Donald Etra, criminal lawyer, dies at 69

January 31, 2017

img9_lDonald Etra, renowned Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who was appointed in 2003 by his friend President George W. Bush to the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, died Jan. 29. He was 69.

“I am a liberal Democrat,” Etra told the Jewish Journal in 2003. “When the president (Bush) and I talk politics, we disagree, but we both agree on Israel.” Bush and his wife, Laura, attended the Etras’ wedding at Shaarei Tefila in 1985.

Etra was born July 23, 1947, in New York. Etra earned a bachelor’s degree at Yale — where he met Bush — in 1968. He received an MBA and law degree from Columbia University in 1971. Etra was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1971 and, in 1978, was admitted to the District of Columbia and California state bars.

Etra began his work as an associate of Ralph Nader from 1971-73, according to his firm’s website. From 1973-1977, Etra served as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. oIn 1978, Etra moved to California, where he served as assistant U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California until 1981. In 1983, Etra became a partner at the Chicago-based law firm Sidley & Austin.

In 1995, he founded the Law Offices of Donald Etra, which specializes in criminal defense and federal criminal law. Etra’s clients included Fran Drescher and Snoop Dogg. He was a legal counsel to Rihanna, his firm’s website indicated.

He was named Century City Bar Association criminal law lawyer of the year in 2012.

Etra served on the board of directors of the Jewish Community Relations Council and was the vice chair of the United Jewish Fund in Los Angeles. In 2005, Etra was appointed to the executive committee of the Holocaust museum and became the chair of the governance committee. Bush reappointed Etra in 2008.

He is survived by his wife, Paula, and four children.

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