These are, arguably, the most prominent criminal defense attorneys active in Western New York.
They certainly are among the best, brightest and craftiest. None of them operate behind the scenes.
They often work in the local media spotlight.
Some are on the list because they are whip-smart. Some are absolute masters at creating a reasonable-doubt narrative, even when there’s seemingly not much doubt. Others know how to connect with a jury or horse-trade with prosecutors when plotting whether to seek a plea deal or go to trial.
Some are legal scholars; others are courtroom showmen. All, though, share two obvious traits. They’re great at their craft, and they strongly believe in the right of every defendant, no matter how heinous the charges, to get a fair shake from the criminal justice system.
“They all have the ability to size up a case very quickly and very accurately,” said retired Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark, who did not help create the list. “That’s one thread
that runs through all of them.”
Here are the top 10 area defense lawyers in alphabetical order:
Thomas H. Burton
Tireless worker. Expert at damage control, especially in finding justifiable defense in police officer-involved shootings.
Cheryl Meyers Buth
Extremely knowledgeable. Helped clinch Corasanti outcome with masterful closing statement.
Paul J. Cambria
Gifted trial lawyer. Aggressive and fearless. Tremendous at dealing with media.
Steven M. Cohen
Most willing to take on “radioactive” cases. Not afraid to toss hand grenades at authorities, often outside the courtroom.
Terrence M. Connors
Top legal scholar. Great rapport with jurors, judges, prosecutors and media. Delivers compelling opening and closing statements.
Joel L. Daniels
Silky smooth. Great respect among prosecutors. Adept at creating reasonable doubt. Skilled at speaking jurors’ language.
Thomas J. Eoannou
Dramatic showman with topflight courtroom skills. Strong plea deal negotiator.
Andrew C. LoTempio
Topflight trial lawyer. Extremely likable but has an edge. Quick with courtroom quips. Former City Court judge.
Rodney O. Personius
Very bright. Does his homework. Former federal prosecutor skilled at cutting through complex federal cases.
Joseph J. Terranova
Aggressive and unyielding in courtroom. Picked to represent defendants in cases that outraged community, like City Grill shootings.
Honorable mention: Herbert L. Greenman, Patrick J. Brown, Daniel J. Henry, Kevin W. Spitler, Emily Trott and John J. Molloy.
This list was compiled with the help of several other veteran journalists who helped boil more than a dozen obvious candidates down to 10. The list was then relayed to Clark, who helped with the thumbnail sketches. Few people, of course, will agree completely with this list. So feel free to disagree. But don’t forget this crew if you or a loved one ever gets jammed up in serious criminal trouble.