Carmen D. Caruso

Trial Attorney

Carmen Caruso serves as lead trial counsel in high stakes, high profile cases in Illinois and across the U.S.  In over 35 years of practice, Carmen has honed a tough, no nonsense approach enabling Carmen D. Caruso Law Firm to engage in legal combat against many of the world’s largest law firms for clients large and small.

Carmen is one of the best trial lawyers in the dynamic franchise and dealership field. His cases have expanded legal protections for franchisees and dealers against anticompetitive, abusive, and bad faith conduct.  He is one of very few trial lawyers named to the exclusive Franchise Times Legal Eagles Hall of Fame and he is consistently named one of the “Best Lawyers in America” among many other honors.  Franchisees and dealers from coast to coast call Carmen every week and he has represented clients from almost every state and many foreign countries. He is the former general counsel for the  National Owners Association of McDonald’s franchisees, one of the world’s largest franchises.

Carmen thrives in challenging cases confronting serious misconduct. He was victorious in the United States Court of Appeals striking a blow against glass ceiling discrimination against women in c-suites and was part of a New York City trial team that recovered substantial money from Fox News, the late Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly for sexual harassment and retaliation against a female Fox News Reporter. He has fought to expand the protection of minority franchises under federal civil rights laws and to protect underserved communities from racial steering.  He forced a Monsanto subsidiary to clean up its PCB contamination in the Milwaukee River in Wisconsin and forced the U.S. Customs Service to return property wrongfully seized from U.S. citizens traveling abroad. He has recovered millions of dollars for clients and won trials ranging from a recent victory for a terminated equipment dealer to the acquittal of the grandson of a Chicago alderman in a state court murder trial. He has taken on powerful interests including a former Illinois governor.

Carmen is frequently called when clients have reason to question whether other lawyers have been unethical or incompetent.  He represents aggrieved clients or defends other lawyers in legal malpractice cases, fee disputes, sanctions litigation, and in proceedings before the Illinois Attorney Regulation and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), and he has handled many similar cases in medical fields.

Prior to creating his own firm, Carmen was privileged to be a partner in two of Chicago’s premier firms and he continues to work with leading lawyers in Chicago and across the country.

Carmen holds a Juris Doctor degree from the Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Marquette University. He also successfully completed the Master Advocates program at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA). Carmen is a member of the American Association for Justice, the American Bar Association, Federal Bar Association, and the Illinois State Bar Association. He is admitted to practice in the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Military Appeals and many other courts.

Professional Recognition

Carmen D. Caruso has received widespread professional recognition for many years, including:

  • Selected by his peers for several years in a row to be included in The Best Lawyers in America for his franchise and dealership litigation practice in Illinois and across the United States.
  • Selected as a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America (LCA).
  • London-based Chambers and Partners annual Chambers USA America’s Leading Lawyers for Business named Carmen for Franchising: Mainly Franchisee nationwide since 2016.
  • Named an Illinois Leading Lawyer by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin in each year since from 2006 based on the recognition of his peers, and selected to serve on the Advisory Board of the Illinois Leading Lawyers Network in each year.
  • Named an Illinois Super Lawyer by Illinois Super Lawyers magazine and Law & Politics for franchise and dealership and business litigation each year from 2005 to present.
  • Consistently named a Legal Eagle by Franchise Times, a Crain’s publication focused on the franchise industry, in 2001 and 2002 and then consecutively from 2005 to present; and named to the Legal Eagle Hall of Fame in 2015.
  • Received an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating available for both legal ability and ethics, each year for over twenty years, and named a member of the prestigious Bar Register of Pre-Eminent Lawyers.
  • Recognized in “Who’s Who Legal Illinois,” published by the International Bar Association.

Family and Community

Born and raised in Chicago, Carmen has been married to Ellyn Caruso since 1983, the principal of Caruso Communications LLC/Caruso PR. They have three grown sons and reside in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago.

Bar Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Illinois Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and for the Tenth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (including Trial Bar) and several other districts.
  • U.S. Court of Military Appeals


  • Loyola University of Chicago School of Law (J.D. 1983)
  • Master Advocates program of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) (1996)
  • Marquette University (B.A. Psychology, cum laude, 1980); Member, Alpha Sigma Nu (National Jesuit Honor Society)
  • Brother Rice High School (Chicago)

Bar Associations

  • American Bar Association (Sections of Litigation, Antitrust and Dispute Resolution; and Forum on Franchising)
  • Federal Bar Association (Sustaining Member)
  • Illinois State Bar Association (President’s Club Member)
  • American Association for Justice


  • Speaker at ABA Forum on Franchising Fall 2020
  • Presented at Renaissance Symposium XV, Litigation Counsel of America, December 2019 in New York, New York
  • Speaker at the 2nd Annual Meeting of the National Owners’ Association, an independent association of McDonald’s® restaurant owners on October 7, 2019, in Dallas, Texas
  • The Franchisee Litigation Perspective – Presented at the International Franchise Association’s Legal Symposium, May 2019 in Washington, D.C.
  • Speaker at Specialty Seminar, “New Opportunities Await – Uncover A Diamond in the Rough” at the 2019 International Franchise Association’s Annual Convention on February 25
  • Speaker at a meeting of over 300 McDonald’s franchise owners gathered in Tampa, Florida. October 2018
  • Speaker/leader of franchisees in a discussion of “Class actions or Other Means to Resolve System-Wide Disputes” at the inaugural Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA) Legal Symposium in Chicago in October 2018
  • Speaker in Montreal on the subject “Entering Your Case from A Position of Strength” at the annual meeting of the American Association of Justice (AAJ) in July 2015. The AAJ is the leading bar association of Plaintiff trial lawyers in the United States.
  • Editor, since 2008, of the Illinois Chapter of the Franchise Desk Book of state and federal franchise laws published by the American Bar Association Forum on Franchising.
  • Speaker at the ABA’s 36th Annual Forum on Franchising, October 16-18, 2013 in Orlando, Florida.
  • Interviewed for the Summer 2013 Young Advocates Newsletter for American Bar Association Section of Litigation (Vol 3 No. 3) regarding franchise litigation, Just the Facts on Franchise Litigation, American Bar Association Section Litigation Young Advocates Newsletter, 2013
  • Authored, Section 1981 Litigation: Making Free Markets Free, American Bar Association Section of Litigation, Civil Rights Litigation, 2013
  • Authored an article in The Franchise Law Journal, a publication of the American Bar Association, Franchisees Claims for Constructive Termination Under the PMPA After Mac’s Shell. Published in The Franchise Law Journal Vol. 30 N 1 Winter Edition 2011, 2011
  • Speaker at the American Asian Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) Annual Meeting in June 2012 in Atlanta, 2011 in Las Vegas and 2010 in Chicago.
  • Speaker at the Dunkin Donuts Independent Franchise Owners (DDFIO) Spring Franchise Owners Meeting, 2011
  • Speaker at the American Bar Association’s Fall 2011 Forum on Franchising Annual Meeting
  • Round Table discussion leader at IFA Legal Symposium in Washington, D.C., May 2012, Roundtable leader, International Franchise Association, 2012
  • “Just the Facts on Franchise Litigation”, an interview with Carmen D. Caruso by the Young Advocates American Bar Association Section of Litigation, Just the Facts on Franchise Litigation
  • Speaker at advanced trial practice program for experienced franchise litigators. See for more information. Presenter, Evidence in Franchise Cases, American Bar Assocation (forum on Franchising), 2008


  • The Carmen D. Caruso Law Firm served Thanksgiving dinner to over 100 youth at the Union League Boys & Girls Clubs’ Nicholson Club in Englewood, 2019.
  • Board of Advisors, Catholic Charities of Chicago; and Officer, Fathers Club of Mount Carmel High School in Chicago.
  • Trustee, Union League Boys & Girls Clubs


Carmen Caruso has been interviewed, or his cases have been profiled by publications including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Reader, Crain’s Chicago Business, WBBM-TV Chicago, AP, Forbes, Blue MauMau, Franchise Times and more.

For media inquiries about Carmen’s cases, or about legal topics of interest, please contact: