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Attorney to Receive Award At Trial Lawyers Dinner

Within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy that destroyed thousands of lives and devastated the World Trade Center, David Casey Jr. and his colleagues knew what they had to do.

As president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Casey and a handful of his ATLA colleagues proposed a moratorium on lawsuits resulting from the tragedy and the creation of a victims’ compensation fund.

“We were talking about what we could do for the families,” recalled Casey, a senior partner with the San Diego law firm of Casey Gerry Reed & Schenk. “We said we needed to ask all of the lawyers in the United States to abstain from filing anymore lawsuits. We sent out 40,000 e-mails and it had a real impact. For eight or nine months, not one lawyer filed any (9-11) lawsuit in the United States.”

The ATLA pledged that it would provide free legal representation for all 9-11 victim families. ATLA and state trial lawyer associations then launched Trial Lawyers Care, which provided pro bono legal services to families eligible to file claims with the fund.

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More than 30 San Diego lawyers, including attorneys from Casey’s firm; Endeman, Lincoln, Turek & Heater; Hulburt & Bunn; Boudreau, Albert & Wohlfeil; Thornes Bartolotta McGuire; and Yunker & Schneider, have participated in TLC.

San Diego has had the highest rate of participation outside of the New York/New Jersey area, according to attorney Benjamin Bunn, with attorneys recovering more than $100 million for 35 New York families.

The attorney contributions in San Diego in terms of donated time and services are expected to surpass $15 million , and this doesn’t include hard costs, said Casey.

“It was a remarkable experience,” he said. “You can never remove the pain of what they lost, but we helped stabilize them financially, which let them move on.”

On Oct. 9, Casey, 55, will be honored with the prestigious Daniel T. Broderick III award at the 20th annual Red Boudreau Trial Lawyers dinner at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in Downtown San Diego.

The annual award, presented by the San Diego County Bar Association, is bestowed on an accomplished trial lawyer who demonstrates “the highest standards of civility, integrity and professionalism.”

Casey, a third-generation attorney, has quite a resume. In one of his big cases, he played a major role in the famous fight against the tobacco industry, representing then-Lt. Gov. Gray Davis on behalf of Californians. The case resulted in about $25 billion coming to the state, he said.

The native La Jollan has seen quite a few changes in his profession since he earned his degree from the University of San Diego School of Law. In 1974, he joined the law firm founded by his father, David Casey Sr., more than a half-century ago.

“There’s been a dramatic reduction in the number of cases going to trial,” the younger Casey observed. “Now, an active firm will probably see 10 or 12 trials a year. In the early days, with my dad, it was about 20 or 30 cases a year.

“When I started practicing, you would file a case, you might take one deposition, then go to trial,” he recalled.

“Today, everybody ends up getting deposed. Increasingly, we’ve seen more and more lawyers become litigators, but fewer trial lawyers. I think it’s taken away a little from the profession. I think it’s a healthy process having 12 people making decisions on important cases.”

As a youth of the ’60s, Casey remembers that it was the heyday of Ralph Nader and environmentalism, when, he said, students entered law school for more idealistic goals.

“Now, it’s about getting a job,” he said, adding that law firms today are run more as big businesses.

“They used to be about people who had camaraderie, like a baseball team,” he mused. “Now, it’s bottom line, hours billed, client generation. It’s a big change. I think I prefer the camaraderie.

“I look at lawyers as being officers of the court and providing services,” he added. “The preoccupation purely with the bottom line detracts from the law profession, and I’m a little saddened by some of the directions in that area.”

Casey, who specializes in personal injury and wrongful death cases, also served as president of the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego and the Consumer Attorneys of California. He has been inducted into the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and is a fellow of the International Academy of Barristers.

Casey has a few words of advice to young attorneys starting out: “The most rewarding thing is not only representing clients, but giving back to the legal profession. At the end of the day, try to improve it, be active in the local associations, and, as years go by, you can make a difference.”

His parting comment: “I think the law is a wonderful profession.”

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Jeans Day: Latham & Watkin’s San Diego office recently raised $1,200 through its Jeans Day fund-raiser to support those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Attorneys and staffers got to dress casually for a day in exchange for donations, which were handed over Sept. 22 to the USO Care Package Program.

The drive was spearheaded by attorney Paul Konopka, a third-year associate in the firm’s finance and real estate department.

Konopka is a major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve who recently returned from a nine-month deployment in Iraq, where he served as a civil affairs officer and had key roles in the initial combat and post-reconstruction efforts.

Contact Pat Broderick at pbroderick@sdbj.com or call her at (858) 277-6359, Ext. 3112.

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