"Top Lawyers in Arizona for 2013"

       -- As Listed in The Legal Network

"Outstanding Attorney Performance Award for 2010" 

            -- Arizona Public Defender Association


Professional Background

    Law School

        J. Michael Traher, Jr. (“Mike”) attended law school at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, receiving academic scholarships all three years.  Even back in law school, he earned several distinguished achievements. While in law school, Mike worked for the Honorable Emilio M. Garza as a Judicial Intern.  Judge Garza is a very respected Appellate Court Judge who was interviewed for the United States Supreme Court Justice vacancy in 1991.  In this position, Mike assisted the Judge and his staff in reviewing all types of appellate cases, including death penalty cases, contracts, property, torts, constitutional criminal procedure, and constitutional law.  This experience gave him a valuable behind the scenes look at both civil and criminal appeals.

         St. Mary’s University selected Mike as a paid tutor other law students. This was based on his outstanding scholarly performance and leadership . He tutored other students in the areas of Criminal Law, Contract Law, Federal Civil Procedure, and Legal Writing.  Mike was also selected to contribute to the St. Mary’s Law Journal. The St. Mary’s Law Journal is a scholarly journal focusing on legal issues, and is nationally recognized.  State and Federal courts occasionally rely on law journal articles when rendering a court opinion.  While Mike was in law school, St. Mary’s Law Journal ranked as the 7th most cited law journal in the country for state and federal decisions.  Mike had the distinction of being both a staff writer and later, an associate editor for the journal.

    Law Practice

          After law school, Mike worked with his father in Tucson learning probate administration, estate planning, business law, and international tax law. A year later, he accepted a position at the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office in downtown Phoenix. He practiced as a trial attorney at the Public Defender’s office for nearly six years. While there, he resolved hundreds of Adult Felony cases. He handled dozens of felony jury trials, ranging all the way from simple drug possession and burglary to very serious matters like aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and 1st degree Murder.

          While at the Public Defender’s Office, he was one of four lawyers hand-picked to head a special defense unit dedicated to defend minors charged with serious crimes in adult court. These cases were often high profile cases, with serious charges and serious consequences. Mike’s caseload in this unit consisted of very serious felonies, including1st degree murders, 2nd degree murders, negligent homicides, armed robberies, aggravated assaults, and sex assault cases. The office entrusted Mike to handle these types cases for them, and he excelled at getting superior results for his clients. In recognition for his outstanding results for his clients, Mike was awarded the “Outstanding Attorney Performance Award for 2010” by the Arizona Public Defender Association.     

         Mike has attended and participated in some of the most nationally-recognized legal seminars around, including the multi-week interactive seminar hosted by the National College of Criminal Defense in Macon, Georgia, in 2006.   

        In addition to trials, Mike prides himself on thorough and effective pretrial motion writing.  Mike’s pretrial motion practice has resulted in dozens of dismissals, in cases ranging from trespass to drive-by shooting.  

        Now in private practice, Mike continues to handle all criminal matters throughout all courts in Arizona.  He is also making a return to practicing estate planning and probate administration, now that he has extensive trial experience.


Academic Background

St. Mary’s University School of Law, San Antonio, Texas
Juris Doctor, Cum Laude, May 2003

• Top 6% in class
• St. Mary’s Law Journal, Associate Editor (distinction recognition), 2002-2003
• St. Mary’s Law Journal, Staff Writer, 2001-2002
• John M. Harlan Society Member (School’s Order of the Coif equivalent)
• Dean’s List, Recipient, Fall 2000, Fall 2001 and Spring 2002
• Dean’s Leadership Award, Recipient, 2001-2002 and 2002-2003
• Phi Delta Phi Academic Honor Society Member
• Academic Scholarship Recipient Every Year
    2000-2001: Dean’s Scholarship
    2001-2002: Eric J. Spielhagen Memorial Endowed Scholarship
    2002-2003: Gardere & Wynne Endowed Scholarship, 2002-2003

Arizona State University, Tempe Arizona
Bachelor of Arts, May 2000 (Spanish)
Bachelor of Science, May 2000 (Psychology)
• Dean’s List, Recipient, Fall 1998, Spring 1999, Fall 1999, Spring 2000

Study Abroad Programs
• Guadalajara, Mexico, 1997
• Mexico City, Mexico, 2000
• Cuernavaca, Mexico, 2002

Courts Where Mike is Certified to Practice 

        Arizona State Court
        Federal District of Arizona
        9th Circuit Court of Appeals
        United States Supreme Court

J. Michael Traher, Jr. as a Guest Presenter

         Mike has been asked to lecture on legal topics because of his unique level of expertise. While working in his specialized defense unit, Mike was the first attorney in Arizona to win a Juvenile Reverse Transfer hearing. In this hearing, Mike was the first defense attorney in our state’s history to convince a Superior Court Judge that a juvenile charged with a sex offense should not be tried as an adult. Mike’s innovative work in this area of law was the topic of his lecture at the 2010 Arizona Public Defender Association conference. His presentation, “Adolescent Sex Offender Reverse Transfer Hearings: Getting Juveniles Charged in Adult Court Sent Back to Juvenile Court” taught other defense attorneys how to win similar cases.

        Mike has also presented several times on DUI topics to attorneys throughout the state. Specifically, he presented on the issue of excluding alleged confessions from being used against defendants in DUI cases under the corpus delecti doctrine.

        Most recently, Mike presented How to Defend a Domestic Violence Case to criminal defense attorneys at the 2013 Arizona Public Defender Association conference.

Memberships and Committees

        Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee Member for Children's Action Alliance
        Pima County Bar Association
        Maricopa County Bar Association


Personal Background

            Mike is an Arizona native, born and raised in Tucson, Arizona.  Mike’s wife is a criminal defense attorney, his sister is an insurance defense attorney, and his father is a business law and international tax attorney.  It is rare when an hour goes by where the law is not a topic of discussion. 
            He is also fluent in Spanish.  He has a degree in Spanish from Arizona State University, and he studied abroad in Mexico for 3 semesters.  Throughout college and law school, Mike  studied abroad in Guadalajara, Cuernavaca, and Mexico City.