About Breen & Pugh, Chicago Attorneys at Law

We are a small firm because we wish to be a small firm. Yet, we have earned the reputation of being one of the premier trial firms in Chicago by successfully handling some of the most complex criminal and civil matters in federal and state courts in recent memory. More importantly for some, we have successfully avoided the trauma and humiliation of a public charge. Some of our greatest successes have gone unnoticed except by those intimately involved. We are advocates whether it is during the course of an ongoing investigation or after a formal charge is presented in court.

Our clients have consisted of individuals, businesses, political organizations, chiefs of police, and public officials. We are proud to have gained the trust and confidence of so many of our attorney colleagues who continue, without reservation, to send their clients to our firm when the need arises. Our practice is trial work, pure and simple.

We do not employ a platoon of junior staff to “work the file.” Rather, we work together to know the file and the client. Only then can we properly evaluate the case and plan the next step in the best interests of the client. We are the first to give the client an honest appraisal of what the future holds. If assistance is needed from others, we get it. There is no cutting corners when the life, liberty, and reputation of our clients are on the line.

“When the bell rings, and a trial begins, we are prepared and so is the client. The client will know the strategy that is being undertaken on his or her behalf. The opening statements, the cross-examinations, and the final arguments are discussed with the client. This firm works with the client and for the client.”

A Legal Team Consistently at the Leading Edge

Insights from high-profile cases

The firm’s cases and attorneys have been featured in a long list of publications and films. Because of their esteem within the legal community, Breen & Pugh is frequently called upon to comment on ongoing legal issues and hot topics, as well as provide insights from high-profile cases after the fact.

Victims of Justice

by Thomas Frisbie and Randy Garrett

The prosecution and wrongful conviction of Rolando Cruz is considered pivotal in reframing America’s debate over the death penalty. This book tells story of Cruz and his two co-defendants in trial for the 1983 murder of ten-year-old Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville, Illinois. The book follows the story from the day of the crime to the trial of seven law officers accused of conspiring to deny Cruz a fair trial.

Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make it Right

by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, and Jim Dwyer

This book chronicles powerful stories of ordinary people locked up for crimes they did not commit, and how they were freed against great odds. In recent years, DNA testing has uncovered stone-cold proof that hundreds of completely innocent people have been sent to prison and death row. But the criminal justice system frees prisoners only after a torturous legal process. Incredibly, many trial judges admit that “actual innocence” is not grounds for release from prison.

Convicting the Innocent

by Brandon Garnett

DNA exonerations have shattered confidence in the criminal justice system by exposing how often we have convicted the innocent and let the guilty walk free. This book is an unsettling in-depth analysis of what happened in the cases of the first 250 wrongfully convicted people to be exonerated by DNA testing.

Police Interrogation and American Justice

by Richard A. Leo

This book sheds light on a little-known corner of our criminal justice system – police interrogation. Leo shows how crime units have developed sophisticated interrogation methods that rely on persuasion, manipulation, and deception to move a subject from denial to admission, serving to shore up the case against him. Ostensibly aimed at uncovering truth, the structure of interrogation requires that officers act as an arm of the prosecution.

Wrongly Convicted: Perspectives on Failed Justice

by Sandra Davis Westervelt and John A. Humphrey

The essays in this volume are written from a cross-disciplinary perspective by some of the most eminent lawyers, criminologists, and social scientists in the field today. The articles are divided into four sections: the causes of wrongful convictions, the social characteristics of the wrongly convicted, case studies and personal histories, and suggestions for changes in the criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions.

Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court

by Amy Bach

Attorney and journalist Amy Bach spent eight years investigating the widespread courtroom failures that each day upend lives across America. What she found was an assembly-line approach to justice: a system that rewards mediocre advocacy, bypasses due process, and shortchanges both defendants and victims to keep the court calendar moving.

Your Witness: Lessons on Cross-Examination

by Stephen F. Molo and James R. Figliulo

In this book, 50 of the nation’s top trial lawyers share the secrets of the most engaging, difficult, and dramatic aspect of their work: cross-examination. These secrets are revealed through richly told courtroom war stories.

A Court That Shaped America: Chicago’s Federal District Court from Abe Lincoln to Abbie Hoffman

by Richard Cahan

Big and small dramas play out every day in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Headquartered in Chicago, the court has played a pivotal role in U.S. history. Abraham Lincoln, Al Capone and Abbie Hoffman, Michael Jackson and Oprah Winfrey all have had their day in the Northern Illinois court. This book examines these great trials and the people behind them to offer a unique look at Chicago and U.S. history.


1995 Universal Pictures film directed by Martin Scorsese

Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci star in director Martin Scorsese’s riveting look at how ambition and greed toppled an empire. Las Vegas 1973 is the setting for this fact-based story about the Mob’s multi-million dollar casino operation.

Family Secrets: The Case that Crippled the Chicago Mob

by Jeff Coen

This book paints a vivid picture of murder, courtroom drama, family loyalties and disloyalties. Journalist Jeff Coen delivers an accurate portrayal of the Chicago Outfit’s cold-blooded – and sometimes incompetent – killers and their crimes in the case that brought them down.

The House of Suh

Greyscale Films 2010

This film is a chilling exploration of the tragic history of the Suh family and the 1993 murder that shocked America. The picture-perfect son, Andrew, shot and killed his sister’s fiancé at her request, all in the name of family honor. The House of Suh weaves together court documents, family photos, interviews with friends and acquaintances of the family, the victim’s brother, and narration from Andrew himself to tell the story of a dysfunctional family situation that went terribly wrong.

Rule 53: Capturing Hippies, Spies, Politicians and Murderers in an American Courtroom

Greyscale Films 2010

This book is a vivid memoir by one of the country’s best visual chroniclers of courtroom proceedings. Austin’s gift for seeing essential details offers intimate glimpses of defendants like the Chicago 7 radicals, the Black Panthers, serial killer John Wayne Gacy, and a parade of mobsters. Through both illustration and prose, she shares her portraits of the lawyers, judges, and others involved in cases she observed, and shares personal experiences that influenced her unique perspective on local history in the making.


by James Tuohy and Rob Warden

Greylord, one of the most complex and successful federal sting operations, was set in motion in 1980 in Chicago’s court system, rife with cronyism and corruption. By the summer of 1988, 87 judges, lawyers and court personnel had been charged with crimes. Warden and Tuohy, editors of Chicago Lawyer magazine, did an exceptional job of covering the operation, imparting a certain light touch but never losing sight of the seriousness of their subject.

When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down

by Robert Cooley and Hillel Levin

During the 1970s and 1980s, attorney Bob Cooley bribed judges, juries, and police for his Chicago organized crime clients. But eventually, he became the star witness in nine federal trials in the ’90s that are credited with disabling the Chicago Outfit, considered one of the most powerful Mafia families ever.

Notable Cases

  • Rolando Cruz
  • Bruno Mancari
  • Gary Dotson
  • E2
  • Fred Roti
  • Ray Nugent
  • Gary Albert
  • Donna Gist
  • Michael DiVincenzo