9/11 film explores legal questions of human worth

A Westchester County woman has helped to produce a documentary focusing on the legal, moral, and ethical issues surrounding the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund and its impact on the civil justice system.

Judy Wacht, a Purchase resident who worked for years as a guidance counselor at Blind Brook High School, is the associate producer of “Out of the Ashes 9/11.” The public is invited to a free screening of the film at 5:30 p.m on Monday, Sept. 12 at the New York County Lawyers Association, 14 Vesey Street, between Broadway and Church Street, one block from Ground Zero ( St. Paul’s Chapel is across the street).

The federal government created the Victim Compensation Fund 11 days after the attacks, making it one of the largest public entitlement programs ever. The film will explore questions such as: Was justice delivered? Were the methods for calculating the value of a human life, an appropriate model? Did the Fund undermine our legal system, hide the facts about 9/11, or offer 9/11 families a way to avoid the cost, complexity, and slow pace of a lawsuit?

Following the film will be discussion by the Co-director/Executive Producer of the film, Seattle University Law School Professor Professor Marilyn J. Berger and invited guests. The documentary will be shown again on Sept. 13 at 5 p.m. at the Quinnipac University School of Law and on Sept. 14 at the Yale School of Law.

In related news, this week’s edition of the New York Law Journal is featuring essays written by top judges and lawyers around the state about the impact 9/11 has had on the law and how it’s practiced. One of the essayists was Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore. Others include Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau, state Bar Association President Vincent E. Doyle III and former U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey.

The real “death panel”

tjndc5-5b4d814pxie11dks5eo0_layoutWith the trial for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others accused in the terror attacks being held in New York City, the unenviable task of defending him will go to one of about 20 veteran defense lawyers experienced in death penalty and other complicated federal cases. These lawyers are on what some call “the death list.”

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Photo from The Associated Press, 2003

Biggest trial ever coming to NYC

It looks like the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and others accused of various roles in the plot, are going to be tried in federal court in Manhattan rather than before a military tribunal. Click here to read the latest on this development.

I can’t imagine the jury selection process for this — what New York City resident wasn’t affected by 9/11? How are prosecutors and the defense lawyers going to find fair and impartial jurors? And the security! That courthouse will be on lockdown. It’ll make the 2004 Republican National Convention, where you needed to flash a different badge every 20 feet, where guards snatched glass (potential shards!) makeup bottles from women and where small folding umbrellas were considered dangerous weapons (you still owe me a Totes, GOP), seem like the Wild Wild West. Reporters who want to cover this better get in line for the press passes now.