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The Largest Pro Bono Effort in History

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The Largest Pro Bono Effort in History

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9/11, Victim Compenesation Fund, World Trade Center attacksAs we remember the attack on the World Trade Center this month, it is also important to remember the massive effort that went into compensating the families of the victims. Many attorneys were involved in assisting families. Med League worked on one of these cases summarizing the suffering the person went through as he fled the building. The descriptions of what he saw inside the building remain with me still.

This article summarizes how the attorrneys got involved in helping the families.

“It was something personal with me because I was across the street,” says Stephan H. Peskin of Tolmage, Peskin, Harris, Falick. “I saw the second hit. I smelled the smells.”

“You’re reading about it, and you’re watching the news, and you feel somewhat helpless,” adds Anthony Bisignano of The Bisignano Law Firm. “You’d like to make some type of a contribution.”

“[The New York State Trial Lawyers Association] headquarters was, and still is, three blocks from ground zero,” says David B. Golomb, of the Law Offices of David B. Golomb. “Our staff, in fact, was literally sheltering people who had come in off the street from the site.”

Ten years ago, as workers and volunteers made their way to ground zero to aid 9/11 survivors, the city’s lawyers also scrambled to help.
What started there turned into the largest pro bono effort in history.

Golomb, along with Leo V. Boyle of Boston, then-president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA, now the American Association for Justice), Larry S. Stewart in Miami, past-president of ATLA, and Richard A. Bieder of Bridgeport, Conn., founded Trial Lawyers Care (TLC), with more than 1,100 attorneys across the world taking on cases for more than 1,700 families spread around the country and the globe.

“This was invented in the early morning hours when Congress was passing [the Victim Compensation Fund], and for the first time in American history, they were doing away with the jury system on significant numbers of claims,” says Peskin, vice president of TLC. “But before we would allow that to pass, we wanted some input into it and so we put together Trial Lawyers Care to make certain that at least the people had an advocate. That part of it worked out very well.”

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, created by Congress on Sept. 22, 2001, allowed families of 9/11 victims to apply for awards while waiving their rights to sue the airlines. TLC was created to help those families. Participating lawyers rendered services free of charge. Read more

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