David Oscar Markus:
A Vigorous Defender
When airline vice president Rodrigo Hidalgo was charged with criminal antitrust violations in two federal indictments, he turned to Miami defense attorney David Oscar Markus for help. “I felt very confident and secure that if there was any possibility of finding something in the law to help me, he would find it,” said Hidalgo. “And in fact, he did it.”
Working closely with trial attorney Robin Kaplan and his wife, litigation and appellate attorney Mona E. Markus, David Markus demonstrated that Hidalgo was immune from prosecution. As a result, the federal judge issued a 49-page order dismissing all charges.
As the founder of the Miami firm Markus & Markus, David Markus has built a nationally recognized trial and appellate practice that is known for taking on difficult cases and winning. “Opposing counsel can underestimate how hard we fight,” says Markus. “We fight vigorously for each client and take each case personally. We bring our cases home with us.”
Markus typically defends business executives, entrepreneurs and other professionals charged with white-collar offenses, such as: antitrust violations, corrupt practices, tax fraud, mortgage fraud, medicare fraud, securities fraud and drug-related cases.
Typically the firm handles only five or six matters at a time, including at least one pro bono case. For example, Markus and Kaplan persuaded a federal judge to vacate the life sentence for Yuby Ramirez on charges stemming from the Sal Magluta and Willie Falcon murder case. That pro bono effort required eight years of litigation and multiple appeals to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, but in the end Ramirez was freed from prison.
A ‘Born’ Lawyer
Born in Miami, Markus knew he wanted to be a lawyer at an early age. After all, his father, Stuart Markus, has been practicing law since graduating from the University of Miami in the late 1950s. “I would follow my dad around at the courts and see him at work,” he says. “I always felt that trial work would be the most fun.”
After earning his undergraduate degree summa cum laude at Emory University, Markus finished first in his class during his first year at the University of Miami School of Law. “That year, I had also applied to Harvard, but forgot all about it,” he says. “A week before second-year classes started at UM, I found out I had been accepted as a transfer student. My dad told me to pack up, get a plane ticket and he’d help me get settled in Boston. That turned to be the best decision I made.”
On his first day at Harvard, he met his wife Mona, who was a year younger but was going through the orientation session. In law school, he was mentored by the legendary Alan Dershowitz, and argued in front of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy who named him best oralist.
After graduating from Harvard, Markus served as law clerk to the Honorable Edward B. Davis, then-Chief U.S. District Judge, Southern District of Florida. Deciding on a career in criminal defense, Markus joined Williams & Connolly , a top Washington, DC, firm whose lead attorney was the noted Edward Bennett Williams. “I love representing the underdog, and coming up with creative strategies,” he says. That firm helped Markus develop a no-holds barred philosophy to criminal defense, but he wanted more courtroom experience.
So the Markuses decided to return to Miami, where David joined the federal public defender’s office in Miami and Mona went to work as a litigator at Stearns Weaver. After three years of daily trial work, Markus decided to go into private practice with Milton Hirsch, now a Miami-Dade circuit judge. “My father had worked with his father back in Chicago, and Milt was a good mentor to me,” Markus says. “He taught me about the art of trial practice and encouraged me to go into court, rather than always pleading things out. That was a unique aspect of our practice — and one I continue today.”
Three years ago, Mona Markus joined the practice, with a focus on motions, civil litigation and appellate work with three victories in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last year. They have three daughters — Nicole, Kate and Megan — and enjoy spending family time together. “People ask me how we can work in the same firm, and I tell them it’s great,” he says. “We both love the law and get to talk about our cases all the time. She’s brought a lot of great ideas from the civil side that have helped our criminal practice.”
A Personalized Approach
Markus, who also added Margot Moss, an experienced trial lawyer, as a partner two years ago, takes a personalized approach to criminal defense matters. The two recently won a dismissal for an high-level executive at a publicly traded company and currently represent the CEO of a large Kentucky company. “We generally turn away people who are asking for the ‘best deal’ they can get from the government,” he says. “Instead, we look for clients who want to fight the charges from day one all the way to the trial. But we have to like the case and feel compatible with the client.”
With that philosophy, Markus says he doesn’t want the firm to get too big. “I like being involved in every case we handle,” he says. “We’re at the right size for everyone to work as a team. I would much rather practice law than spend my time managing a large firm.”
Markus is known for taking on difficult cases and winning at the trial level all the way to the Supreme Court. Markus recently took on the government in a 141-count federal indictment against Dr. Ali Shaygan and won every count at trial, as well as more than $600,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs for his client in a first-of-its-kind victory. Based on that case, Markus was awarded the Rodney Thaxton “against all odds” award by the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Although the 11th Circuit reversed the fee award in a number of controversial opinions, the court referred to Markus as an “elite” and “superb” attorney.
Active in professional circles, Markus is a past-president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - Miami Chapter and past-president of the Federal Bar Association, South Florida Chapter. He has lectured on different aspects of the criminal trial and appeal, and taught at the University of Miami School of Law, and Florida International University College of Law, and was also an instructor at the first White Collar Criminal Defense College at Stetson Law 2012.
“Criminal defense is one of the most important areas of the law, and also one of the most stressful,” he says. “The deck is stacked against you, and the prosecutors have plenty of resources available. Most of the time, the jurors start off with a mindset that the defendant must be guilty of something. So a victory is really satisfying for me, as well as my clients.”
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