Our featured attorney for June is Dan Guerrero, one of our two criminal defense lawyers. Watch Dan’s video and read his attorney profile and get to know him a little more.
What is the most memorable/experience case you’ve had as a lawyer?
(Hint: It is a tear jerker! It is a long one, but a very good one!).
Dan: I’ve had many memorable experiences with this job. Being a criminal defense lawyer is an immensely challenging and rewarding job. One really can’t ask for more in a career. My father was a lawyer, and he did a lot of criminal work over the years as well other stuff, all of which served to help people. When he died unexpectedly in January of 2014 at 78 years old, he still had an active practice, and I took on some of his yet unresolved cases.
One of those involved a 72 year old woman who had pleaded guilty to a drug offense 30 years earlier in Texas. She had unwittingly agreed to transport a couple ounces of heroin for her older brother. She then failed to show up for sentencing. She had lived as a “fugitive” all these years, all the while working, raising a family, becoming a grandmother and staying out of trouble. When she was finally arrested, she was not only sentenced for her original crime but was given an additional two years for bail jumping. I remember my dad telling me he agreed to take her case to see what he could do for her. I thought he was crazy because she was in a federal prison in western Minnesota for a crime she committed in Texas, and she paid him very little money. She was also not a citizen and was looking at being deported to Mexico after she was released from prison even though she had not lived there for some 60 years. He just knew she was in very poor health, probably did not have much more time to live, and had a very loving family who wanted her home.
He worked hard on her behalf, dealing with the Bureau of Prisons and associating with an immigration attorney to prevent her from being deported. Eventually, he won her an opportunity to go before a parole board, something that existed at the time of her crime but does not today. He died a month before her hearing. So, I familiarized myself with the file, went to visit her, and eventually represented her at that hearing at the prison. We had a video hearing with a federal BOP official in Washington D.C. Fortunately we had the support of her caseworker as well. To our amazement, the hearing officer granted our request for an early release, and she was with her family in Texas for Christmas that year. Shortly before she was released, the immigration lawyer prevailed upon the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office not to deport her. Just goes to show my dad always had good instincts and a warm heart, both critical to being a successful lawyer. To me, representing an elderly woman, in poor health who my father believed he could do something for was one of my more memorable cases.
What’s most rewarding aspect of your career as a criminal defense lawyer has been so far?
Dan: The most rewarding aspect of my career is to be part of helping and experiencing the transition of a client who, when I first met him or her at the jail or in my office, is in the throes of life, and 6-8 months later, they are a very different and in a more positive place!
What would you say to someone unsure about hiring an attorney?
Dan: I think if one is unsure they should hire a lawyer, but have a sense that a lawyer could help them in their predicament, they should call a lawyer, set up a time to personally meet with the lawyer, where they can talk about the situation that brings him or her there to the lawyer’s office and get some candid, and honest advice. And if they feel comfortable with that lawyer, and have a true sense that the lawyer is genuine and interested in their cause, and the lawyer advises that a lawyer could assist them, certainly better than they could assist themselves, they should hire that lawyer.
What are your hobbies?
Dan: I like to read, spend time with my family (I’m the oldest of 6 children, I have two daughters who each have a daughter of their own, and lots of nieces and nephews), travel (I’ve been to every summer Olympics abroad since 1992 – Barcelona, Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London, and next year, Rio de Janeiro), and especially in the past few years, to work in my yard (I’ll once again be on the garden tour in St. Paul later this month).
What advice would you give to a young lawyer that you wished you knew when you first started out?
Dan: I think you have to be yourself, to be a good son or brother, to keep abreast of the ever-changing legal landscape, to be honest and ethical, keep your word, return phone calls, read about the great trial lawyers, go watch the respected and admired lawyers in your community, talk to them, borrow from them, get involved with local bar organizations which serve the interests of you and your clients, be kind and respectful to your adversary, and always believe in the better worth of your client. If you do this, you will be respected. Earn and maintain a good reputation among your clients, and within the legal community. It’s all we have, and if you have it, you’ll always have clients.
When I started, I was lucky. I had great lawyers like John Sheehy and Ron Meshbesher to emulate and learn from. I couldn’t have asked for a better deal.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a lawyer?
Dan: I think I would be a bartender. I like to be places where people are having fun!