Image: Gifted criminal defense attorney and businessman Joseph LaBella died during the afternoon of Saturday, July 7, 2018, with numerous friends and family at his bedside at the hospital.
Conroe, July 8 – Joseph LaBella, a legal giant and larger-than-life personality died of pancreatic cancer with a large group of family and friends at his bedside during the afternoon of Saturday, July 7, 2018. LaBella, a devout Catholic and hard charging enjoyer of life, has now joined his wife Robin who went to Heaven two years ago. Joe and Robin have two wonderful children, Lauren and Joey.
The Montgomery County legal community is in shock at the loss of LaBella. He was one of the greatest criminal defense attorneys Conroe ever saw. LaBella loved to try driving-while-intoxicated criminal cases. Conroe and Texas juries absolutely adored him, despite his strong New York accent. Renowed criminal defense attorney Kate Bihm commented on social media yesterday evening, “Joe is a legend. Him kicking my butt in trial made me a better lawyer.”
Many of LaBella’s friends and professional colleagues spoke about the trial attorney. What readers should know is that LaBella never avoided controversy. He was a fighter. He’d get into disputes with friends and colleagues over business matters and never shied away from his beliefs. LaBella’s business dispute with Gilbert Garcia over a real estate controversy between them made statewide news.
Criminal defense attorney Rick Brass, who practiced law with LaBella for several years, remarked, “You could love Joe or hate him and love him again at different times of your relationship with him. But if you knew him, he was part of you. My world will just not be the same without him in it.”
Montgomery County Court at Law Number Two Judge Claudia Laird told The Golden Hammer, “Joe LaBella was one of a kind. He was an incredible attorney, shrewd businessman and a loving husband and father. He pushed me to be a better attorney, and is one of the most loyal friends I’ve ever had. I will miss him terribly.” Judge Laird’s comment about LaBella’s loyalty to friends is right on the mark. LaBella was passionately loyal to friends, loved to talk with people for hours about their personal lives, and always had sound advice and sage wisdom to share.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said, “Like most people, Joe had layers. To call him a character wouldn’t capture a lot of who he was. On behalf of clients he would often color outside the lines but when it came to family there was a very soft side to him. I sat next to him during a rosary for Judge Hamilton’s mom. And I think we were both surprised by that side of each other. When we spoke outside of our professional engagements his conversations almost always centered on his family and what he wanted for their future.”
Another highly respected criminal defense attorney, Conroe’s Jose Mata, also spoke of LaBella yesterday, “Joe could’ve starred in My Cousin Vinny. He was as insightful, charismatic, zealous but most importantly, BIG HEARTED as the character. He defended his clients and colleagues as feverishly as possible. I’ve ALWAYS believed if I was in serious trouble, I’d call upon Joe….”
Mata’s comment is actually right on the mark. LaBella appeared in the 1972 Francis Ford Coppola movie “The Godfather” where he appeared as a sailor in the introductory scene of Connie’s wedding near the beginning of the movie.
LaBella graduated from American University and then attended the Vermont School of Law from which he graduated with a J.D. degree in 1977. LaBella became a Texas lawyer in 1990 and practiced law in Conroe since that time.
LaBella made major real estate investments in the downtown Conroe area. His work to improve his buildings became a major contributing factor in the revitalization of downtown Conroe.
LaBella’s wife Robin and their daughter Lauren loved horses, which meant that LaBella came to love horses as well. His ranch property is one of the most beautiful patches of acreage in all of Montgomery County.
Despite all of the controversy in which LaBella found himself involved, it was rare for LaBella to speak ill of anyone, even if he didn’t approve of their conduct.
Joseph LaBella fought for what he believed was right. He fought for his family. He fought for his clients. He was a great friend whom a lot of people will sorely miss.