Sunday, June 11, 2023

Criminal-defense expert: Based on personal court experience, Alabama's Donald Watkins ranks David S. Shankman, of Tampa, FL, as No. 1 trial lawyer in U.S.

David S. Shankman

A longtime Alabama attorney, who is one of the nation's foremost authorities on criminal defense, says the No. 1 trial lawyer in the United States is David S. Shankman, of Tampa, Florida.

Donald Watkins, who holds the U.S. record for winning the most counts in a single-defendant federal criminal case, had a personal courtroom encounter with Shankman that left him deeply impressed -- both professionally and personally.

Why did the battle with Shankman, of the Tampa firm Shankman & Leone, leave such an  impression on Watkins? At the time, the Alabama attorney had a 155 winning streak in trial victories, which had lasted roughly three decades. The streak came to an end in October 2017 in a St. Petersburg, FL, courtroom. Who ended the streak? It was David Shankman.

Was Watkins bitter about the outcome. Nope, he proved to be classy loser. This is how Watkins tells the story in a post today at his Web site:

No one in America could beat J. L. Chestnut in the courtroom. He was the "best of the best" trial lawyers.

J. L. Chestnut, Jr., died on September 30, 2008.

Chestnut’s mentorship and litigation training helped me to establish a three-decades long winning streak of 155 straight trial victories.

My winning streak ended in October of 2017 in a St. Petersburg, Florida,  courtroom, when David S. Shankman, a Tampa-based attorney with the law firm of Shankman Leone, beat me at the conclusion of a three-week trial.

Watkins went head-to-head with Shankman, and came away the loser, but was impressed with his adversary and did not keep those thoughts to himself; He shared them with Shankman. From the post:

My October 21, 2017, email to Shankman explains why I have so much admiration and respect for his litigation skills.

Subject: Congratulations!

Date: Saturday, October 21, 1017, at 6:06:15 AM Pacific Daylight Time

From: Donald Watkins

To: David Shankman


I made it back to Atlanta safely last night. It was a long three weeks for me in St. Petersburg. I am behind on all of my "day-job" work.

You and Kendra did an outstanding job in trying Randy's case. I have a lot of admiration and respect for what you and Kendra were able to accomplish in this case.

I have been up against hundreds of good litigators in my 44-year legal career. You are in a class by yourself in terms of exceptional preparation, commanding courtroom skills, tenacity, and jury-presentation skills. Less than a handful of litigators have won cases against me during my career, and their victories came early in my career. You are the only one to accomplish this remarkable feat in more than three decades. 

I bonded with you during the trial because I recognized that you are the best litigator in America today. I always wondered who would break my winning streak of 155 jury trial victories and when this event would occur. I'm so glad it was you, David. You embody the class, style, humility, and intellect that I had hoped for in the litigator who would break my decades.-long winning streak.

No matter what happens in Randy's case, this event has given birth to a friendship between us for life. I wish you well in all of your other endeavors.

Have a great weekend!

Donald V. Watkins

 Donald V. Watkins P.C.

It is heartening to know that someone who has made a career of winning, also can lose with grace. Watkins concludes:

By far, David S. Shankman is the best trial lawyer in America today. He can capture and keep the attention of any jury in America in any kind of case. Jurors love him.

Again, Shankman’s exceptional preparation, commanding courtroom skills, tenacity, and outstanding jury presentation skills place him in a league by himself.

I do not think there is a lawyer or prosecutor in America who can beat David S. Shankman in the "gladiator pit" of a courtroom.

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