Larry Zukerman, an attorney with Zukerman Daiker & Lear in Cleveland, describes his work as “handling people in crisis.”
“We take cases usually from the perception of when a criminal complaint is lodged against an individual and/or any type of action is taken against a professional’s license,” he said. “We aggressively investigate and defend at the beginning in the hope that no charges are brought or no action is taken against our client’s license.”
He said the skills used in a criminal complaint or a complaint against a license are different.
“In one instance, you’re dealing with a police department and/or a prosecutor’s office, and in the other instance you’re dealing with a state administrative agency and/or an investigative agency,” he said. “You have to know the rules of all the areas in which you practice and the law so that you can effectively and aggressively present your case as it applies to those unique laws and show the prosecuting or investigating body there’s no reason to proceed against your client.”
Zukerman said he’s worked many criminal cases involving professional athletes, judges, other lawyers and doctors, however he said many of those instances where cases where no charges were brought forth against his clients, so he cannot discuss them.
“Those are the best victories,” he said.
He said he knows there are many who would question why he would defend people accused of crimes and he’s experienced the questioning himself. He said about 14 years ago, he was representing an imam of a mosque in the Cleveland area who was charged with making false statements.
“As a result of that, there was a lot of fallout in the Jewish community for me and my family,” Zukerman said. “I was removed from several Jewish boards. Some people had asked the Solomon Schechter Day School to remove my children from the school. It was quite disheartening. And the person who came to my defense was Rabbi Jim Rogozen, who at that time was the headmaster of Solomon Schechter Day School. And he said I was doing what the Torah commands that we do. Our job is not to prosecute, but to defend people.”
Zukerman said he and his family received death threats during that case and he needed to hire security to protect the perimeter of his house and for his son’s bar mitzvah, which was around the same time. But Zukerman said he tells people that his clients are all presumed innocent under the Constitution.
“If justice works, it will work one way or the other, it’s not my job to put people in jail, it’s my job to ensure that the process for my client works,” he said. “And that’s what I do. I fight very hard for my clients, tirelessly.”
He cited his immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents, who originally came from Poland, as large reasons for his attitude toward his work.
“(They) instilled in me a desire to help other people not be persecuted similarly as we were over in Europe,” he said. “That instilled in me a desire to fight hard for people because nobody fought for us.”