“Yesterday I was at the Manhattan office and I had Alan Dershowitz on one phone line, I had Harvey Weinstein in the conference room, I had lawyers working on the rapper 50 Cent’s case, you know, all this high-profile, high-octane stuff in the public eye,” said attorney Arthur Aidala recently. “And I made sure to run out of there at four o’clock to get to my Brooklyn office at five o’clock to meet with an elderly man and some members of his family to try to figure out how to get them out of a financial mess.”
Aidala, founder of the law firm Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins, known for taking on the highest-profile cases, has built a diverse practice, handling matters in corporate law, personal injury, real estate, civil litigation, appellate work and criminal law.
The elderly Brooklynite’s business had fallen apart, and he and his wife were about to be put out on the street. “It’s not really something anyone in my firm does, so I took $10,000 out of my own pocket and hired another lawyer to help me on the case because I felt so bad for this guy and I’ve been very blessed to be fortunate enough to be in that position,” says Aidala.
Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins is the firm that lawyers like Dershowitz turn to when facing legal problems, but Aidala has made sure that it remains a place where locals go for routine legal services like will preparation and closings on home purchases.
Aidala describes it as a boutique law firm with origins in Brooklyn but now concentrated in Manhattan that is big enough to handle the majority of legal matters that exist but small enough where a client would never get lost in the shuffle. “We really do the best we can for each and every client no matter who they are.”
Right now, Aidala is representing a college student who got caught with a fake ID. “It’s basically you get written up for a ticket, but for him and his mom, who’s a 9/11 widow, it’s as big and as broad as the Harvey Weinstein case is for Harvey Weinstein.” The legal team thrives in this environment, and they all work together on cases, large or small.
The environment within the law firm is family-oriented. “Literally up until a year ago my father sat on one side of me and his best friend from high school sat on the other side of me, with my wife, Marianne Bertuna, as my law partner,” says Aidala. Staff members attend each other’s birthday parties, weddings and family celebrations. After working at home for a few days on a highly complex motion, attorney Diana Fabi Samson said she missed coming to the office and couldn’t wait to get back and be around her colleagues. For Aidala, that was music to his ears. “That’s the biggest compliment she could give me.”
Diversifying the practice to incorporate more than just criminal cases made economic sense. “It’s worked out because sometimes the phone is not ringing for the criminal cases but it’s ringing for the personal injury cases or the real estate cases,” says Aidala. But he also regretted that it limited the ways in which he could serve clients who had other legal needs. “I didn’t want to turn them away, so we learned how to do it.”
And despite being a star trial lawyer, Aidala loves helping people, no matter their circumstances. “I really enjoy helping elderly people or helping a young couple purchase their first home as much as standing in the well and having four courtroom artists sketch my picture as I represent [NFL player] Lawrence Taylor or any of these high profile-people,” he says. “Of course, everyone is a human being. Everyone has their own problems and their own issues, and I really enjoy it and take pride in representing all of them in various matters.”
Arthur Aidala ESQ.
You may recognize attorney Arthur Aidala from his many television appearances, most prominently as a longtime legal commentator analyzing complex cases for Fox News, as well as on MSNBC, Fox 5, and New York 1. What you may not know is that the man you’ve seen on TV is one of New York City’s top trial lawyers, taking on some of the highest-profile cases making headlines in recent years.
High profile cases
His firm, Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins, is currently handling Harvey Weinstein’s criminal and civil cases and Alan Dershowitz’s federal defamation case and rapper 50 Cent’s civil litigation case. Aidala also successfully defended NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor, who was accused sexual misconduct. Another famous case that he won despite long odds was that of Brigitte Harris, who killed her father after he had abused her for years, and yet another was the crane operator in the fatal 2008 collapse in Midtown Manhattan.
And he doesn’t take on high-profile cases for the notoriety. “I became a lawyer to help people,” Aidala says. In the Brigitte Harris case, he was so moved by her situation, that he not only worked pro bono, but also convinced all the experts who testified to do the same, because she did not have the funds.
“The facts of that case were so horrific, and it was very gratifying when we achieved such positive results for her,” Aidala says. “With the exception of time with my family, nothing really is equivalent to that feeling of gratification I get when I help a fellow human being in their most desperate time of need.”
Wanted to be an actor
Despite his spectacular career that started at the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, Aidala did not originally want to enter the legal profession. He really wanted to be an actor and studied theater in college at SUNY Purchase. However, Aidala ultimately decided to go to law school and follow in the footsteps of his father, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney.
“Shortly after joining the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, I got to fulfill my theatrical dreams by writing, producing, directing and starring in my summations at the end of trials,” Aidala laughs. “When you’re on a trial and you’re in front of twelve jurors, one of the challenges is to hold their attention. And a lot of the theater skills that I learned about body- positioning and voice intonations and using your arms and your hands and your voice have definitely helped me in front of jurors and judges throughout the years.”
Aidala did not become a lawyer to gain wealth. “Anyone that becomes an assistant district attorney, does not do that for wealth or fame or fortune, and that was one of my initial forays in the profession and I loved it and I had tremendous role models there regarding ethics and morals and values.” His own father, with whom Aidala worked after starting his own firm, and late Supreme Court Justice Scalia, are among those who inspired his passion for service.
Hopes to return to TV
Aidala has considered running for public office, and been approached about applying for a federal judgeship, but realized he’s not ready to give up the practice that he’s built, his “little piece of nirvana,” as he calls it. After his Fox News contract ended, Aidala threw all of his considerable energy into building and broadening the scope of his law firm.
Now that things are in place, he’s thinking about getting back on TV in some aspect. “I did enjoy very much that I was able to break down complex legal issues in a manner that was understandable and entertaining to a layperson, and I would like to do that again in some fashion.”
Marrianna Bertuna Esq.
Marianne Bertuna has been a lawyer for 17 years and has worked alongside Arthur Aidala Aidala for 20 years, starting as an intern during her first year of law school and joining the firm as an attorney, three years later.
Today, as a partner at Aidala Bertuna & Kamins, she specializes in a variety of cases, including, real estate, estates, and criminal defense, where she concentrates on DWI cases. And while Bertuna does work on the firm’s high-profile cases like those of Harvey Weinstein, Lawrence Taylor and Abe Hirschfeld, she is quick to say that they also represent many people who do not necessarily end up on the front page of a newspaper, including those who have been arrested for the first time and more often than not the only time, often younger people who are on their way to college or in college and going to graduate school and facing legal issues. “If you get arrested and end up with a criminal record it can impact your continuing to work or getting hired at all,” says Bertuna.
The firm is known for dealing with those cases where someone wants to be an accountant or a lawyer or even a judge, or wants to go to law school or medical school or to be a firefighter or teacher, and they get into legal trouble. “I’m known for helping them get back on track and working out dispositions that don’t affect their career choices,” she says. “That is the part of my job I enjoy the most, because you’re able to help someone continue to be a productive member of society.”
The first attorney in her family, Bertuna got the bug to pursue a legal career early, when she played the role of the defense attorney in The Scarlet Letter in a mock trial while attending Poly Prep high school. “Ever since I played that role in a mock trial in AP English I just knew I wanted to be a lawyer.” She studied business and French at Georgetown University, and worked in finance a bit while in college, but always knew she would go straight to law school after graduation.
She interned with Arthur Aidala after her first year of law school, doing three trials back-to-back, and later interned at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office where she got more courtroom experience, yet knew she wanted to be a defense attorney. “ It is one of those things where it’s inside of you; like a light bulb goes off and you have a passion for it. It’s knowing how to handle someone’s very sensitive issues and be compassionate, empathetic and understanding, and that’s not for everybody.”
Bertuna was drawn to working with Aidala because of his criminal defense work. There, she also had the opportunity to handle all of the real estate matters for the firm and she also created a niche in surrogate court work.
After graduation, she became an associate, and eventually became a partner. Along the way, she and Aidala married, and now have a young son.
Talking shop at home
Yes, she admits with a laugh, they do talk about work at home. “But it’s okay. We really enjoy what we do, it’s not a job, it is our calling. So yes, of course we get home from work and we’re still speaking about our cases. but I am certainly not complaining.”
Bertuna is a past president of the Columbian Lawyers Association, a member of the Brooklyn Bar Association, and a member of the New York State Attorney Grievance Committee, which is appointed by the judges of the appellate division.
Barry Kamis ESQ.
Hon. Barry Kamins joined Adela, Bertuna & Kamins in 2015 after retiring from the bench as a New York State Supreme Court judge. At the firm, Judge Kamins focuses on criminal law, and specializes in complex issues and cases involving complicated appeals, motions and other complex issues.
Another area of Kamins’ expertise is professional responsibility; that is, representing lawyers who get into difficulty with the Bar Association or face disbarment due to the filing of complaints. He also represents law school graduates who have problems getting admitted to the bar. “It’s a sort of subset; it deals with professional responsibility issues, both people who have issues with the grievance committee and people who have issues getting admitted,” Kamins says.
Career – State Supreme Court Justice
During his tenure on the state Supreme Court, Kamins filled several important roles, including Administrative Judge of the New York City Criminal Court, one of the busiest courts in the country dealing with hundreds of thousands of cases every year.
Kamins was also in charge of policy and planning for the New York State Courts. “In that capacity, I was in charge of developing a number of what they call “problem-solving” courts,” Kamins says. These are courts around the state that deal with drug problems and mental health issues, an area of the court system that’s developed in the last 20 years.
“With so many people with drug problems and mental health problems coming through the court system, the courts had to develop a new strategy for addressing these problems. “So, these courts were developed to provide treatment for these individuals.” The hope was that once they completed these programs they wouldn’t return to the system in the future. “They have been very successful.”
Joining Aidala’s firm
Kamins had known Arthur Aidala for years, through Aidala’s work at the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, the Bar Association, and through mutual friends. “He knew that I was retiring from the bench, and he called and said I’d like to talk to you about joining the firm. I thought it was a great idea. We met and that was it; I said I’d love to join the firm, so I started in January of 2015.”
Teaches law, author
For twenty years, Kamins has taught New York criminal procedure at Brooklyn Law School. “I love teaching because you get to work with young people, their minds are engaged, they’re interested, and they have a lot of questions.” It keeps him on his toes, lest students ask questions to which he doesn’t know the answer. “It’s great. I really look forward each week to teaching.”
Another thing Kamins loves is writing the book “New York Search and Seizure,” which he has been updating annually for the past 25 years. A treatise on fourth amendment law for New York, it’s used a great deal by lawyers and judges when issues come up involving search and seizure, search warrants, arrests, car stops, and the like. “It’s got about 10,000 cases in it now. It’s a lot of work but it’s very enjoyable.” He also lectures other judges on search and seizure.
Studied under RBG
As a student at Columbia, Kamins wanted to be an English professor, but soon decided to pursue a career in law, and attended Rutgers Law School where one of his professors was Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was her first teaching job. “I thought she was fantastic, and I said to myself I’m sure she’s going to go places. I never dreamed where she was going to go. She was terrific. She was smart and engaging.”
John Esposito ESQ.
Hohn Esposito, a highly experienced attorney, joined Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins two years ago, specializing in civil and commercial litigation, appellate law, and all types of criminal defense matters, including white-collar crime.
Prior to joining the firm, Esposito was a highly sought-after criminal defense attorney with his own private practice. Now, along with the broader services offered by Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins, he is also lending his expertise in the civil realm. “My own experience has been that people who’ve done a lot of criminal cases are able to do litigation of all types,” he says. He has also worked in tech, having been counsel to a technology company involved in asset protection and disposition.
Started at Manhattan D.A.’s office, (Supervised Aidala)
Esposito began his career at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, prosecuting misdemeanors at first and working his way up over seven years to work on homicide and other serious criminal investigations. “It was a very difficult position to get,” he says. “It’s considered probably the top local prosecutor’s office in the United States and I was very excited about the opportunity.”
As a Criminal Court Supervisor in the Manhattan D.A.’s office about 30 years ago, a brash young man named Arthur Aidala was assigned to Esposito’s unit as a summer intern. Esposito became his supervisor, and they remained close friends ever since, and have worked together through the years, even after Esposito started his solo practice.
“We’ve always stayed close personally as well as professionally, and I think as Arthur’s firm was growing, it posed an opportunity for me to finally join up as partners, and that’s what we did.”
Special Counsel to the New York State Court Officers Union
Esposito is special counsel to the New York State Court Officers Union, representing union members faced with criminal charges or disciplinary matters.
In his spare time, Esposito loves to follow horseracing. “It’s my little pastime to get away from everything,” he says. He is currently working on projects involving the ever-expanding legalization of sports betting.
Michael Jaccarino ESQ.
Michael Jaccarino joined Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins in 2013, working with founder Arthur Aidala in defending individuals charged with high stakes criminal cases – including white-collar crimes such as securities fraud, identity theft, money laundering and commercial bribery, as well as all kinds of violent and narcotics-related offenses, including shootings, robberies, firearms possession, murder, and racketeering. He is a distinguished defender and trial lawyer. Over the last several years, he has secured a string of acquittals for clients in various types of cases and jury trials all over the city.
Jaccarino started his career as a prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. “That job prepared me for any possible courtroom situation,” he says. “It helped me to become a successful trial lawyer. I’m comfortable in any courtroom on any kind of case. Whether it is in front of a judge or jury, my courtroom advocacy has helped client after client achieve unparalleled results. Beginning my career as a prosecutor allowed me to hone my craft in the courtroom, and I now use those skills as a criminal defense attorney.”
This courtroom trial background, Jaccarino adds, is what makes Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins special. “Everyone at our firm is the real deal. Our attorneys are well known throughout the state, and they command respect in every courtroom. They are known as some of the best lawyers in the field. This confidence, combined with the skills to back it up, allows us to get those who we defend out of difficult situations.”
Jaccarino functions as Arthur Aidala’s right- hand on every case, working behind the scenes while Aidala is often the public face. “I’m the one in the trenches, in the criminal courthouses of this city every day of the week, figuring out how we are going to be successful with each one of our cases and how we are going to help each one of our clients.” Jaccarino’s philosophy stems from his strong belief that everyone deserves a second chance, and that “most people should not necessarily have to suffer for the rest of their life for one mistake.” He embraces the philosophy that a defense attorney’s job is to zealously defend – at all costs. “If I don’t do that, I’m not doing my job,” he says.
18b Panel attorney
Jaccarino has been assigned by the City of New York to the 18b Panel, a group of private lawyers who defend certain people who cannot afford an attorney but are unable to use a public defender for various reasons. “I often get a called by judges to take difficult cases to trial.”
New baby, music lover
Jaccarino loves music and has recently taken up drumming, saying that he has no musical background and is loving the challenge of learning a discipline that is completely different from the law. However, at the moment, all of his spare time is being devoted to his 7-month-old daughter.
Imran Ansari ESQ.
Partner Imran Ansari leads the civil practice at Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins. Like others in the firm, he is a former prosecutor, but he now specializes in civil litigation, including personal injury cases, commercial and contract litigation, and employment and civil rights litigation – both on the plaintiff and defense side.
Ansari is currently representing renowned attorney Alan Dershowitz in a defamation case, rapper 50 Cent in a civil dispute, and Harvey Weinstein in civil matters, among other high profile cases.
“We have a great civil practice which is growing exponentially,” says Ansari. “When I joined the firm in 2015, we were already very well-established in criminal law, and the goal was to build a civil practice with the same stellar reputation – in just four years it’s already there.”
A TV background
Ansari studied broadcast journalism and began his career as a television producer at Court TV working on a live legal commentary show and then a show covering the legal side of the entertainment industry. He left New York to work on major film productions in Europe, and while working in Iceland, he applied to law school with the intent of becoming an entertainment lawyer.
While in law school, an internship at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office totally changed the course of his career. He fell in love with criminal law and what he calls the “theater of the courtroom”, finding that a lot of the skills he’d developed as a TV producer translated well into the courtroom. “I realized that the entertainment background actually complimented my skills as a trial attorney in the courtroom in many ways, particularly in my delivery to the jury.”
He served as an Assistant District Attorney from 2008 to 2014, and joined the firm shortly thereafter.
With a newborn and a 3-year-old at home, Ansari juggles a busy schedule handling high profile cases, trials in court, and being an active board member on a bar association with finding time to be with family. “My son happened to be born at a time when some major things were happening in some big cases, as the civil partner, I had to be there to handle them. Needless to say, I’m not getting much sleep these days!”
Diana Fabi Samson ESQ.
Diana Fabi Samson’s experience in a range of legal areas have been put to good use at Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins, where she concentrates on civil and criminal litigation, commercial and appellate law, and probate and estate administration. “I’ve definitely worked on a lot of different types of cases just in the past year, since joining the firm,” Samson says. Right now, she’s been working on two large criminal defense cases, including the Weinstein case, and civil antitrust litigation, so she’s been flexing those muscles a lot recently.
“I don’t know how it’s going to pan out after these two big cases are completed; I may well be doing more civil litigation.” The firm is well known for its criminal defense practice, so Samson thinks Aidala likes the fact that she enjoys working on the civil side, as well.
Start: Manhattan DA’s office
Like most of the attorneys at the firm, Samson started her career as a prosecutor, at the Manhattan D.A.’s office. “It was a great experience. I started
in the appeals bureau, and I had the opportunity to work on some big cases while I was there, which was exciting, and I learned a lot.” She worked on a white-collar criminal investigation that was an offshoot of the BCCI investigation, and also on the prosecution of El Sayyid Nosair, accused of assassinating Meir Kahane.
Adjunct professor at the University of Toledo Law School; stay-at-home mom
Samson left the D.A.’s office when her husband had to relocate for work, and among several moves, one was to Toledo, Ohio, where she taught at the University of Toledo Law School. More moves followed, and with four children, she decided to spend some time as a stay-at-home mom, raising her family.
By 2011, living in Connecticut, her youngest child was 10, and Samson took the state bar exam and went into private practice, taking on a wide array of cases, from employment disputes to foreclosure actions, and also doing the legal work for a venture-backed company of her husband’s. As part of the Connecticut probate panel, she was appointed to represent people in all kinds of situations, which got her back into the courtroom again.
Practicing on her own, she felt limited in the kinds of cases she could take on, wanting to have an affiliation with a firm to garner more sophisticated work. One of Samson’s sisters had worked with Arthur Aidala at the Brooklyn D.A.’s office and introduced them. “It’s been a great fit for me. I love everybody there, and we do a lot of interesting, fantastic work. It’s exactly what I was looking for.”