Frank was born in the Bronx, N.Y. on November 3, 1942. He joined the Marist Brothers after High School, but decided the monastic life was not for him and went back to college.
Frank graduated from Catholic University with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was an Engineer for General Electric in the Nuclear Power Division. After working 6 years in that field, he decided to become a lawyer. He enrolled at Santa Clara University Law School, graduating summa cum laude in 1973 and clerked for California Supreme Court Judge Stanley Mosk.
Frank went to work for San Diego's Federal Defender in 1973 as a trial attorney. In 1976, he left Federal Defenders to manage the San Jose branch office of the Federal Public Defender of the Northern District of California. Frank later opened his own criminal defense practice in 1978, where he defended many high profile clients in both federal and state courts, including famous phone hacker, Captain Crunch, Hell's Angels' Sonny Barger and tax attorney to the rich, Harry Margolis.
Frank returned to Federal Defenders in San Diego in 1995 as a Senior Trial Attorney. Frank led the office's "New Attorney Training Committee", teaching young attorneys how to become superior litigators with a profound knowledge of federal criminal law and ensuring that each generation of Federal Defender attorneys provide quality representation to their clients.
Frank served the office as Chief Trial Attorney from 2002-05. He was the Acting Executive Director from January 2004 to May 2005. Later he assumed the position of Senior Litigator/Special Assistant to the Executive Director. He remained actively involved in supervising and training the Federal Defender younger trial attorneys until the very end. He will be dearly missed by several generations of criminal defense attorneys; all lucky enough to have called Frank their mentor.
One of John Cleary's greatest legacies and gifts to FDSDI was introducing the federal defender family to Benjamin Franklin Rayborn. More knowledgeable about the law than many lawyers, Ben worked at FDSDI for over thirty years. As the chief research assistant, he participated in writing thousands of briefs. His legal education was the product of his own experiences in prison.
Ben was an unlikely hero. J. Edgar Hoover once dubbed him "the worst gangster to come out of World War II." Indeed, by age twenty-one, Ben led a gang of armed bank robbers who called themselves the Bennie-Denny gang. In 1946, still only twenty-one years old, he was convicted of bank robbery and received a life-sentence from the state of Kentucky. The next year, the federal government increased that sentence when it prosecuted him for federal firearms offenses and sentenced him to thirty years.
Ben began serving his sentence in the custody of the Kentucky state prison authorities. It was in prison were Ben learned how unjust the "justice" system could be. The prison had no plumbing facilities, the food was inedible, and the prison guards were allowed to beat the prisoners. In fact, the prisoners were not even allowed to have law books. In 1952, Ben led a prison riot to protest these conditions and was quickly classified as being "incorrigible." Kentucky became so concerned about Ben's influence, that it transferred Ben out of its custody and into federal custody.
Ben arrived at Alcatraz in 1952. A model prisoner, Ben began working in the prison library and eventually became a prison administrator. It was at Alcatraz that Ben's legal training began. Self-taught, Ben became the consummate "prison lawyer." He helped inmates write motions, petitions and writs, successfully helping hundreds of prisoners to get different types of post-conviction relief. Eventually, Ben was able to reduce his own federal sentence from thirty to twenty years and successfully argue that Kentucky had relinquished jurisdiction over him such that it could not force him to complete his state sentence.
After Ben's release from custody, he was re-arrested and convicted in Tennessee for bank robbery. Again, Ben was able to reduce his own sentence from eighteen to ten years and again he helped hundreds of prisoners get post-conviction relief. Ben began teaching his fellow inmates Constitutional law and also taught inmates how to pass the high school equivalency exam. His work helping inmates brought him into contact with John Cleary who was so impressed with his work that he offered Ben work at the Legal Assistance to Inmates Program at Emory University. Eventually, Ben was released into John Cleary's custody. When John Cleary moved to San Diego to head the newly-formed Federal Defender office, he convinced Ben to join him in fighting for indigent clients.
At Federal Defenders, Ben worked as Chief Legal Research Associate from 1971 until he retired in 2004. He wrote hundreds of briefs for appeals in the Ninth Circuit, as well as in the Supreme Court. He helped train, guide and inspire the attorneys that worked at Federal Defenders. Ben was indispensable in shaping Federal Defenders and in cementing its national reputation. Unfortunately, a week after he retired from FDSDI, Ben passed away. He will always be remembered for his generosity and his spirit.