expansive immigration fraud scheme and a $10.6 million wire fraud scheme that implicates a 7-4 circuit split regarding the “right to control” theory. In addition to litigating appeals, Thomas has also performed lead appellate trial support in matters such as a $200 million insurance-coverage and bad-faith dispute, a $10.6 million white collar wire fraud and identity theft prosecution, and a $400,000 breach of contract dispute in lengthy federal jury trials.
Before entering private practice, Thomas served as a law clerk to the Hon. Susan H. Black of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Jacksonville, Florida. Thomas graduated from the Duke University School of Law cum laude in 2003, where he was elected Executive Editor of the Duke Law Journal and was the David Siegel Scholar. Thomas graduated from Duke University magna cum laude in 2000.
Thomas was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. His mother is a retired architect from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and his father is a retired atomic physicist from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Thomas is proficient in French and speaks rudimentary Greek, Portuguese, and Spanish. Outside the office, Thomas enjoys playing tennis, reading, traveling with his wife, and watching movies and sports.
- J.D., cum laude, Duke University School of Law, 2003
- Duke Law Journal, Executive Editor
- David Siegel Scholar
- A.B., magna cum laude, Duke University, 2000
- Hon. Susan H. Black, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Jacksonville, Florida, 2003-2004
- Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, D.C., 2002 (summer), 2003 (summer), 2004-2007
- Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Washington, D.C., 2007-2009
- Hill, Ward & Henderson, P.A., Tampa, Florida, 2009-2010
- Greenberg Traurig, P.A., Tampa, Florida, 2011-2012
- Supreme Court of the United States
- Eleventh Circuit
- Federal Circuit
- Middle District of Florida
- Southern District of Florida
- Goldburg-Cacciatore Criminal Law American Inn of Court
- The American Bar Association
- The Florida Bar Association (Appellate Practice Section)
- Hillsborough County Bar Association (Appellate Practice Section)
- American Constitution Society
- Certiorari petition and reply brief in Aldissi v. United States, No. 19-5805 (S.Ct.) (seeking review of a 7-4 circuit split on the “right to control” theory of wire fraud and a 3-3 circuit split on the calculation of loss and restitution);
- Certiorari petition and reply brief in Davis v. United States, No. 16-9642 (S.Ct.) (whether Congress intended and the Double Jeopardy Clause permits simultaneous prosecution for one instance of corrupt persuasion of a witness under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(1), which addresses witness tampering, and the residual clause of 18 U.S.C. § 1503, which addresses obstruction of justice);
- Initial brief and reply brief in Sammons v. Greenfield, 270 So. 3d 534 (Fla. 2d DCA 2019) (reversing dismissal of medical malpractice lawsuit because plaintiffs’ attorney’s failure to timely file a motion to substitute the decedent’s estate due to her endocrinological condition was excusable neglect);
- Initial brief and reply brief in Wilson v. City of Tampa, 209 So. 3d 646 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017) (reversing dismissal of personal injury lawsuit because plaintiff’s presuit notice of claims was sufficient);
- Appellant’s brief (in No. 13-12009), appellant’s brief (in No. 12-15660), and reply brief in United States v. Cavallo, 790 F.3d 1202 (11th Cir. 2015) (vacating $13 million restitution order after three-month jury trial regarding $37.5 million mortgage fraud conspiracy);
- Appellant's brief in Dimanche v. Brown, 783 F.3d 1204 (11th Cir. 2015) (reversing dismissal of prisoner’s lawsuit because his grievance administratively exhausted his claim that guards had gassed him);
- Principal brief and reply / cross-answer brief in Howard v. Kraus, 642 Fed. App’x 940 (11th Cir. 2016) (reversing order that prisoner was not a three striker per Prison Litigation Reform Act).
Sample oral arguments
- United States v. Cingari, No. 17-12262 (11th Cir. 2019) (13-day jury trial regarding immigration fraud);
- Jenkins v. S. David Anton, P.A., 922 F.3d 1257 (11th Cir. 2019) (affirming judgment in favor of law firm that denied overtime pay to paralegal after five-day bench trial);
- United States v. Aldissi, Nos. 15-14193 & 15-14194 (11th Cir. 2018) (affirming convictions of sentences after 18-day jury trial regarding scientists accused of defrauding NSF, NASA, and other federal agencies $10.6 million, aggravated identify theft, and record falsification);
- United States v. Davis, 854 F.3d 1276 (11th Cir. 2017) (affirming conviction and sentence after three-day jury trial regarding firearm possession, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice), cert. denied, 138 S. Ct. 379 (2017);
- Kenning v. Carli, 648 Fed. App’x 763 (11th Cir. 2016) (affirming summary judgment based on qualified immunity to officers who shot plaintiff to death on front doorsteps of mobile home);
- Howard v. Kraus, 642 Fed. App’x 940 (11th Cir. 2016) (reversing order that prisoner was not a three striker per Prison Litigation Reform Act);
Publications and Presentations
- Is It Over Yet? A Primer on Federal and State Appellate Finality Doctrines, 94 Fla. B.J. 35 (Jan./Feb. 2020)
- Speaker, 11th Circuit Year in Review, American Constitution Society, July 18, 2018
- Panelist, Stetson Law Panel Discussion of Arda Goker’s Comment, Florida’s Statutory Sentencing Provisions, the Sixth Amendment, and the Province of the Jury: A Study in Constitutional Conformity, 47 Stet. L. Rev. 450 (2018), Nov. 1, 2016
- Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Stretches Its Legs, Lawyer, Spring 2013, at 30-31
- Navigating the New Florida Appellate Mediation Rules, Lawyer, Summer 2011, at 14-15
- Speaker, Distinctions between State and Federal Appellate Practice, The Florida Bar Appellate Practice Section, Mar. 18, 2011
- Florida State and Federal Appellate Rules: Distinctions with a Difference, Fla. B.J., June 2010, at 74-76
- Note, When Life is an Injury: An Economic Analysis of Wrongful Life Lawsuits, 52 Duke L.J. 807 (2003)