The Trump Trials: Who is Joe Tacopina?
Joe Tacopina serves as the personal legal counsel for former President Donald Trump, providing representation in a criminal case in New York that pertains to payments made to adult film actress, Stormy Daniels. (See Part 1 and Part 2.)
Born in Brooklyn, New York to Italian immigrants, Joe Tacopina’s father, Cosmo, originated from Rome, while his mother, Josephine, hailed from Montelepre in the province of Palermo. While Cosmo made a living by selling packing boxes, Josephine worked as an accountant with the New York City Fire Department. Tacopina spent his childhood and adolescent years in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood and completed his education from Poly Prep.
Following the completion of his undergraduate studies at Skidmore College, Joe Tacopina pursued a J.D. degree from the University of Bridgeport School of Law. After law school, Tacopina started his legal career by working as an assistant district attorney for the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn. Shortly after, Tacopina transitioned to private practice, earning a reputation for taking on high-profile cases and clients. Among his notable clients are Alex Rodriguez, Joran van der Sloot, Michael Jackson, Chico Forti, Lillo Brancato, Hiram Monserrate, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Meek Mill. Tacopina’s expertise spans across various areas of law, including civil, criminal, and commercial litigation.
Tacopina has been recognized for his contributions to society, receiving the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. He was also named Man of the Year by the New York State Commission for Social Justice in 2019. Additionally, Tacopina has been a member of several prestigious legal organizations, including the Federal Bar Council, the New York Council of Defense Lawyers, the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.
A named partner at Tacopina, Seigel & DeOreo, Tacopina began representing Trump in early 2023. Initially, he was hired by Trump’s legal team to defend him against a civil lawsuit filed by magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s. While Tacopina is primarily known for his criminal defense work, he also has experience representing plaintiffs. For instance, in 2014, he was a member of the legal team that represented a John Doe who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by his camp counselor while still a minor.
Despite his legal successes, Tacopina has been involved in several lawsuits himself. Numerous former clients have accused him of unethical behavior and malpractice, leading to multiple lawsuits against him (e.g., 2012, 2014, and 2016). For example, the 2014 case arose after a Jane Doe hired Tacopina to represent her in a potential lawsuit against her employer in 2011. She later discovered that Tacopina had negotiated to be hired as “co-counsel” by that same employer, all while claiming to represent her interests. The case against the employer was quickly settled for $750,000. When Doe brought a malpractice claim against Tacopina in 2014, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joan Kennedy dismissed it due to statute of limitations restrictions. However, Kennedy ruled that the breach of contract accusation could go to trial. Eventually, the case was discontinued in 2017 with an undisclosed settlement.