Lewis & Wilkins law firm managing partner Paul Mullin describes his colleague and friend Carl Brizzi as someone who truly enjoyed life.
Brizzi, 53, died after suffering a stroke in the late evening of Jan. 5. Brizzi was a Geist resident and former Marion County prosecutor who worked with Lewis and Wilkins at the time of his death. The firm has offices in Indianapolis and Fishers.
Mullin said Brizzi originally went to the hospital for a rapid heartbeat, where he later died of a stroke.
An Indianapolis resident, Mullin was friends with Brizzi for 20 years. He said Brizzi’s death came as a shock.
“It’s been absolutely jarring,” Mullin said. “He has so many friends and so many connections. He was so liked by so many people. I think everybody feels the same way. He was a healthy, active 53-year-old man, and I was just emailing him on (Jan. 3), and here we are.”
Mullin said the “mold was broken when Carl was made.” He said Brizzi embodied the American dream to many who knew him, especially the younger employees at the office.
“Carl was such a larger-than-life figure,” Mullin said. “In our office, at our law firm, Carl Brizzi brought an attitude of idealism to the office. It’s my opinion that in any profession, including the legal professional, people start to become cynical as the years go on. It’s easy to become cynical. We all start off with this idealism that, after time, fades away. But it didn’t fade away for Carl. The younger employees gravitated toward him because of his ongoing idealism that we can live in a great world. Young people wanted to learn from him.”
Mullin said Brizzi grew up with a single mother and put himself through college and law school by waiting tables.
“He did not dwell on where he started from, which is at the bottom,” Mullin said.
Outside of work, Mullin said Brizzi thoroughly enjoyed life. One of his joys was cooking for family and friends.
“I don’t think many people know Carl was an incredible chef,” Mullin said. “I was very fortunate to have a friend who actually enjoyed going through all the steps of treating his friends to incredible meals at his house on his Big Green Egg (a ceramic grill). We used to say Carl didn’t like going to steakhouses because he was convinced he could always make it better at his house.”
Mullin also said Brizzi made friends easily.
“So many people only know him from TV or political commercials or his time as the prosecutor, but the Carl Brizzi I knew was the kind of guy who never met a stranger,” Mullin said. “He was always ready, willing and able to chat up anyone he was with. People loved talking to him. Every time I got into an Uber with Carl Brizzi, by the time we got to our destination, him and the driver were best friends.”
MADE AN IMPACT
Mario Massillamany, who worked as general counsel and communications director under Brizzi during his time as Marion County prosecutor, said Brizzi made a significant impact in the law profession in multiple ways, including helping others succeed.
Massillamany, who now is a managing partner at Massillamany Jeter and Carson in Fishers, said Brizzi was a very “charismatic individual.”
“Carl was less of a manager of the office and more of a motivator,” Massillamany said. “Not only did Carl make sure we received proper training, but he also made sure we received proper mentoring and motivation to try to be the best we could be. He tried to make it not just about having a job or doing a job but rather instilling we were the last line of defense in making sure Marion County was protected.”
Massillamany also said Brizzi was instrumental in helping minority and female employees succeed in his office.
“He wasn’t trying to pick us because we were minorities or women. He decided to pick people because he thought we had talent, and the only ceiling we have is the ceiling we put in front of us,” said Massillamany, who was born in the island nation of Sri Lanka. “We could be kings of the legal field if we put in the effort and the time. He always backed us and allowed us the opportunity to succeed.”
Brizzi was a graduate of North Central High School. He earned his undergraduate degree from Indiana University and earned his law degree at Valparaiso University. He was elected Marion County prosecutor in 2003 and served two terms. His law license was suspended for 30 days in May 2017 after the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission found he engaged in professional misconduct.
In 2018, Brizzi began working with Lewis and Wilkins. He specialized in civil litigation, personal injury law and business litigation.
Mullin said Brizzi was heavily involved in litigation following the Indiana State Fair stage collapse in 2011 that killed seven people and injured dozens of others.
“He played a significant role in that litigation, probably characterized as some of the biggest litigation in the history of Indiana courts and some of the most complex litigation in the history of Indiana courts,” Mullin said. “He played a significant role there.”
Following the stage collapse, Mullin said the “stars aligned” in 2018 when Brizzi agreed to work for Lewis and Wilkins. Brizzi folded his private practice, Carl Brizzi and Associates, and worked of counsel at Lewis and Wilkins, in which he had a senior role but was not an owner.
Outside of work, Massillamany said Brizzi, a husband and father of six children, was fun to be around.
“He enjoyed life, he enjoyed his family,” Massillamany said. “His kids were his No. 1 priority. He tried to have his kids around as much as he could (at work functions), because the job consumed much of his time, and he tried to incorporate his family into it as much as possible.”
Marion County Superior Court Judge Tim Oakes also said Brizzi was a fun person. Oakes first met Brizzi when Brizzi was volunteering for the Scott Newman for Marion County Prosecutor campaign in the 1990s.
At that time, Oakes said Brizzi was the epitome of a classic, eager young lawyer. Oakes said he and Brizzi maintained their friendship throughout the years.
“He was genuine. He was not ever pretending to be someone he was not,” Oakes said. “You immediately enjoyed being around him. Carl had the unique thing where his public perception was not as good as who he was as a person. He was a better person than most. He was fun. He was a loyal friend.”
Oakes said during the investigation preceding Brizzi’s law license suspension, Brizzi taught himself how to play guitar.
“In one of the toughest times of his life, he essentially taught himself to play guitar and was really good,” Oakes said. “He just kept at it.”
Oakes said Brizzi enjoyed music by Ed Sheeran, Jack Johnson and The Eagles.
“I’ve been to a lot of funerals, and Carl is one of those people who will leave a huge void in peoples’ lives,” Oakes said. “People who only knew Carl in the public eye were really missing the best part of him.”
Brizzi leaves behind his wife, Kim, six children and one grandchild.
Kim Brizzi declined an interview with Current but issued the following statement:
“Carl’s heart was three sizes too big. He felt everything more: successes, challenges, grief and joy. What defines us as people is our response. Carl’s was honesty, grace, and ultimately love. I could not imagine a better example for our children. He challenged everyone he encountered, but especially them, to think more, ask more questions, and to be empathetic above all else. His legacy will be them carrying that into the world, each with an amazing and unique perspective.
“My heart is broken in a way I never imagined possible. But the outpouring of support and shared stories of Carl’s generosity, compassion and empathy are healing to me and our children, thank you. Carl changed so many people’s lives – but none more than mine. I could not be prouder to have been his wife.”
Anyone who knew Brizzi is invited to celebrate his life from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 15 at BLEND Bar Cigar, 3981 East 82nd St., Indianapolis.