Lawyer Christian Myer blazed a singular path to success

Christmas advent candle light in church with blurry golden bokeh
The young man who once struggled in school later taught a current state lawmaker how to litigate.

Christian Myer was a boxer. He knew how to center his weight and protect himself. He worked out with a speed bag, a heavy bag and a slip line so that he wouldn’t get decked in a moment of complacency. There could be no such moments.

His career as a heavyweight didn’t last long, no more than a fight or two. But he held partial interest for years in a boxing nonprofit for young people and also tried his hand as a fight promoter. And what he learned in the ring, he perfected in the courtroom as one of the Tampa Bay area’s most daunting trial lawyers.

Myer died Sept. 28 at 46, resulting from multiple autoimmune diseases, his fiance said. Friends and colleagues remember a survivor. They remember a mentor who brought out the best in others — someone who could be relied upon.

“He is going to be missed by many,” said state Rep. Berny Jacques, a former associate at Berkowitz and Myer, a St. Petersburg law firm. “He became a lifeline to so many people, providing legal services in the community where he grew up. It was almost a sense of responsibility that he didn’t talk about.”

He was a stickler for preparedness in court, for internalizing every procedural rule and the nuances of each case. At the same time, if there was a mold of the corporate, button-down lawyer, that was not Myer.

“There are some attorneys; you can see that they are definitely a legal nerd, right?” Jacques said. “They are very reserved; they stick to the books. He was very much a social person. He did boxing; he did a lot of different, neat things.”

Jesse Berkowitz, his law partner, has another word for it: “Authenticity.”

“If you are going to be speaking to a jury, you cannot try to be somebody else,” he said. “You can’t try to be another litigator that you have seen. Juries and judges will spot a fraud a mile away. He was Christian all the time.”

Myer was overseeing injury and wrongful death civil suits for the Dolman Law Group in Clearwater in 2015 when he was named a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyers Magazine for the third consecutive year. Berkowitz had seen him in action and was so impressed he offered Myer half his solo practice.

“We both took a huge risk,” Berkowitz said, “and it paid off handsomely,”

In 2016, Berkowitz and Myer hired Jacques, who had worked with the State Attorney’s office since law school. Before his first day, Myer gave his former student a homework assignment — to read everything he could about the rules of civil procedure.

“That made an impression on me,” Jacques said. “It stays with me to this day because it says, whatever you’re doing, be very prepared. And put a sense of passion into it because that will serve you and serve your constituents.”

At the time, joining a private firm felt like a critical next step for Jacques, who had been searching for the right niche since coming to Florida from Port Au Prince, Haiti, in 1994.

“I’m very fortunate to have known Christian, for sure,” Jacques said, “as a professor, mentor and boss. Somebody who gave me a shot.”

Christian Arnold Myer was born Oct. 13, 1976, in Caracas, Venezuela. At age 4, he accompanied his mother, Marisol Myer, and his brother to St. Petersburg. Though close with his mother, a sense of scrappiness, of fending for himself, set in early.

“He was a big, strong guy who definitely had his fair share of fights and then some back in his youth,” said Lisa Newkirk, his fiance. They met in a driver’s ed class at Northeast High. She remembers Myer, who was two years her senior, as a popular kid who dated a lot. He drove her home from school several times but never asked her out, even though he would tell her years later he wanted to.

For whatever reason, Myer dropped out of high school before graduating. He continued to work in local establishments, as he had done since his early teens, sometimes having to lie about his age.

He soon returned to school, earned a high school equivalency degree, and started taking courses at St. Petersburg College. In 2000, Myer graduated from the University of South Florida with a political science degree and entered Stetson University College of Law.

As part of the school’s trial advocacy program, he interned with the public defender’s office for the 6th Judicial Court. In that role, he not only tied the unofficial record for most jury trials conducted by an intern but secured not-guilty verdicts on every single case.

His first job after graduation was with the Public Defender, where he remained for two years. In 2006, he opened a solo criminal defense practice, trying more than 60 cases over five years on charges ranging from DUI to first-degree murder.

Myer also stayed close to his first love of boxing. He co-owned the 4th Street Boxing Gym, which encouraged young people to learn the skills and discipline of the sport. He also promoted fights in the Tampa Bay area for a few years through Fight Night Productions.

In the meantime, he returned to Stetson to teach trial advocacy. His students learned the basics of a zealous courtroom defense from someone who had never seen a low-stakes skirmish.

“He was not going to be proved wrong very easily,” Berkowitz said. “So, if you were going to debate with him, just know that he knew what he was talking about a lot more than you do right now.”

There was no appeal to authority since Myer didn’t believe in any, least of all, the news media. He was a committed skeptic of party politics, of orthodoxies in general.

“He assumed everybody had an agenda, and it was all financially driven, and quite honestly, he was right a lot of the time,” Berkowitz said.

Another door opened, although neither he nor the woman who entered his life recognized its significance at the time. Lisa Newkirk, his old driver’s ed buddy, the one he had wanted to ask out, looked him up in 2013. She needed a referral for a divorce attorney.

By Spring 2014, they were dating. They eventually lived under one roof, and he helped raise her son, Corbin, as his own. He cooked spectacular arepas and other South American food. Sometimes, they ate while watching the streaming shows they got addicted to together.

Myer also enjoyed making a production of dinner with invited guests. “When someone loves to cook, you can just see it,” she said. “You can tell the difference in their food. He would talk about what we’re going to have and how he got the most amazing steaks. He always wanted to buy the nicest thing, have family over and just go all-out.”

On Oct. 22, 2017, he proposed to her in front of a waterfall in Costa Rica. And while they never got around to a ceremony, they enjoyed the relationship a ceremony makes official. That included having another son, Roman, born in November 2018.

Almost a year ago, mysterious ailments started encroaching. Doctors diagnosed autoimmune diseases, including plaque psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, then metastatic Crohn’s disease. They would not ascertain the cause. Myer received adequate treatment for his pain while in the hospital, Newkirk said. Away from the hospital, not so much.

Myer pressed on, determined not to be pitied.

“There were many instances where Christian is so brilliant,” Newkirk said, “but also would think he knew more than others might know. He did his research nonstop and was just constantly thinking that he would be able to figure this out on his own.”

In the days since Myer’s death, friends remember the numerous things that made him unique: a guy entering his late forties who kept up with the latest music, who had total recall of a popular culture for which he had little use, and those meandering storylines that kept audiences his stitches.

“You just didn’t know where it was going,” Berkowitz said. “Then you would find yourself falling out of your chair laughing, and you had no idea how you got there.”

His fiance is thinking about his generosity, the way he delighted in how others would receive his gifts or favors. And those aromas in the kitchen.

“I will miss his cooking so much,” Newkirk said. “Also, how he made it fun and something to look forward to.”

The stories eulogize a fighter, a survivor, a champion.

Myer was preceded in death by his maternal grandmother, Angelica Parades, and father, Edwin “Eddie” Myer. He is survived by his mother, Marisol Myer; brothers, Jonathan Myer and Edwin Myer; his fiance, Lisa Newkirk; her son, Corbin Miner; their son, Roman Myer; an aunt, Raithza Parades; and a cousin, Natasha Damas Henderson.

A celebration of life starts at 1 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 15) at Anderson-McQueen, 2201 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg.

Andrew Meacham

Andrew Meacham is a writer living in St. Petersburg. He worked for the Tampa Bay Times for 14 years, retiring in December 2018 as a performing arts critic. You can contact Andrew at [email protected].

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