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The terrorist attacks in New York and the Pentagon shut down federal and state courts throughout the nation, stranded lawyers in towns far from their home offices and destroyed untold thousands of documents at law firms, businesses and government agencies. The attacks quickly prompted improvements in security at some courts. They caused delays in hearings, depositions and filings everywhere, and were expected to lead to a significant number of lawsuits by the injured and the families of the dead. By the end of the week, all courts except those in lower Manhattan appeared to be back in business. HARDEST HIT Two of the hardest hit agencies were the New York offices of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Both were housed in 7 World Trade Center — the third building to fall on Sept. 11. Each agency lost a significant number of documents when the building collapsed. But observers predicted that the disruption will be temporary, if severe in the short term. “The SEC will have some difficulty, but the bounce-back will come relatively easily,” predicts Harvey Goldschmid, Dwight professor of law at Columbia University and former general counsel of the SEC. “It will throw things off for a period of time, but most of what’s important can be regained.” The immediate reaction by courts nationwide was to evacuate personnel and shut operations down. In Washington, shortly after the Pentagon was hit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia cancelled all arguments and told attorneys to leave the building. In Atlanta state court, as the plaintiffs’ attorney finished the opening statement in a medical malpractice action, the judge declared a mistrial and closed the courtroom, said Judson Graves of Atlanta’s Alston & Bird. In West Virginia, a tobacco class action against R.J. Reynolds was being tried as the towers collapsed. “The judge sent everybody home,” said Robert Weber of the Cleveland office of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. In Cincinnati, as news of the attacks spread, the federal courthouse was closed and the streets around the court building were flanked by police cruisers, said James Helmer of that city’s Helmer, Martins & Morgan. ‘WE WILL NOT BE COWED’ Not every court, however, followed suit. In New Haven, Conn., reports Fred Bartlit of Chicago’s Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott, U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton refused to close her courthouse and kept in session a lender liability trial in which Bartlit Beck is representing General Motors Corp. “She told the jury and everybody, that ‘We will not be cowed by terrorists. This trial is going ahead,’ ” Bartlit said. And everywhere the cessation was brief. In Columbus, the courts were back in session by Wednesday, the day after the attacks, said Peter Hahn of Akron, Ohio’s Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs. “Everything’s back now,” he said. “There were no hitches here.” In Washington state, local courts opened Wednesday and the federal courts resumed Thursday, said Steven Berman of Seattle’s Hagens Berman. The court closings and travel problems have led to postponements of numerous hearings, deadlines and trials. “This week, nothing is happening,” said Joseph Harkins of the Washington, D.C., office of Littler Mendelson. “Court dates are being adjourned. Deadlines are being postponed.” Because of the cessation of flights, said Hahn, “We couldn’t get expert witnesses to the courts. A couple of our attorneys had hearings cancelled.” The cessation of airline travel has had a particular effect on complex litigation, says Michael Hausfeld of Washington’s Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll. “In complex litigation, people are flying in from everywhere. In a couple of cases, we had to cancel hearings, because not all the counsel could come in.” Martin London of New York’s Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison noted that he was scheduled for an oral argument on Sept. 16 but had to postpone it. “The building is not only unavailable, but the lawyer in California can’t get in. There’s no Fed Ex,” so documents can’t be transported and shared. STRANDED LAWYERS Lawyers reported being stranded far away from home. Houston’s Rusty Hardin said that he was in Las Vegas for a continuing legal education session on nursing home litigation when the World Trade Center was hit and air travel was stopped. Two of his partners decided to drive to Houston from Las Vegas; Hardin decided to wait until the Federal Aviation Administration allowed flights again. “I naively thought I’d get back home before them.” They were in Houston 25 hours later; Hardin was still in Las Vegas. Not just courts, but law firms were also shut down in New York, D.C. and elsewhere. Florida’s Greenberg Traurig, for instance, closed its offices Tuesday in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago and Tysons Corner, Va. The Washington, D.C., office of Littler Mendelson was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday; it reopened on Thursday, said partner Joseph Harkins. “Things are going back to normal.” Everywhere but New York, attorneys reported a return to normal activities by Thursday at the latest. And most felt that resuming usual litigation activities sounded a note of defiance to the terrorists. “We won’t let these folks change our way of life,” said Michael Ciresi of Minneapolis’ Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. A sense of nervousness persisted. In Cleveland, Robert Weber said, all the courts “stepped up security. There were a lot more police, a lot more identification checks. There were bans on parking anywhere near public buildings. If you stopped for a second, your car was getting towed.” In Florida, law enforcement personnel were highly visible around the Broward County Courthouse. Courthouse metal detectors were staffed by twice the usual number of personnel, screening those entering the building. Broward deputies ordered a hot dog vendor to move his cart elsewhere. From his office on the 53d floor of Florida’s tallest building, the First Union Financial Center in downtown Miami, Angel Castillo Jr., of counsel at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, said, “I do have my window blinds open, in case I see any planes that are flying too low.” DOCUMENT LOSSES An immediate problem was the loss of documents, particularly those of government agencies. The documents lost by the collapse of 7 World Trade Center are expected to mean months of extra work by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to replicate or retrieve lost notes, depositions and interviews from ongoing investigations and prosecutions. The SEC did not quantify the number of active cases in which substantial files were destroyed. Reuters news service and the Los Angeles Times published reports estimating them at 300 to 400. The EEOC said documents from about 45 active cases were missing and could not be easily retrieved from any backup system. One of these cases was a sexual harassment charge filed on Sept. 10 against Morgan Stanley, one of the prime corporate victims of the World Trade Center disaster. A statement from the SEC said that “we are confident that we will not lose any significant investigation or case as a result of the loss of our building in New York. No one whom we have sued or whose conduct we have been investigating should doubt our resolve to continue our pursuit of justice in every such matters.” But the short-term problems will be immense, said Gregory Joseph of New York’s Law Offices of Gregory Joseph. “Court papers can largely be reconstituted, but work product has to be reconstructed,” he said. “This will cause delays in court and will require significant reduplication of effort.” Some data, he added, “won’t be recreatable.” “Ongoing investigations at the New York SEC will be dramatically affected because so much of their work is paper-intensive,” said Max Berger of New York’s Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann. “This is a disaster for these cases.” But the disaster will not be permanent, Goldschmid said. “They will have to reconstruct these documents. But most of this was backed up or in Washington. They’ve lost some transcripts but even they’re available.” EEOC RECORDS DESTROYED The EEOC’s New York office, which was housed in 7 World Trade Center, sustained no loss of life. But all the agency’s records were destroyed. Many of the files are backed up in the computer system, but a substantial number of documents are simply gone, said Spencer Lewis, the EEOC district director. Depositions and notes were not scanned into computers and are lost. With depositions and interviews, the agency will be contacting court reporters “and hoping that they’ve got them so we can reconstruct files,” Lewis said. This covers about 45 active cases, including a recent action against Morgan Stanley. But employment litigators believe the effect here, too, will be transitory. “The EEOC is decimated as far as office space goes,” but any problems are “only short-term,” said Michael Weber of the New York office of Littler Mendelson. “They will get back to business.” The agencies will be seeking documents from the private law firms and defendants, Weber notes. “My sense is that we will cooperate,” he noted. “Our goal is not to take advantage of this catastrophe.” “A lot of their records they’ll have online, so they’ll just reprint them out,” adds Harkins. “The EEOC is in a better position than the SEC, because the SEC has a lot more confidential files.”

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