This month we highlight the distinguished career of Joseph R. Curcio, one of the true leaders throughout the legal profession and especially in the Italian-American legal community. Frankly, I’ve been after Mr. Curcio for years to permit me to highlight his distinguished career, one that our community should know about and an individual that we can all be proud of and respect greatly. Perhaps, because of his Calabrian roots, he has been adamant about his quasi-anonymity and with great humility has prohibited me from telling our community about all that he means to the younger lawyers that have come along over the years and his impact on so many of us as a role model, mentor, and friend. When asked, and he always said no, he’d say “I was told by my maternal grandfather ‘Fa’ bene e scorda’ (Do good and forget it). I’ve tried very hard to have made that one of the mantras of my life.”
Fortunately, with my Sicilian tenacity and multiple requests over many years, Mr. Curcio has finally permitted me the opportunity to tell our community about him, a gentleman who is a skilled and zealous litigator who has dedicated his entire career to seeing that victims of torts are fairly compensated for their injuries, pain and suffering. He has championed victims’ rights of catastrophic injuries, aggressively and successfully, with great passion. For these reasons, Mr. Curcio enjoys a stellar reputation as one of the best and most respected plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers in the country.
Joseph Curcio was raised in Chicago in the old Italian neighborhood along Grand and Damen Avenues on Chicago’s West Side. The son of a shoemaker, Mr. Curcio learned very early the importance of hard work and paid his own way through college at DePaul University and law school at The John Marshall Law School, working various night jobs, including repossessing cars. Upon his graduation from law school in 1956, Joe had a very brief stint as a claims adjuster for an insurance company before striking out on his own as a solo practitioner.
From the beginning of his career, Mr. Curcio had a passion and talent for trial work, and by the early 1960s, his practice became focused almost exclusively upon representing plaintiffs in personal injury litigation. In doing so, Mr. Curcio enjoyed great success as a trial lawyer over the course of his career and is well known in the legal community as a fierce opponent and determined advocate on behalf of his clients. Many of the multi-million dollar verdicts he has obtained at trial and successfully defended on appeal continue to serve as precedent in Illinois today, including the landmark case of Simpson v. General Motors, which first recognized a plaintiff’s comparative fault as merely a damage reducing element of a claim rather than serving as a total bar to recovery.
Mr. Curcio has been a proud and active member of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) throughout his career and was elected to serve on the Board of Managers in 1983. He has been an active participant on both the Rules Committee and the Executive Committee and has lectured and authored numerous articles for ITLA and the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education (IICLE). In 1998, he was appointed by the Supreme Court of Illinois to serve as a member of the Illinois Pattern Instruction Committee, which is composed of the most distinguished lawyers and judges throughout Illinois and authors and publishes the instructions that judges give to juries in every civil trial in Illinois. Mr. Curcio is also an active member of our wonderful Justinian Society, a respected and admired senior statesman, and many other legal organizations and is especially proud to be recognized as a leader in the fight to protect consumers and fend off efforts by the insurance industry to impose tort reform in Illinois in diminishing the rights of victims.
Another distinguished member of our community, another true leader in our community, Anthony J. Fornelli, past President of the Justinian Society and the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans (JCCIA), says of Joe Curcio: “I admire everything about Joe Curcio, his talent and success as a trial lawyer, his zeal in representing his injured clients, his concern for his fellow man, and especially his great humility. He has impacted in a most profound way as a mentor and role model for many years.”
Mr. Curcio’s achievements have been recognized by his peers and he was awarded ITLA’s Leonard M. Ring Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. He has the highest rating by Martindale-Hubbell (AV); he was voted an Illinois Super Lawyer by his peers every year since 2008; voted one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers organization and was selected as a Leading Lawyer by the Leading Lawyer Network in the area of plaintiff’s personal injury law.
Another Curcio admirer and community leader, Steve Fiorentino, prominent lawyer and also past President of the JCCIA, says of Joe: “I have known Joe since the early 1980s and I have always known him to be man of great character, of the highest integrity and compassion. I am glad to know him and that he’s been my friend for all these years.”
The history of the Curcio family in Italy and to America, is similar to that of the rest of us in the community, first, second and third generation Italian-Americans.
Joe’s paternal grandfather, Francesco Curcio, born in 1872 in Marsicovetere, Potenza, Basilicata, Italy and paternal grandmother, Rosa Moreno, born in 1878 in the same place, were married there in 1899. They arrived at Ellis Island in 1906 with that voyage originating in South Africa. Francesco’s occupation was “musician.” They settled in the area of Grand and Damen, and all of their children were born in Chicago.
His maternal grandfather Giuseppe Mare (name changed to Maro in the U.S.) was born in 1870 in San Lorenzo Bellizzi, Calabria, Italy, and maternal grandmother Maria Giuseppina Minervini was born about 1885 in the same town. Giuseppe arrived at what was then Castle Garden in 1892. Maria Giuseppina arrived at Ellis Island in June, 1902. They married in New York in July, 1902. They settled in the area of Grand and Damen, and all of their children were born in Chicago.
Another example of a wonderful Italian-American, a gentleman I take great pride in calling my friend, and one of the finest that our community has to offer.