One of the latest investigations of the Donald Trump campaign’s possible relations with Russia has close ties to Chicago and Loyola — George Papadopoulos, a Lincolnwood native and graduate of DePaul University, is being represented by Thomas Breen, a Loyola School of Law alumnus.
In October, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about contact with a Russian agent who claimed in the summer of 2016 to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton. At the time, Papadopoulos was a member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory team during the campaign.
Breen, 57, is a Chicago native who attended high school at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, and graduated from Loyola School of Law in 1972 after completing his undergraduate education at the University of Notre Dame, according to Breen’s law firm website and the Loyola School of Law archives.
Since his graduation from Loyola, Breen has built a reputation of success in high-profile cases, most notably the 1985 Rolando Cruz case, in which Cruz, an Aurora native, was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. Breen represented Cruz pro bono, or without charge, in Cruz’s appeal where he was exonerated in 1995.
Attorney Todd Pugh joined Breen as an associate after working at Northwestern University as a law student clerk and meeting Breen through work on the Cruz case. The two eventually founded their own private firm, Breen Pugh Attorneys and Counselors, in 1996.
Pugh said Breen’s general law strategy relies heavily on his own research and knowledge about a case.
“First and foremost is preparation,” Pugh said. “Tom believes thoroughly that the facts make good lawyers, and that being the attorney with the greatest command of the facts places you at the advantage.”
According to Pugh, Breen’s law strategy doesn’t depend on the nature of the case or the client; he always begins with extensive preparation regardless of media interest in a case.
“While the George Papadopoulos case might be interesting to you and other media outlets, John Doe’s case is just as every bit as important to John Doe as George Papadopoulos’ case is to him,” Pugh said. “Third party interest in the case is irrelevant.”
James Faught, associate dean of Loyola School of Law, said he knows Breen to be a friendly and genuine person as well as a highly regarded lawyer in his field. Breen’s law strategy, Faught said, depends on his “good judgment” and the nature of each case.
“My sense is that the quality that has allowed him to become a successful lawyer … in addition to his advocacy skills which are formidable, has been the quality of good judgment,” Faught said.
Faught said the controversy behind the Papadopoulos case doesn’t affect Loyola’s reputation.
“I frankly think that it doesn’t have as much as a reflection on the law school,” Faught said. “This is what lawyers do, they represent clients. It’s not the kind of thing that I believe people see as a reflection — negative or positive — on the lawyer or certainly the law school.”
Faught said Loyola’s philosophy toward teaching law is to provide a clear understanding of the justice system and to remain a “zealous advocate” as a lawyer.
“We do try to train professionals who have an understanding of their obligations to their clients and to the system of justice,” Faught said.
Xavier Vergara graduated from Loyola School of Law in May and is now an associate attorney at Kennedy’s CMK. He said in his experience, Loyola professors taught “how to be effective, hard working attorneys that will fight for our clients, but to always do it ethically.”
Vergara, 25, said there is a connection between Loyola’s philosophy toward teaching law and alumni who take on high-profile cases, like Breen.
“When you start to look at any of those high profile cases and the Loyola attorneys behind them, I think you see how well trained and equipped the attorneys are to deal with tough situations … Tough both legally and ethically,” Vergara said.
Breen didn’t respond to an interview request from The Phoenix.