Welcome to Original Jurisdiction, the latest legal publication by me, David Lat. You can learn more about Original Jurisdiction by reading its About page, and you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a reader-supported publication; you can subscribe by clicking on the button below. Thanks!
My week was busy, but not crazy. On Tuesday, I spoke at the Travelers Legal Services Forum, a one-day retreat for the company’s lawyers. On Wednesday, Zach Sandberg and I recorded a new episode of Movers, Shakers & Rainmakers, in which we broke down the new Am Law 100 rankings. Since the week was fairly relaxed, I made it to the gym a few times, and together with Zach—husband Zach, not podcast partner Zach—I caught up on Succession and Yellowjackets. I like weeks like this.
Now, on to the news.
Lawyer of the Week: Joseph Tacopina.
New York trial lawyer Joe Tacopina was recently retained by Donald Trump to defend him in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s criminal prosecution. That case is quiet right now, since the next hearing isn’t until December. But we’re getting a sense of Tacopina’s likely approach in handling it, based on his current representation of Trump in a civil case brought by author E. Jean Carroll. She accuses the former president of battery and defamation, alleging that he raped her when they ran into each other at Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s, then falsely accused her of lying about it. The matter is now being tried to a Manhattan jury.
Tacopina cross-examined Carroll aggressively—perhaps too aggressively, at least in the eyes of Judge Lewis Kaplan (S.D.N.Y.). As reported by the New York Times, Judge Kaplan admonished Tacopina several times, telling him at one point, “You get to make a closing argument in this case, counselor, and this isn’t the time for it.” For a deeper dive into Tacopina’s questioning of Carroll, see this Daily Beast piece by former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner, who describes Tacopina’s cross as “shameful” and “likely ineffective.”
I’m not a fan of Tacopina’s in-your-face style. I have a higher opinion of the law firm representing Carroll, Kaplan Hecker & Fink, and its iconic leader, Roberta Kaplan (whom I interviewed last year for my podcast). But at the end of the day, the case will be decided not by me or Mitch Epner or any other outside observer, but by the jury—and juries can be unpredictable. So we shall see.