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Florida Bar members among those in the WTC

first_img October 1, 2001 Assistant Editor Regular News Florida Bar members among those in the WTC Florida Bar members among those in the WTC Amy K. Brown Assistant EditorThe September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have left the world reeling in shock, anger, sorrow, helplessness, and hostility. At the time this Bar News went to press, the fate of the thousands of people in those buildings at the time of the attack was unclear.Also unclear at press time was the fate of 17 of the 18 Florida Bar members who listed their addresses as the World Trade Center, and the six Florida lawyers whose addresses were listed in the Pentagon.“What we went through. . . was horrific,” said Joseph Mendola, a Florida Bar member who worked in the World Trade Center. “The sights and sounds will never leave me.”Despite a distance of hundreds of miles, the attacks will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on Florida lawyers, said Bar President Terry Russell.“As guardians of the rule of law, one thing this brings home to me is the need for us to reaffirm our institutions. Our governmental institution and our legal institution.” Russell said. “It’s time for people to pull together and recognize these institutions have always been our strength. While they are not perfect, they’re the difference between us and the people who perpetrated this crime.”“Though the inclination to anger is very strong, and we understand that it’s wrong to lash out without any rational basis for it, we have to remember that we are sworn to uphold the rule of law,” he added. “We have to be careful that our legal system stays strong and independent through this crisis. We need to guard against any unnecessary intrusion onto our civil liberties.”American Bar Association President Robert Hirshon released a message to all ABA members echoing those same sentiments, saying the lawyers and others involved “paid the highest of prices for living in a free and democratic society.”A statement released by Association of Trial Lawyers of America President Leo V. Boyle calls for a “moratorium in this time of national crisis on civil lawsuits that may arise from tragedy” – the first such request in ATLA’s 55-year history. The organization has made an initial pledge of $50,000 to establish a scholarship fund for the children of killed or injured emergency workers in New York, and as of press time had received financial commitments from state trial lawyer organizations in Texas, New York, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Minnesota.The Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers has also made a commitment to raise $25,000 for the scholarship fund, according to a message from the organization’s president, Mark W. Clark.The New York Law Journal reports that more than 14,000 New York lawyers have been displaced as a result of the disaster, but the New York judiciary is working hard to maintain stability in the system.The New York State Bar Association has established a toll-free phone number (1-877-HELP-321) for victims to call for assistance with law-related questions. The NYSBA, via the toll-free number, will serve as a clearinghouse to receive calls from displaced lawyers in need of office space or equipment, and then to match them with local lawyers willing to offer such assistance. In addition, any client whose lawyer had offices in the World Trade Center and surrounding area may contact the number for information concerning their attorney.J.R. Phelps, director of The Florida Bar’s Law Office Management Assistance Service, said he has been communicating with the New York City Bar and the New York State Bar Association, after the organizations requested information about how Florida lawyers came together to assist firms that needed to start over in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.“I don’t know of any disaster plan that provides guidance for a situation where perhaps all of the employees and facilities of a law firm instantly evaporate,” said Phelps. “Should that be the case for any firm in the World Trade Center complex, a new chapter in disaster recovery will certainly have to be written by the bar and judicial leadership of New York.”He noted that while Florida’s experience fortunately didn’t include the total annihilation of life and property, the disaster recovery efforts “provide some historical guidance for firms in the World Trade Center impact zone.”Courts in Manhattan, some of which lie mere blocks from where the twin towers once stood, remained closed as this News went to press. But the state is pulling together to keep the judicial system intact, said Mike Stafford, a New York attorney and former member of The Florida Bar Board of Governors. He said the New York Legislature, in an emergency session the week of the tragedy, put a temporary suspension on all statutes of limitations.“They’re responding to help the legal system cope with this,” Stafford said.And other law firms in New York are also lending a hand.“I have heard that a couple of the big firms in the city, and other smaller firms, have reached out to them [firms who have been displaced] and offered space,” he said. “Our firm and many others have done whatever we can to aid the relief effort.”Stafford’s Uniondale, New York, firm, Rivkin Radler, has banded together to donate more than $10,000 to the American Red Cross relief effort. And this is just one example of the outpouring of support.“Other firms are doing the same thing,” he said. “It’s a massive effort to help out wherever you can.”Florida’s aid efforts will extend well beyond guidance, if that’s what is needed, Russell said.“The Florida Bar will do anything and everything it can to ease the burden of anybody involved in the bar or the legal system,” he added.Stafford said he, much like many New York attorneys, has received numerous e-mails and phone calls from Florida attorneys expressing concern and a desire to help.“The expressions of concern and e-mails I got from former colleagues were very, very welcome,” he said. “It’s classic Florida Bar concern and I was very grateful for that.”Mendola, general counsel for Nikko Securities Co. International, Inc., agreed and in an e-mail to Russell thanked Bar members for their prayers and good wishes. Mendola also was happy to report that in addition to himself, all of his colleagues at Nikko Securities escaped, then added, “Our hearts may be broken, but our spirit remains strong.”For information about how to donate to the ATLA scholarship fund, contact AFTL at (850) 224-9403. To find out how to get involved with the ABA’s relief efforts, visit www.abanet.org. The NYSBA has added information to their website for lawyers affected by the tragedy ( www.nysba.org/wtc ).last_img read more

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