Prominent Baton Rouge criminal defense lawyer Nathan Fisher, who began his legal career as a prosecutor in New Orleans, was fondly remembered by friends and colleagues Thursday as a generous man, a champion for his clients — LSU student-athletes included — and a lover of LSU basketball and baseball.
Fisher passed away early Thursday morning at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center following a long battle with cancer. He was 72.
State District Judge Mike Erwin said he had known Fisher since 1979 and considered him a good friend.
“We went to a lot of ballgames together. Just an all-around good guy, always ready to help somebody,” Erwin said. “He knew the law. He was a real champion for his clients. Really a good lawyer. He worked with his clients real hard, especially his drug clients, to get them the help they needed.”
Since 1975, Fisher represented — for little or no payment — numerous LSU athletes accused of running afoul of the law. His first job in the legal profession was as an assistant district attorney under then-Orleans Parish District Attorney Jim Garrison. He also represented Lance Madison, who was cleared in 2006 of shooting at police in the Danziger Bridge case following Hurricane Katrina.
Fisher graduated from Baton Rouge High School, Ole Miss and Loyola Law School in New Orleans.
His family owned the popular Tic-Toc Shoe Stores in Baton Rouge.
State District Judge Tony Marabella, one of Erwin’s colleagues on the 19th Judicial District Court bench, remembered Fisher as a hardworking defense lawyer who always had time for others.
“Not only was he a good lawyer, he was a great man,” Marabella said. “He was one of the most generous persons I knew. Whenever somebody needed anything, he was always the first to kick in. He will be very much missed.”
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said everyone at his office is saddened by the loss of a good friend, someone he met nearly 40 years ago.
“Nathan was a very talented and aggressive attorney well-known for his bow ties and flashy clothes,” he noted. “He was a great trial lawyer and skilled negotiator.
“More than anything you can say about him, was his personality. He was a very kind, caring and giving person,” Moore added. “If he ever learned that you were down or having difficulties, he would always be there to lend a hand or to lift your spirits. He was a good man.”
Local lawyer Jim Boren said Fisher garnered much respect.
“Nathan inspired many of us to have the courage to actually honor the right to counsel — meaning that everyone is entitled to a lawyer, regardless of how horrible the allegations or unpopular the accused,” Boren said.
“He believed that the only thing that stands between the government and their desire to put people in prison for long stretches of their life was a lawyer who was not afraid to challenge law enforcement or to force judges to rule on the conduct of the police,” he added. “This did not make him popular, but it did make him respected. We will miss him.”
Fellow lawyer Lewis Unglesby said he was a freshman law student working at the Baton Rouge state courthouse in 1971 when Fisher was “really getting his career going and having success.”
“All of us thought this was something to emulate, because he was brand new to town and really taking off,” Unglesby said. “I’ve kept up with him over the years because we would both eat at Phil’s Oyster Bar every week, and I most enjoyed his company.”