Criminal Justice

Stephen Shapiro/Courtesy Mayer Brown.

Updated: Police have charged a suburban Chicago man in the shooting death of Mayer Brown partner Stephen Shapiro, the founder of the law firm’s Supreme Court and appellate practice. The suspect is Shapiro’s brother-in-law.

John Gately III, 66, of Winnetka, Illinois, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder and attempted murder, report the American Lawyer, Patch, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. A press release is here.

Prosecutors allege Gately shot and killed Shapiro at his suburban home in Northfield, Illinois, on Monday evening. They also accuse Gately of trying to kill his sister, Joan Gately Shapiro, who married Stephen Shapiro in 1982, according to the Chicago Tribune and the American Lawyer.

Authorities said Joan Gately Shapiro had been paying Gately’s rent and paying living expenses, but they had quarreled over his handling of the money, according to the Tribune and American Lawyer. Joan Gately Shapiro told her brother she would no longer just give him the money, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Andreana Turano said in court on Thursday.

Prosecutors said Shapiro had answered the door when Gately came to the home Monday evening and asked to see his sister. Shapiro told Gately that Joan was not at home, and Gately shot Shapiro, according to prosecutors. Gately found his sister in the kitchen and fired the gun at her, but it didn’t fire, according to the prosecution. Joan Gately Shapiro ran out of the house to get police help and warn her siblings.

Gately had barricaded himself in his Winnetka apartment after the shooting on Monday, but was escorted out by police less than three hours later.

Gately will plead not guilty, according to his lawyer, Michael Petro, who spoke with the American Lawyer. Petro said Gately loved the Shapiros and he was surprised to learn that Stephen Shapiro had died.

Shapiro, 72, was deputy solicitor general in the Reagan administration and was co-author of the 2013 book, Supreme Court Practice. Under his leadership, Mayer Brown’s Supreme Court and appellate group became the largest such practice in the country, according to a revised law firm bio.

Shapiro argued 30 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and briefed more than 200 cases.

Shapiro joined Mayer Brown in 1972 and was promoted to partner in 1978. He left Mayer Brown in 1978 to join the solicitor general’s office, serving as an assistant to the solicitor general beginning before becoming deputy solicitor general in 1981. He returned to Mayer Brown in 1983.

Mayer Brown released a statement on Tuesday expressing shock and sadness at the news of Shapiro’s death. The statement said was Shapiro “was among the most accomplished and celebrated appellate lawyers in the United States.”

Lawyers who knew Shapiro described him as a mentor and superb lawyer in interviews with the National Law Journal. Former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal tweeted that the entire Supreme Court was heartstricken following Shapiro’s death.

Supreme Court journalist Tony Mauro wrote in another National Law Journal article that Shapiro had helped him many times over the years by answering obscure questions about the court. Shapiro once told Mauro that he tried to spend a full month preparing for Supreme Court arguments.

For Mauro, however, Shapiro’s most memorable argument was in a case in which he had only two days to prepare. Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt had fired his lawyer in a case raising jurisdictional issues just before the scheduled Supreme Court argument.

The court recruited Shapiro, who had written an amicus brief supporting Flynt, to argue the case. Shapiro’s argument was interrupted when Flynt began shouting obscenities at the justices. Flynt lost in a unanimous opinion.

Updated at 1:55 p.m. to report that Gately’s lawyer confirmed he is Shapiro’s brother-in-law. Updated at 4:35 to report on the motive.