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Post date: December 11 2001

Spitzer Praises Lawyers' Efforts In Response To World Trade Center Attacks

Attorney General Spitzer today applauded the tremendous response of lawyers throughout New York State who have volunteered to assist the victims of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Since September 11, thousands of New York lawyers have offered free representation to the victims of the attacks and their families, covering everything from obtaining death certificates to setting up scholarship programs to offering free representation in the federal compensation claims process. This is believed to be the largest pro bono legal effort in the nation's history.

"I applaud New York's legal community for its extraordinary efforts on behalf of victims of the September 11 terrorist attack," said Spitzer. "Americans opened their hearts and their wallets in the wake of the disaster. Similarly, there has been an overwhelming response from New York's legal community in which thousands of attorneys are donating their time and talents to the victims of the tragedy."

Attorneys from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, New York State Bar Association, New York State Trial Lawyers Association, Women's Bar Association of New York State, New York County Lawyers Association and other bar associations throughout New York State have offered a wide range of services to the victims of the September 11th attacks, including:

  • Providing free trusts and estates counseling to the families of those killed in the September 11th attacks;
  • Advising victim families at the Family Assistance Center on Pier 94 in New York City on a broad range of legal issues;
  • Helping families obtain death certificates;
  • Pledging to provide free legal representation for families seeking compensation from the Victim Compensation Fund created by Congress;
  • Helping families displaced from their homes in landlord-tenant disputes;
  • Assisting disaster victims with immigration issues; and,
  • Helping commercial and retail businesses that incurred losses as a result of the attacks.

In addition, the court system itself has had to respond in unprecedented ways to this attack. A special procedure was set up to handle requests for death certificates on an expedited basis, and the courts also had to find ways to accommodate the unique needs of the many law firms whose offices were destroyed in the collapse.

"This is probably the largest coordinated pro bono legal effort ever to arise out of a single set of events," said David Leebron, Dean of Columbia Law School. "Everyone recognized immediately that the needs of the victims and their families would be overwhelming, and the legal community did not hesitate to volunteer their time and expertise to address those needs."

"The legal needs of the survivors of this tragedy are daunting," said Attorney General Spitzer, "but New York's lawyers are up to the challenge. In the three months since September 11, the high quality of legal services that volunteer lawyers have provided has helped ease the suffering of victims. The legal community has pledged to continue these efforts for as long as is necessary, and it is very comforting for the victims to know that this assistance will be available as long as there is a need."