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Look no further than John Keker’s closing arguments for proof that he relishes confrontation. He once compared Oliver North to Adolf Hitler, and recently called Frank Quattrone’s prosecutors “evil.” Keker is undoubtedly one of the country’s preeminent litigators. Though he splits his time between civil and criminal work, the quality of his defense doesn’t seem to suffer for it. If you’re going to go to trial, this ex-Marine is one warhorse you want on your side. “I don’t like the part of the process that involves negotiating a deal,” Keker said. Most recently he represented tech investment banker Quattrone against obstruction of justice charges. Appearing in front of a hostile judge who compared Keker to a spouting fire hydrant, Keker still managed to get a hung jury. (There is now a plastic fire hydrant in Keker’s office.) He also is representing former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow, the highest-ranking former Enron official to be indicted. There are some cases he won’t take (child abuse cases, he said, make him uncomfortable), but Keker, 59, has no problem defending clients who are demonized in the media. If you’re “going to put the government on trial,” says a prosecutor who has gone up against him, “that’s Keker’s style.” He has defended numerous high-profile figures, including former San Francisco Human Rights Commissioner Zula Jones (corruption charges were thrown out), Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov (allowed to return to his country), and defense attorney Patrick Hallinan (government failed to prove RICO charges). The list goes on. Talking to the Yale Law School alum leaves the impression that there is no place he’d rather be than in front of a jury. Keker, of Keker & Van Nest, said he loves the responsibility and the drama of trial, but that there is too much detail work to be done these days — paperwork and rules. Oh, and too many judges who are afraid to let a case go to trial.

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