[The response] was enormous. It was great
to watch,” says Golomb. “We had hundreds
and hundreds of lawyers volunteering.”
Peskin continues. “It was just a mind-boggling,
emotionally draining experience.”
Scrudato represented Mario Santoro, a 28-year-
old EMT who was one of the first EMTs to arrive
at the scene. “He got there, I think, a couple of
minutes after the first plane strike, before the
second plane strike, and he immediately went to
work helping people out at the site,” Scrudato says.
“As he got the dispatch to head over to the
World Trade Center, he called his wife, Lenore,
to say, ‘I’m going over to the World Trade Center.
Don’t worry about it, I’ll be fine.’ It was probably a
30-second phone call and that was the last time
they ever talked,” Scrudato says.
Santoro, an EMT who had been on the scene
of several well-known incidents in New York—
including the Carnegie Deli murders in 2001—had
shown immense compassion in his job. “Regular
people would write to his boss after calls to
say: ‘What a wonderful guy. He did everything
to relieve our anxiety about whatever led to the
reason for the call,’” Scrudato says.
Scrudato estimates he spent 250 hours on
the case and says that wasn’t rare for other TLC
attorneys, either. “Everybody was honored to
do it,” he says. “Everybody. The time it took was
never an issue for anybody.”
The immensity of his case hit Scrudato when
he met Santoro’s daughter, Sophia. “She was
just a kid. She had no idea what had happened,”
says Scrudato, who had two young daughters
at home at the time. “Lenore, the wife, she was
great. But she knew what was going on. Little
Sophia had no clue, so I felt like I have to get
this right for this little girl.” The work paid off.
Scrudato was able to secure close to $2 million
for Santoro’s family.
Many of the TLC attorneys still have strong
emotional connections with their clients. Among
Bisignano’s six cases was one representing the
family of Jennifer, a young executive at Merrill
Lynch who was a victim at the World Trade
Center. Ivy League-educated, Jennifer was
ambitious and made her mark in the financial
world early on. “She was—from the time that she
was born to the time of her death—one of those
people who made a difference in people’s lives,”
IN JUNE 2004 TLC SENT A REPORT TO CONGRESS.
“One of the highlights was … the compliments
“I think it was the proudest moment of my legal
we received from the people that called us the
tasseled, loafered, ambulance chasers,” Peskin
says. “By and large, everybody said that we
had done a yeomen’s job. In fact, Trial Lawyers
Care was the single largest pro bono effort ever
undertaken in the history of the country. That’s
something to be proud of.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by other TLC attorneys.
career,” Golomb says.
“I got more back from doing this than receiving
any fee could have given me,” Bisignano says.
“It was one of those times in my career,” Scrudato
adds, “where it felt great to be a lawyer.”