Let’s be honest: people don’t tend to get sober because their lives are going fantastically well. The impetus for treatment or a stab at sobriety is nearly always a crisis following a boatload of wreckage caused in a personal—and often professional—life. And sometimes that crisis and wreckage is of the legal variety. When that’s the case, you may well need a top-notch criminal attorney to get you out of the clink and into treatment where you belong. Since celebrities can afford—and have access—to the best, who do they choose? Below, in no particular order, is our list of the top 10 celebrity criminal attorneys.
Shapiro reached worldwide fame when he represented O.J. Simpson in his murder trial but has repped a slew of other high-profile people, including Marlon Brando’s son Christian, producer Robert Evans, Johnny Carson, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Linda Lovelace, the Kardashians, Steve Wynn, Eva Longoria and the athletes Jose Canseco and Darryl Strawberry. Named by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America, he also co-founded LegalZoom and Shoedazzle. Shapiro’s also written books and played himself in numerous movies. Tragically, his son Brent died of a drug overdose in 2005, prompting Shapiro and his family to found The Brent Shapiro Foundation, a non-profit with an aim to raise drug awareness.
Kinsella, Weitzman, Iser, Kump & Aldisert
Perhaps best known for being Lindsay Lohan’s on-again, off-again legal counsel (Holley signed on in 2009, quit in 2010 and became Lohan’s lawyer again two months later, fighting off numerous allegations, including thievery, failure to appear in court, failure to appear in a movie and failure to stay clothed), Holley’s kindness and empathy are legendary. This means that she’s not only top-notch but also probably the most beloved by her peers and the judiciary. Holley started out as an LA County public defender and her clients have included Michael Jackson, O.J. Simpson, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, The Game, Axl Rose, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard, among many others. When Kanye needed someone to defend him in a civil lawsuit filed by a paparazzo after an altercation, who do you think he called? (Not Ghostbusters.) Not unrelated: she also repped the Kardashians in three separate actions relating to their multiple endorsement deals and good old Paris Hilton.
Mesereau & Yu
Mesereau has repped Michael Jackson in his 2005 child molestation trial, Mike Tyson in his rape investigation, Robert Blake in his murder trial, high-profile realtor Joe Babajian on 21 felony counts and Joe Pesci’s ex-wife when she was charged with conspiracy to murder and multiple counts of attempted murder (!) Mesereau was picked by his peers as one of The Best Lawyers in America and listed as one of 100 Most Influential Attorneys in California by the Los Angeles Daily Journal and Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year by the LA Times. He even made it onto a Barbara Walters Ten Most Fascinating People special. But Mesereau doesn’t just spend his time defending the big time players against their more sordid allegations; he also does plenty of pro bono work, runs a free legal clinic and assists local organizations and churches in African-American communities.
Steve Levine Law Offices
Robert Shapiro’s right-hand man for almost a decade, Levine has repped several other high-profile attorneys when they’ve needed it (a few on this list). Other clients have included Conrad Murray, Paris Hilton, Michael Jackson, Phil Spector and Joe Francis. A former Los Angeles County prosecutor and staff attorney for Justice Carlos Moreno, Levine has provided commentary for pretty much any TV show you can name.
Kinsella, Weitzman, Iser, Kump & Aldisert
In addition to representing all the major agencies (William Morris, ICM and CAA among them), Weitzman has served as the lawyer for John DeLorean, Michael Jackson, Marlon Brando, Morgan Freeman, Magic Johnson, O.J. Simpson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ivan Reitman, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, Sean Combs, Chuck Lorre, Justin Bieber and Courtney Love, among many others. He’s been the Executive VP of Corporate Operations for Universal Studios, named one of the top 15 lawyers in the country by The National Law Journal, has made The Hollywood Reporter’s Power Lawyers list and has appeared on Larry King Live, Dateline and Good Morning America, among many other shows.
Marks & Brooklier
There is probably no one in the Los Angeles legal community who has quite the mystique of Tony Brooklier. Or so said The LA Times in 1989 and it seems to still be true. The son of reputed Mafioso Dominic, the young Brooklier left his job as a deputy state attorney general to defend his father against criminal charges. While his father went to the slammer anyway, the way Brooklier handled the case helped establish his reputation and he’s defended the leader of the Hell’s Angles and Heidi Fleiss since. Alas, his own criminal reputation has stayed with him and in 1988, he pled guilty to failing to pay taxes for 10 years.
Tarlow & Berk
This Harvard Law School grad has the client list to end all client lists, which includes Mel Gibson, Ozzy Osbourne, Heather Locklear, Queen Latifah, Leonardo DiCaprio, Halle Berry, Cee-lo Green, Cameron Diaz, Tracy Morgan, Kanye West, Reese Witherspoon, Gerard Butler, Kiefer Sutherland, Ryan Seacrest and, briefly, Lindsay Lohan. And Berk’s star power doesn’t mean she isn’t loved by her peers. “Blair’s my girl,” attorney Shawn Chapman Holley said when Berk referred Lohan to Holley after Lohan violated the terms of Berk’s plea deal in two 2007 DUI cases.
Donald Etra Law
A Yalie who was George Bush, Jr.’s Skull & Bones pal, Etra is an Orthodox Jew who Bush sent to Israel in honor of the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary as well as to the US Holocaust Memorial Council. Etra has also been both a prosecutor and defense lawyer and has extensive experience both with the District Attorney’s Office and the US Attorney’s Office. He was also the lawyer who got a protective order banning Chris Brown from harassing, stalking or striking Rihanna and argued that Snoop Dogg smokes pot because he has migraines and has a medical license.
While Harland Braun has defended director John Landis, Roseanne Barr, Gary Busey, Chris Farley, Robert Blake, Steven Segal, Easy-E, Ed O’Neill and Dennis Rodman, he’s not in it for the fame: you won’t find Braun being a talking head on TV and he had to be told who Farley was when he signed onto his case. But that certainly doesn’t mean that his trials aren’t press-worthy: he represented cops in the Rodney King beating case and Rampart police corruption trials and has been called a “star of the legal world in LA” by The Wall Street Journal.
Geragos & Geragos
An Armenian-American criminal defense lawyer, Geragos has represented convicted Whitewater figure (and former business partner of former President Bill Clinton) Susan McDougal, Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Scott Peterson, Chris Brown, Nicole Richie, Sean Combs and the family of David Carradine during the investigation of his accidental auto-erotica induced death. Arguably the most prominent of all the attorneys on this list, Geragos has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper 360°, Larry King Live and co-hosts the legal show Making the Case on CNN. Geragos is the only lawyer besides Johnnie Cochran to ever be named Lawyer of the Year in both Criminal and Civil arenas. California Law Business Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential Attorneys in California three years in a row and Geragos has repeatedly been voted by his peers as one of Los Angeles’ SuperLawyers.