One of the best trial lawyers in America is also one of the poorest. He's tried over 600 cases, hit some huge verdicts, kept scores of people out of prison, and had a movie character modeled after him. But he doesn't hold seminars at taxpayers' expensive, or live in a mansion. Instead, he rarely even makes enough money to pay his taxes. Of whom do I speak?
J. Tony Serra, the pony-tailed defense attorney who made a career of defying the government, will plead guilty today to failing to pay his income taxes. As famous for his rumpled suits and love of marijuana as he is for blistering cross-examinations, Serra has railed against what he sees as government overreaching in criminal prosecutions. "It is Tony's somewhat dysfunctional relationship to money that lies at the root of his offense behavior and not greed or self-aggrandizement," wrote Serra's attorney.
It's hard for me to admire wealthy lawyers who consider themselves champions for the poor. Those types usually only speak to the poor when discussing (multi) million dollar injuries. "I'll take 1/3, before costs, please."
But it's easy to admire lawyers like Tony Serra. Sure, his financial shit is in disarray. But if he wanted to surrender his cause to the poor and instead represent the rich, he'd be able hire an entire accounting firm.