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Attorneys of the Year: Ron Meshbesher

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Everybody knows that Ron Meshbesher has had an illustrious career.

He’s won some 70 trials.  Remember the 1970s and the fingerprints? The prosecution took a pounding over the misidentified fingerprint in the Elizabeth Congdon murder case- the FBI conceded the print was not the defendant’s and the case collapsed. And the possibly altered fingerprint in the Virginia Piper kidnapping case, where his client was acquitted after a second trial.  The case is still unsolved and most of the ransom money was never found.

Even the movie-making Coen brothers know that Ron Meshbesher is The Guy, and dropped his name in to their film “A Serious Man.”

But behind the scenes his career has been made by the preparation that won those and many more cases and the generous professionalism he showed to other lawyers, some of whom worked for him.

Meshbesher led by example, said attorney Michael Snyder, who was worked at the firm for 33 years.  “You’d come in on the weekends and he was working. He worked like a dog his whole life,” he said.  “It was leadership by osmosis.”

He was also warm and funny, Snyder said. “You could go into his office at any time and talk to him. He gave of himself freely all the time,” Snyder said.

Snyder recalled Meshbesher telling law students that there were three defenses in criminal law: Smile on top of your shoes, which means you shine your shoes and smile at the jury and try to pick apart the government’s case; SODDI, which means “Some Other Dude Did It,” and the Peter Paul candy bar—sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t, or the insanity defense.

He also inspired lawyers who didn’t work for him.

“The next generation of criminal defense lawyers grew up watching Ron Meshbesher in court,” said attorney William Mauzy. “He’s been an inspiration for many criminal defense lawyers, including me.”

He was warm, gracious and always there with advice, said Hennepin County District Court Judge Kevin Burke.

Federal Public Defender Katherian Roe says that whenever possible, she’d position herself to represent one of Meshbesher’s client’s co-defendants, and she’d take in as much as she could from him, she said.

“Ron is a true gentleman.  He’s charming and polite but nonetheless a hardworking, hard- charging and disarmingly effective attorney.  He’s sincere, he’s that person,   He’s a great guy,” Roe said.

Burke also praised Meshbesher’s courtroom demeanor.  He said his trial success is because he is dedicated and prepared.

“If we could inoculate other lawyers with Meshbesher’s DNA we’d all be better off.  Some present day lawyers could be described as bombastic. They could learn from him,” Burke said. “He understands how much power the jury has.”

Juries like him because he is a very pleasant person and doesn’t come across as a bully, Mauzy said. He is a master of the courtroom.

Now that he’s retired, he wants to travel the world, spend time at his home in France and also hang out at his office. He readily acknowledges being tired after practicing law for 56 years, but has no complaints.

Meshbesher shared his secret:  “I was myself. I didn’t bullshit the jury,” he said.  “I always got along with everybody.”

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