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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mob Lawyer’s Off the Case,|No More Excuses, Capiche?

CHICAGO (CN) - Convicted mob boss Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese Sr. must find a different lawyer to handle his appeal, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook of the 7th Circuit affirmed.

After Calabrese appealed his life sentence and criminal conviction for seven murders on Feb. 6, 2009, his attorney, Joe Lopez, who was appointed on Feb. 23 of that year, requested multiple extensions to file an opening brief.

Following more than two years of lapsed deadlines and excuses, Easterbrook threw Lopez, nicknamed Shark, off the case earlier this month.

The chief judge had set a final extension of Feb. 22 for Lopez to file the brief, but the attorney instead submitted a "status report" outlining why the brief had not been completed.

In an "astonishing" March 4 response to Easterbrook's order to show cause, Lopez explained that he had missed the deadlines because he had delegated the opening brief to another of Calabrese's attorneys, Robert Caplin.

Easterbrook called Lopez and Caplin's conduct "unprofessional" in a March 7 order and said he would appoint a new attorney for Calabrese.

A week later, Lopez filed an appeal, saying that he stayed on Calabrese's case "in the interest of continuity of counsel and judicial economy."

Lopez said in the March 15 filing that this "mistake in judgment" and attempt "to accommodate his client" has put him in "this troubling professional position."

Lopez went on to defend his reputation, writing that he "is not accustomed to working with other lawyers who do not meet deadlines."

In an accompanying affidavit, Caplin accepted blame for the late filing and explained that economic conditions had led him to pursue paid work over the brief.

On March 17, Easterbrook affirmed his decision, which notes that both Lopez and Caplin will be ineligible for future federal court case appointments. Their names have also been added to a list that limits them to two extensions to file briefs when handling paid appeals.

Lopez and Caplin must wait two years before reapplying for federal appointment eligibility.

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