City Lawyer Gives Back To Community
John I. LaMancuso is a father, an attorney and chairman of the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County’s 2019 Campaign.
But did you know he once helped start a marathon event at Indiana University Bloomington to provide tuition for cancer survivors? Or that he ate dinner with a Greek family in Athens, Greece, while handling a lawsuit against major cruiselines? Or that he played in a recurring Thanksgiving day tackle football game for more than 10 years that lasted into his mid-20s?
The Post-Journal recently sat down with LaMancuso to learn things the public may not know about him. What is most apparent is that he is a man of tradition.
Sitting inside office of the Lewis & Lewis law firm on Main St. in Jamestown, LaMancuso, 33, racked his brain for interesting facts about himself. Lewis & Lewis, now located in the Tew Mansion, is the law firm he’s worked at since his re-emergence in the city in 2013. As he described it, his current employment has allowed him “to return home.”
He previously worked at a law firm in Buffalo, while simultaneously completing work for his law degree from the University of Buffalo.
LaMancuso is a Jamestown native, graduating from Jamestown High School in 2004 where he played baseball, basketball, football and golf. Before that, he attended Jefferson Middle School and even earlier went to the former Rogers Elementary School, now the Jamestown Public Schools Success Academy.
His father, John LaMancuso, currently serves as the city court judge. Growing up, LaMancuso, the civil litigation attorney, observed his father’s practice and career, which he attributed to following a similar path.
“Being a lawyer was always in the back of my mind,” he said, adding that the profession lends itself to his mission of wanting to help others.
In July, LaMancuso was named chairman of the United Way “Change Doesn’t Happen Alone” campaign, which runs from September through January that collects donations for organizations that support families in need.
“I was honored to have been asked and I enjoy helping in any way that I can,” he said.
For him, it was an opportunity to “give back” to a community where he and his wife, Gillian, have set down roots.
LaMancuso’s knack for giving back was present when he jumped at an idea to help strangers in college. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Indiana, he and several friends created the marathon event titled “Circle of Life” that went on to provide scholarships for at least three people who had previously been diagnosed with cancer.
But even earlier on, LaMancuso was drawn toward helping people. He once considered going into the medical field for the same reason. But after consideration of his own skill set – primarily his own proficiency in the sciences – he elected to pursue business and later practice law, a field that he was familiar with.
Being raised around lawyers allowed him to develop a certain respect for those who practiced law.
“I had family members who were attorneys so I always looked up to attorneys growing up and I think, maybe, depending how you grow up maybe you have one opinion or the other about attorneys,” he said laughing. “I had a very good opinion of attorneys and I saw – I think more than anything – how appreciative clients of my dad were. And even though I was a kid I could still appreciate that these people were thanking him for whatever legal issues that they had.”
One memory LaMancuso recalled was driving around with his grandfather, Ignatius LaMancuso, who was serving summons and subpoenas for John LaMancuso, the current city court judge. The vehicle of choice was an a old Volkswagen van with a spare tire placed on the hood sporting the “ugliest” color of green, which is a distinct memory that sticks out in his mind the most all these years later.
That memory and another of his father being commemorated as an honorary member of the Seneca Nation for winning a case for one of its members jumped out to LaMancuso as inspirations for pursuing law. The same pursuit led him to Greece where he assisted in deposition proceedings of a Greece man suffering from lung cancer. It was also where he was an invited guest to a Greek family’s home.
Now back in Jamestown for more than five years, he does not plan on leaving.
“I think that when you’re in the right place there’s a feeling that comes with it and I have that feeling here,” LaMancuso said.
Jamestown is home to the St. James Parish where he and his wife were married, the same church his father and mother were married and where his grandfather and grandmother were married and where his great-grandfather and great-grandmother were married, who traveled to the United States from Sicily.
LaMancuso is admittedly one for traditions. He named his son Johnny, marking the seventh John LaMancuso he could think of that lived in the area while carrying out a family tradition. His daughter, Alessandra is named after his wife’s great-grandfather Alessandro, carrying out a different but similar tradition.
For many years, LaMancuso and his friends would play in that football game on Thanksgiving they named “The Turkey Bowl,” which was a tradition he partially stole from his father and his father’s friends. Even after going to college, he and his friends would return for the holiday football game in the field at Rogers.
He laughed while recalling even the earliest of those memories. Later on, he and his friends transitioned to flag football, and soon the tradition was put on hold due to risk of injury. Also, he and his friends who he met at Rogers began careers and started families.
“Everyone was sorry to stop playing but it was for the best. It was for the best,” he said.
But for most of the memories he recalled, they take place in Jamestown, or at they least began here. So when asked to oversee a campaign to give back to the city, LaMancuso didn’t hesitate.
“I love it here.”