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Attorney Michael D. Monico

monicoThis month we are highlighting the career of highly-respected criminal defense lawyer (etc.) Michael D. Monico.

Monico, of Monico & Spevack, has represented politicians, businessmen, and employees of corporations under criminal investigation. The great reputation Mike enjoys is evidenced by the fact that his current clients include several BP employees under investigation by the federal government as part of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Monico also represents individuals in civil and regulatory investigations. Monico’s clients include defendants facing criminal charges or civil actions involving allegations of public corruption, white-collar offenses, antitrust violations or Medicare or securities fraud.

His firm also takes on international cases, and on a recent day, worked on cases involving China, Japan, and the Middle East.

Monico, 64, a very highly esteemed and respected past president of the Justinian Society (1989), grew up on Chicago’s Southeast Side, as the older of two sons. His father, who died in 1999, worked for the Veteran’s Administration.

Until Monico turned 10, the family lived in south Chicago. They then moved to the far Southeast Side to a home where his mom, Lucy, a retired bank secretary, continues to reside. Amazingly, and in relatively good healthy, Mrs. Monico just celebrated her 99th birthday — God bless.

Monico attended Annunciata Grammar School and St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School (class of 1965), and he graduated from Georgetown University in 1969.

According to family legend, Monico’s dad announced at Mike’s first birthday that he would become a lawyer.

He attended Northwestern University School of Law where he received his juries doctorate in 1973. He became a member of the Illinois bar in 1973.

In a semi-final moot court competition while in law school at Northwestern, James R. Thompson (former Illinois Governor) served as one of the judges. At that time, Thompson headed the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago. Thompson suggested that Monico apply to become a federal prosecutor.

Monico began work as an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago during 1973. At that time, lawyers including Dan K. Webb, Anton R. Valukas and James S. Montana Jr., worked in the office.

Monico handled numerous fraud cases and worked on the appellate team in the case involving former Otto Kerner Jr., a former Illinois governor convicted on charges that included bribery, conspiracy, and perjury. He also prosecuted defendants accused of other crimes, including airplane hijacking and theft from interstate’s shipments.

But after working for four years as a federal prosecutor, Monico decided he wanted to hang out his own shingle as a criminal defense lawyer in 1977.

He started out representing criminal defendants in Chicago as a sole practitioner. But shortly thereafter, Monico began representing clients in New York and other jurisdictions.

A few significant cases Mike handled involved a client convicted of selling secrets to the Russian government. In another case in 1978, Monico represented a Croatian national, who along with another man, both armed with machine guns and other weapons, seized the West German Consulate on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The men demanded the release of a Croatian national who was arrested in West Germany. Monico also represented the only lawyer acquitted in the Operation Greylord undercover investigation that targeted corrupt judges and lawyers.

Among other clients Monico defended are politicians, including former alderman Edward R. Vrdolyak and Jesse Evans.

Monico’s father provided such a regular presence in the courtroom and at Justinian functions that he was described in a Chicago Sun-Times article as his son’s personal court buff. “He came to all my trials. He loved going to see me try cases.”

It was Monico’s father who introduced him to Vrdolyak as alderman and committeeman of Chicago’s 10th Ward.

The worst part of his job involved representing businessman Christopher Kelly, who worked as the chief fund-raiser for former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago indicted Kelly three separate times on corruption-related and income tax charges. Of course, Kelly committed suicide as a result of the ordeal.

Monico also handles pro bono matters. Among clients Monico represented without charging is Fr. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Parish on Chicago’s South Side. Monico successfully defended Pfleger when the priest was charged with defacing inner city billboards advertising alcohol and tobacco products. Pfleger became a friend and baptized Monico’s grandchildren.

Monico, a natty dresser, attractive and confident, regularly comments on radio and television about legal issues of the day. He’s a frequent guest on the Roe & Roeper Show on WLS-AM featuring Roe Conn and Richard Roeper.

Monico also occasionally appears on WTTW11’s Chicago Tonight program. Monico has racked up numerous honors and awards during his career. He is a past president of the 7th Circuit Bar Association and the American Board of Criminal Lawyers.

In 2008, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He was elected as a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers and International Academy of Trial Lawyers.

With Spevack, he wrote “Federal Criminal Practice: A Seventh Circuit Handbook.”

He and his wife of 39 years, Tricia Tevington Monico, met while they both attended college in Washington, D.C. They have four children and are the proud grandparents of four. There are three additional lawyers in the Monico family: Brian, like his dad, a trial lawyer at Burke Wise Morrissey & Kaveny, his wife, Rachel Kiley Monico, a defense attorney at Bollinger Connolly Krause LLC, and Dan at Kirkland & Ellis. Obviously, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

About Leonard F. Amari

Leonard F. Amari is a founding, co-managing partner of Amari & Locallo, a law firm that focuses exclusively on real estate tax assessment issues. He is a J.D. recipient from The John Marshall Law School, with honors. Amari has been a John Marshall trustee since 2000 and was elected president of the board in 2007. He is past president of the Illinois State Bar Association, a member of the Chicago Bar Association’s State and Local Taxation Committee, and a member and past president of the Justinian Society of Lawyers. He has received numerous honors from many organizations recognizing his service.