“Fine, but that would sound a lot better if there were 20 other people doing the same thing. I mean, fuck it, where are the goddamn lawyers who were on the case? Morton’s lawyers, their offices are right here. I mean, fuck it, if they don’t, I’ll do it for them.”
When it comes to criminal baggage, Reposa has a carry permit. His public record is a symphony of discordant notes. By his own account he has seen the inside of a jail cell probably 15 times. “Public intoxication, assault, drunk driving, possession of marijuana. I like to fight, but I don’t have any family violence. All my assaults have been guy on guy. But it was all before I became a lawyer. I was a stupid kid. Since I got my degree, jail time just the once. The state bar sanction. At least it was winter. You do not want to do time during the Texas summer.
“Then again, I look at my life, dude: Glass half empty or half full? My glass is about 89 percent full. It would be stupid for me to act like I don’t have a very, very, very good life.”
Methinks Reposa’s glass may not be as full as he projects. There are rumblings among his circle that his mates Chad Holt, 18 years a friend, and the filmmaker Bob Ray are unhappy about being eased out of any pending reality-show deal. It was after all their Total Badass documentary that put Reposa on Hollywood’s radar. And during my stay in Austin it is hinted to me on several occasions that his bug-eyed performance in the jumbo-truck “I am a lawyer!” YouTube video has again attracted the attention of the state bar’s sanctioning committee.
Closer to home, by the time you read this, Reposa’s common-law wife, Susan, will have moved to Scotland for 14 months with their two-year-old son and his 10-year-old stepson in order to pursue her master’s degree in environmentally sustainable development at the University of Edinburgh. Reposa cryptically informs me that there is no guarantee she will be returning to Texas. When I run into the blonde, doe-eyed Susan one morning at Reposa’s office we share a pleasant conversation about many things—Scottish trains, the current heat wave, her older boy’s budding athletic prowess—many things except, pointedly, her husband.
Susan, a seemingly lovely, grounded woman—not quite the “Catwoman meets Lady Gaga” Mrs. Reposa I had imagined—has arrived to deliver child-custody papers the two have been haggling over. When her meeting with Reposa in the next room grows perfervid enough to be heard through the attic walls, I take a gentlemanly leave. That same morning I sit with Susan’s stepsister Jana Ortega for coffee at a Starbucks close to the Travis County Courthouse. Ortega, a stunning brunette, is yet another local defense attorney—I am beginning to wonder if being a knockout is a requirement for the job around here. It is a measure of the charm Reposa oozes that his sister-in-law wonders aloud why she is even meeting with me, “much less saying such nice things about him. I mean, my sister’s leaving him.”
Ortega prefers to avoid discussion about her stepsister’s marital situation—“I was definitely worried for Susan, but Susan’s a big girl.” Yet like many others she admits to personally liking Reposa. “It’s a love-hate relationship.”
When she opened her own practice, Ortega says, “he was just beginning to build his reputation. There were a lot of people who had respect for his legal mind. He was the talk of the town. Everyone was sort of fascinated with him. We’ve all come to the consensus that we are dealing with a brilliant lawyer. We just wish he would rein it in a little bit.”
Here our conversation turns more sad than sanguine. “It bothers a lot of people around the courthouse. They feel he doesn’t have respect for the profession in general. I worry about where he’s going.”
The flamboyance, the “antics,” she says, “is a line he’s crossed. I understand he wants to express himself that way, but I don’t think that should be at the cost of a law degree.”
As we depart I ask Ortega if she will be attending Reposa’s birthday party the next day. She looks at me as if I am the biggest idiot in Texas.
Full circle. The saddled mule is still in the bar. I am not. Chad Holt hands me a joint. When he walks off I donate it, unlit, to a big-breasted blonde in a halter top. She fires it up and sidles across the cracked dirt and brown grass toward Holt.
Now, a relatively quiet corner of the backyard. Someone hands Reposa a big plastic cup of red wine. I mention his rap sheet, the DWIs in particular.
“Oh, man, you have to?” The weed possession, the assaults, the public intoxication—he fesses right up. But the two DWIs?
“Whoa! What do you mean dee-wees?”
Public record says two.
“Nuh-hunh.” Indignant. “Just one. I should know how many fucking dee-wees I got. Fucking one. I was a kid. Jesus, you put that in your story?”
Yes. Listen, wife going to Scotland, Holt and Ray not happy, state bar may be looking at your YouTube video. Things going south?
Reposa’s face scrunches up tight. He swigs the wine. “I’m fighting with my old lady. Leave it at that. Other’n that, I don’t think anything’s going south.
“Chad’s been a longtime friend of mine. Definitely gets a lot of people in the door. Routinely brings in $3,000, $4,000, $5,000 cases. So it’s like, well, fuck it, I’m gonna give this dude a job. Now, is he the most organized person? Is he the most efficient? Fuck no.”
And the video? Trouble with the state bar?
“They would have already sent me some shit. Fact is, it’s not a commercial. You have to have your phone number, and you have to say, ‘I provide a service.’ I never said I provide any goddamn service. I said, ‘Don’t get in my way.’ You can stand in the middle of the road and juggle puppies and say, ‘I’m a lawyer.’ That’s not a commercial.
“I think the majority of people would be like, ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t mind having that guy’s problems.’ People know my reputation and they hire me. And then when I show up, the prosecutor and the judge are like, ‘Okay, here’s Reposa. Let’s see what he’s got.’
“A few years ago I think maybe that reputation was as a fucking joke. But now I think most people know, don’t let the song and dance and the bow tie and the long hair fool you. The guy’ll then get up and make some moves real quick, and before you know it the state’s all, ‘Fuck, we’re really gonna lose this.’
“I might not get the big-money cases. The lawyer with the right office and the right look? You have to go to the right country clubs, go to the right churches, be in the right networks. Most people who are gonna spend $50,000 have been treated right by the system. They believe in the legitimacy of it. So somebody who says, ‘The system’s illegitimate. Don’t trust the system,’ they look at like, ‘This guy’s on the fringe. This guy kind of scares me.’
“My personal theory of arguing a case—the system usually gets it right. Look, the reality is, most of the people who get accused of something are guilty. Sometimes your client’s fucked, and if you can get him 17 instead of 40, fuck it, gotta plea. But if you’re a trial lawyer, it’s all-in poker. I’ve done the best ecstasy. I fucked the greatest virgins. And there’s nothing like walking a guilty person smooth out of court.
“But plenty of them are not. And I can say, ‘This time they got it wrong’ and make that argument as good and hard as I can. Tell you what, I get a reality show, people will watch the way I practice and the way I do things and then see the results I get. They’ll be like, ‘Well, fuck, I want to use this guy.’
“Shee-it. Turn that tape recorder off. It’s a party.”
Late now. Inside. The Star Wars bar-scene trope is beaten to death, but I can conjure no other. There was no mule in that joint, though.
On a small stage an Adele look-alike stomps the pedal of a bass drum with a cowboy boot and angrily strums an acoustic guitar. She shouts a song about fucking and fighting, fighting and fucking. Fireworks begin to fly. Literally. Roman candles. Bright red sparks and deafening blasts inside the bar. The mule rears in terror and deposits a steaming dump on the floor. More sparks, more blasts, a smoky haze. Bob Ray is filming the Drunk Drivers of Texas public service announcement.
Two party guests, a couple, slide toward the door. One is the defense attorney Stefanie Collins with her boyfriend, a Travis County peace officer. They seem to sense it is time. I hitch a ride.
As I slip away from the saloon, people are drinking and dancing and screaming and laughing, and the best damn defense lawyer in the Texas Hill Country and maybe in the state is rolling across the floor in a wheelchair, ducking and firing Roman candles for a PSA against driving drunk. I assume all his guests are taking taxis home.