We are Saddened by the Harsh Reality of Gun Violence in America

We at the Mass Tort Made Perfect Program and the National Trial Lawyers community have Las Vegas and all the victims and their families in our hearts and prayers.  We are saddened by the harsh reality that gun violence in America, sometimes mass gun violence, is almost as part of our national fabric as apple pie, baseball and all the personal freedoms we share.

While we as individuals and as a group have been quite vocal in social and political issues that we believe affect us and our clients, this simply is not one of those; this is a national catastrophe which will reverberate through our collective psyche for years.  While there are those who have become desensitized to the tragedies de jour, this group has never suffered from such inaction.

For today, and for every day at the Mass Tort Made Perfect program and the National Trial Lawyers Summit in February, we will focus more on acknowledging the pain caused to our brothers and sisters; in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and most recently in Las Vegas.  As well, we must not let our memories dull regarding the tragedies such as Sandy Hook, Pulse in Orlando, Charleston and innumerable others.  At both upcoming events, we will pause to remember not only those lost to yet another act of senseless violence or natural disaster, but to celebrate those very freedoms and liberties that weave us together.

In the two days since the shooting, we’ve already heard from over a dozen members who knew victims or their families.  This is a testament not only to how widespread these tragedies are, but also of our solid enmeshment within the communities that we serve.

The National Trial Lawyers Forms Pro Bono Task Force for Families of Orlando Shooting Victims

Douglas R. Beam of Melbourne, FL, www.dougbeam.com

Douglas R. Beam of Melbourne, FL.

The National Trial Lawyers has created a pro bono Task Force of attorneys nationwide to help with legal issues facing families in the wake of the June 12 shootings at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Douglas R. Beam and Mark O’Mara are the co-chairpersons of NTL Task Force.

No one on the Task Force will receive compensation for these services. The Task Force will make referrals to the extent that specific legal needs arise for individual family members.

On June 12, 2016, a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It was the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history.

Mark O'Mara of  Orlando, FL  www.markomaralaw.com

Mark O’Mara of Orlando, FL.

“On behalf of the National Trial Lawyers Association, we first offer our sincere condolences to those families that have suffered in this horrific terrorist act,” said attorney Mark M. O’Mara of Orlando, Florida. “As a national association of trial lawyers, we want to offer, without compensation, whatever assistance we can to the families of those affected by this tragedy.”

In the cold light of the upcoming few days, the families will have many concerns of legal significance:

  • How to handle the arrangements for their loved ones.
  • How to pay expenses.
  • What to do about the estates of those people lost on June 12.

“We hope to lessen, even to a small extent, the confusion and uncertainty caused to these families. We are here to help,” O’Mara said.

Let News Copters Fly Over Ferguson

tv-news-helicopter

The Ferguson Police Department’s efforts to throw a blanket over the ability to cover from the air will be seen as what it is: a blatant attempt to keep from public review what is happening on the streets or Ferguson​.

Can the Ferguson, MO, police restrict access to news helicopters?

Absolutely not. That is the only answer that can be given to Ferguson Police Department’s suggestion that they might once again curtail media access by limiting the airspace for news helicopters over Ferguson. Now we know that’s just what just happened in the days after the protests (and militaristic police mobilization) after the shooting of Michael Brown.

While any police department has the right to regulate access under certain public safety conditions, the wholesale ban of helicopter access is completely inappropriate. It is unheard of to suggest such overbroad restrictions on the press, and therefore the public, access to an event. From train wrecks to fires, from car accidents to hostage situations — the press, as the surrogate for the public — has the right to view the entirety of the circumstances.

Democracy demands transparency

That right is even more sacred, and more necessary, in an event that registers a national interest, as is the case in Ferguson. Where there is mistrust for authority, democracy demands transparency. And there is definitely distrust in Ferguson. The Ferguson Police Department has failed to handle several opportunities to take a leadership role in guiding the community through these troubling times.
It took weeks for the chief to discuss the issue of why Mike Brown’s body was in the street for almost four hours. It was still never done in a way that explained how much of that time was necessary from a forensic perspective. An early statement by the police would have gone very far in explaining, and apologizing, for that one event.

The chief’s decision to release footage of Mike Brown before the shooting was equally insensitive and showed a lack of awareness of the significance of what was happening in Ferguson during the critical first days of unrest. While there are arguments for and against the need for a strong police presence during times of civil unrest, the Ferguson Police Department’s failure to reach out to community leaders early in the process was another failing.

Attempt to minimize media coverage

In this context, the only explanation for the Ferguson Police Department’s efforts constrain the press is this: It is a juvenile attempt to minimize the media’s coverage of their controversial handling of this international news event.

Ferguson, Saint Louis County, and the State of Missouri certainly have the right to regulate the media’s decision to take to the air as part of their reporting process — but they cannot deny it. The Ferguson event is not so unique as to require a complete ban on such coverage; rather, it is the type of event that demands complete, transparent, and unfettered coverage.

We already know that the Ferguson community is concerned that the underlying investigation has occurred without transparency and that the grand jury is deliberating behind closed doors. The Ferguson Police Department’s efforts to throw a blanket over the ability to cover from the air will be seen as what it is: a blatant attempt to keep from public review what is happening on the streets or Ferguson​.