And Justice for All
Antonio Romanucci’s (’85) $100,000 Pledge Supports Pro Bono Program & Clinic
Since graduating from John Marshall in 1985, Antonio Romanucci has used his legal
education to effect change. Now, with his unprecedented $100,000 gift to the law
school’s Pro Bono Program & Clinic, he hopes to leave a legacy with other John
Marshall students about the impact they can have on society. “Not only do I want
the gift to help on a short-term basis funding the Clinic, but I also want the Clinic and
students to help create change through new policies, so our society becomes better,”
says Romanucci of Chicago’s Romanucci & Blandin.
And he hopes other alumni will follow his lead “and support John Marshall for the
institution that it is in training lawyers to be great advocates for their clients.”
Working to Make Society Better
Long before he decided to become a lawyer, Romanucci worked to make society better,
often one person at a time. In high school, he volunteered for causes to help others in
need after his best friend was fatally injured while playing football. As a freshman at the
University of Wisconsin, Romanucci became a buddy for a mentally challenged man,
helping him transition back into society after he was released from a state institution.
The experience was profound, Romanucci says, and made him even more focused on
devoting his life to helping others.
Although Romanucci originally wanted to be a
corporate and securities lawyer, an introduction to
then-Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Harry
Comerford put his life on a different track. Comerford
invited Romanucci to intern with the public defender’s
office, which led to him spending three years as a
public defender representing criminal defendants at
the courthouse at 26th and California.
“If not for us, there would be no justice.”
A Transformative Experience
The experience was transformative. “It really taught me how little access poor people have
to lawyers,” Romanucci says. His work also opened his eyes to policies and practices in
his hometown of Chicago that encouraged segregation and poverty. “That was when I
was exposed to what Chicago is and how little has changed in 30 years. We are a city of
two cities. Segregation still exists. Poverty levels remain very high.”
After seeing how others in the legal system treated his indigent clients, Romanucci vowed
to help change the lives of the voiceless and powerless through the law. He left the public
defender’s office for a private civil practice to increase access to justice. “When you
represent a plaintiff in a civil action on a pure contingency basis, you are still representing
a person who does not have access to a lawyer.”
Romanucci has since helped scores of people seek and get justice. His practice focuses
on catastrophic personal injuries arising from police misconduct, including civil rights
actions, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, nursing home negligence, aviation
disasters, motor vehicle accidents, and educational and sexual abuse. “We still represent
that part of society, especially on the civil rights side, who have been seriously aggrieved
and have no money. If not for us, there would be no justice.”
When Romanucci learned that his long-time friend J. Damian Ortiz was going to
become Director of John Marshall’s Pro Bono Program & Clinic, “the wheels started
spinning,” he says.
The Clinic and Program offered him another avenue to promote justice for the city’s
underserved and overlooked.
Romanucci also hopes to inspire John Marshall students to fight for others. He plans to
bring some of his police misconduct cases to the Clinic so students can work on them
and learn how they, too, can create change.
“It all comes back to the lawyers. We are the greatest and best policy makers that there
are,” he says.