In the New York criminal case against International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, two personal attorneys with very different backgrounds have been brought in. While they're not directly opposed yet, they may soon end up on either side of a courtroom. Strauss-Kahn quickly secured high-profile criminal defender Benjamin Brafman to help him through the arrest and arraignment process, and presumably his grand jury hearing and possible trial. His alleged victim, on the other hand, has engaged Jeffrey Shapiro, a personal injury lawyer, to look out for her rights, leading to speculation that she plans a lawsuit. Both attorneys like talking to the press, and both will be heard from a lot in the near future. Let's meet them, shall we?
The attorney who represented Michael Jackson, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, and Jay-Z, among other celebrities and high-profile defendants, has no fear of the spotlight. He has been called a "perfect fit" to represent Strauss-Kahn, because of his experience representing high-profile clients against long odds. The New York native is the son of Holocaust survivors and grew up in Brooklyn and Queens before putting himself through college and law school, the Jewish Journal reports. He has a peer rating of five out of five on findlaw.com
Education: Undergraduate: Brooklyn College, Law school: Ohio Northern University, Additional master of law: New York University
Career overview: Brafman has been practicing law in New York State since 1975. He started as a prosecutor with the New York District Attorney's Office, where he worked from 1976 to 1979 before moving to private practice. He is a member of the American Bar Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, The Association of Trial Lawyers of America, New York Council of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the New York Criminal Bar Association, where he served on the board of directors from 1990 to 1992.
Cases of note: There are too many to name all of them, but Brafman may be best remembered for winning an acquittal for Sean "P. Diddy" Combs on weapons and bribery charges in 1999. Wikipedia remembers, succinctly, "The criminal charges stemmed from a nightclub brawl, while accompanied by then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez and Combs' usual entourage, and witnessed by over 100 other people." He also represented Michael Jackson against child molestation charges in 2004 (though he left the case before the verdict), and has gone to bat for countless defendants whose cases seemed hopeless. He made his name defending high-profile mobsters such as Vincent "The Chin" Gigante and Sammy "the Bull" Gravano.
The down and dirty: According to a 1998 profile in New York magazine, "His detractors see a darker side, accusing Brafman of using underhanded, albeit legal, courtroom tactics to win, and cynically manipulating the press with carefully orchestrated leaks."
Secret weapon: Before he was a lawyer, Brafman worked as a standup comic in the Catskills, and he still relies on wit and humor to sway a jury.
With a much lower profile than Brafman, Jeffrey Shapiro specializes in personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits. While not completely untelivised, he has not spent nearly as much time in the spotlight as Brafman. But his case record speaks to a journeyman attorney who represents his mostly blue-collar clients against frequently much larger entities, such as hospitals, the city of New York, insurance companies, utilities, and a litany of employers. He has a client rating of three out of five on Lawyers.com
Education: Undergraduate: Columbia, Law School: Golden Gate University
Career overview: Shapiro has been practicing personal injury law since he passed the New York Bar exam in 1979, according to his Web site and his eCourts profile. He's a member of the New York State Bar Association, The State Bar of California, New York County Lawyers Association and the New York Trial Lawyers Association.
Cases of note: Shapiro's largest apparent monetary victory was a $22.1 million award for a Brooklyn patient who sued her OBGYN for perforating her bowel during a hysterectomy. He also won $2.79 million for a student who fell under a school bus, and $1.65 million for a teacher whose arm was caught in a door. In addition to a number of multi-million dollar victories, Shapiro has fashioned himself as a commentator on malpractice and personal injury law issues, appearing from time to time on television reports, as evidenced by his Youtube channel.
The down and dirty: Without much of a record in the media, Shapiro's style remains a bit of a mystery, but his case history speaks to a borderline ambulance-chaser who takes injury cases he thinks he can win. His Web site's FAQ section states that "The fee we earn is contingent on a successful outcome, which means that you do not pay us if we lose."
Secret weapon: Shapiro took the case of Strauss-Kahn's accuser early, which means he's probably already building a civil case, including placing quotes in the media and painting a portrait of his client as a devout, hard-working immigrant mother that will be sympathetic to the jury. He knows how to use the media to win his case.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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