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The top 10 lawyers who might keep you out of prison

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.”

[Related: The high-profile lawyers involved in the Michalek/Pigeon cases]

Here are the top 10 area defense lawyers in alphabetical order:

Defense attorney Thomas Burton during Dr. James Corasanti's trial. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Defense attorney Thomas H. Burton during Dr. James Corasanti's trial. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Thomas H. Burton

Tireless worker. Expert at damage control, especially in finding justifiable defense in police officer-involved shootings.


Defense attorney Cheryl Meyers Buth during the trail of Dr. James Corasanti. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Defense attorney Cheryl Meyers Buth during the trail of Dr. James Corasanti. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Cheryl Meyers Buth

Extremely knowledgeable. Helped clinch Corasanti outcome with masterful closing statement.


{for files or with story} Attorney Paul Cambria, pictured here is the lawyer forJoseph Roosa. Roosa and his wife were criminally charged in a contraband cigarette trafficking case with the Seneca Nation Tribal Council member Donald John. Photo taken Wednesday, July 25, 2012. {Photo by Sharon Cantillon / Buffalo News}

Attorney Paul J. Cambria, pictured in 2012. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Paul J. Cambria

Gifted trial lawyer. Aggressive and fearless. Tremendous at dealing with media.


Attorney Steven M. Cohen in his office in Getzville onFriday, April 1, 2016. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Attorney Steven M. Cohen in his office in Getzville. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Steven M. Cohen

Most willing to take on “radioactive” cases. Not afraid to toss hand grenades at authorities, often outside the courtroom.


{ FOR MICHEL STORY } Attorney Terrence Connors looks on as his clients, Richard J. Rice and Tammy A. Schueler, parents of Alexandria "Alix" Rice, talk to the media about the acquittal of Dr. James Corasanti, during a press conference at his law office, Thursday, May 31, 2012. {Photo by Derek Gee / Buffalo News}

Attorney Terrence M. Connors, pictured at his law office in 2012. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Terrence M. Connors

Top legal scholar. Great rapport with jurors, judges, prosecutors and media. Delivers compelling opening and closing statements.


For City desk - for Dan Herbeck story - Joel Daniels, one of Buffalo's top attorneys for more than 40 years, who turns 70 on Sept. 8. Buffalo News photo taken September 5, 2008 by Dennis C. Enser

Joel L. Daniels, pictured in his law office in 2008. (News file photo)

Joel L. Daniels

Silky smooth. Great respect among prosecutors. Adept at creating reasonable doubt. Skilled at speaking jurors’ language.


Attorney Thomas Eoannou announces that the evidence bag which contained the "rape kit" collected from the Patrick Kane accuser was left at the doorstep of the victim's mother yesterday during a press conference in his office at the Cornell Mansion in Buffalo, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (Photo by Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

Attorney Thomas J. Eoannou, pictured in his office at the Cornell Mansion in Buffalo. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Thomas J. Eoannou

Dramatic showman with topflight courtroom skills. Strong plea deal negotiator.


(to go with MICHAEL BEEBE story)Attorney Andrew Lotempio speaks prior to the sentencing of Altermio Sanchez in State Supreme court on Tuesday, August 14, 2007 in Buffalo NY.Sanchez has admitted to a number of bike path rapes and murders in Western New York. (PHOTO/harry scull jr,The Buffalo News)

Attorney Andrew C. LoTempio, pictured in court in 2007. (News file photo)

Andrew C. LoTempio

Topflight trial lawyer. Extremely likable but has an edge. Quick with courtroom quips. Former City Court judge.



Attorney Rodney O. Personius, pictured in 2011. (News file photo)

Rodney O. Personius

Very bright. Does his homework. Former federal prosecutor skilled at cutting through complex federal cases.


{ FOR TOKASZ STORY } Attorney Joseph Terranova talks to the media outside the courtroom after his client, Eva Cummings, was sentenced to 57 1/3 years in prison for the abuse and murder of her daughter, Laura Cummings, by Erie County Judge Michael D'Amico on Tuesday morning, Nov. 16, 2010. {Photo by Derek Gee / Buffalo News}

Attorney Joseph J. Terranova, pictured in 2010. (News file photo)

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.


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