Joseph Z. Cavanah
Partner / Bay Area Houston Office

Joe Cavanah concentrates his practice on maritime and fiduciary disputes as a member of the firm’s litigation group, while also assisting clients with complex asset protection and estate planning needs.

Given the scope of his practice and the nature of the issues he litigates, Joe has experience in both federal and state forums.  He has argued disputes governed by the general maritime law involving litigants in Texas, California, and Germany, and also enjoys advising private and professional fiduciaries that manage significant assets throughout the United States.

Joe is a proud veteran.  Before pursuing his legal career, he served for five years in the United States Navy.  Shortly after being injured in Navy SEAL training, he assumed supervision of the armory aboard the U.S.S. Nimitz, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.  Joe’s commitment to furthering the rule of law stems from the two deployments he completed with the U.S. Navy.  Joe renewed that commitment by obtaining a certificate in maritime law from Tulane University Law School in 2013.  Joe’s discipline, sense of duty, and ethics are the hallmarks of his practice.  Whether arguing a contractual dispute, a disagreement among trust beneficiaries, or guiding fiduciary clients, Joe’s passion for applying the rule of law to his clients’ interests is unmistakable.

Joe’s ability to work with others and his reputation help explain why his peers elected him as President of the Galveston County Young Lawyers and, thereafter, a Director of the Galveston County Bar Association.  Joe is also a member of the Maritime Law Association.  He provides advice to organizations such as Moody National Bank, G&H Towing Company, American National Insurance Company, Anchor Marine, Suderman & Young Tugs, Southwest Shipyard LP, and the Galveston Historical Foundation.  In the course of his practice, Joe has also assisted private individuals with their estate planning needs and throughout the probate administration process.


  • Tulane University Law School – J.D. & Maritime Certificate Program
    • Senior Articles Editor, Tulane Maritime Law Journal
    • Senior Writing Fellow, LLM International Writing Program
  • University of Colorado at Boulder – B.A., History & Anthropology, Magna Cum Laude


  • Texas
  • Colorado
  • United States District Court for the Northern and Southern Districts of Texas


  • “Dangerous Goods in the Age of Containerization: WARNING! This Comment May (or may not) Self-Destruct.” 37 Mar. L.J. 2012

Representative Cases

  • Represented nationally-chartered bank in two-week jury trial and on appeal in a case involving the characterization of a $50 million estate.
  • Defended a midstream supplier against German shipowner’s General Maritime & U.C.C. claims.
  • Filed suit against the IRS on behalf of a secured lienholder, obtaining the release of an IRS levy.
  • Advised a publicly-traded company throughout an eight-year multi-state audit and, on appeal, succeeded in challenging the rulemaking authority of California’s State Treasurer.

Professional Activities & Memberships

  • Maritime Law Association (MLA) of the United States
    • Marine Insurance and General Average Committee, Member (Since 2014)
    • Cruise Lines and Passenger Ships Committee, Member (Since 2014)
    • Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, Member (Since 2014)
      • Maritime Liens and Mortgages Subcommittee, Member (Since 2014)
    • State Bar of Texas
    • American Bar Association
    • Galveston County Bar Association – Outstanding Young Lawyer (2017)