Judge attacks "Shark"; lawyer cut from mob case

Joe Lopez

March 16, 2011 10:00:00 PM PDT
Chicago mob boss Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese Sr., sentenced to life in prison for seven gangland slayings in the 2007 Operation Family Secrets case, has lost his well-known criminal defense lawyer Joe Lopez.

Mr. Lopez, known in legal circles-and even on his email address as the "Shark"-was booted off the case by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a harshly-worded order that was reaffirmed late Thursday.

Mr. Lopez was the trial lawyer for Frank Calabrese, Sr. during the landmark Outfit racketeering case. Lopez was to handle his appeal.

On March 4th, US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, ruled that he will appoint another attorney because Lopez "left his client (Calabrese) in a lurch."

After requesting numerous extensions to file his opening brief, Lopez missed the final deadline offered by the court. When the court asked Lopez why he should not be relieved from representing Calabrese, Lopez responded that he had delegated the opening brief to attorney Robert Caplin, who had been retained as counsel.

Caplin told the court that due to economic strains, he could not put the brief ahead of paid work. Judge Easterbrook called the men "unprofessional" and as a result relieved Lopez and Calplin as appellate lawyers on the case. Both men will be ineligible for future federal court case appointments and will be placed on a list of lawyers who, when handling paid appeals, will not be allowed more than two extensions of time to file openings.

On Tuesday Mr. Lopez filed a motion to reconsider the decision that removed him as Calabrese's attorney. In the motion, Lopez denied abandoning his client and stated that "it was Calabrese's decision...to delegate the brief writing to Caplan (sic)."

In the filing Lopez defended his reputation and said that he was not attempting to slough off. He wrote that he is "very remorseful that this Court considers his performance in this appeal woeful" and that he "values his reputation highly."

Federal Appellate Judge Easterbrook didn't buy it and on Thursday upheld the order to strip Lopez from the Calabrese case. Easterbrook said Lopez could apply for reinstatement in the federal appointment program.

Asked for a response to the loss, Mr. Lopez told the I-Team on Thursday night that he is "happy with the order considering the circumstances with co-counsel (Robert Caplin.)"

The court will appoint now have to name a replacement attorney to represent Calabrese, 74, who is been held in solitary confinement or "special administrative measures" (SAMS) since 2008.