The New York State Trial Lawyers Association
History and Introduction
Almost 50 years ago, 20 trial lawyers, who were concerned that New York had no forum for plaintiffs’ lawyers, joined together to form a bar association. This group, which included many of the legends in the field, began to gather in each other’s homes to discuss the needs for the organization and what it might do.
In 1953, they formed the New York Association of Plaintiff’s Trial Lawyers, and in the early 1960’s, the group opened a one-room office and hired a single staff member. Since then, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association has become a 4,600-member trade association.
NYSTLA is a crucially important voice for the voiceless. The mission of the New York State Trial Lawyers is “To promote a safer and healthier society, to assure access to the civil justice system by those who are wrongfully injured and to advance representation of the public by ethical, well-trained lawyers.”
NYSTLA’s work to preserve and enhance New York’s civil justice system has been essential during the last 20 years that have seen an explosion in legislative initiatives in Albany posing a threat to this system by limiting the rights of injured consumers. These threats now exist at the federal level and in New York City as well.
NYSTLA works with coalition partners on numerous issues to protect the rights of consumers: health advocates, tenants’ groups, senior citizens groups, anti-gun violence groups, and many other public interest organizations. NYSTLA also works directly with victims of wrong-doing to help them understand their rights and how they might be articulated. Through www.nystla.org, our web site, attorneys and clients can write directly to their representatives in Congress, in Albany and in New York City to express their views on the pressing civil justice issues of the day.
NYSTLA’s business is to assure that the wrongfully injured will have full access to the civil justice system. The organization is thus dedicated to the preservation of the federal and state constitution rights to trial by jury. We fight to see that injured people are not barred from the civil justice system; that wrongdoers are not immunized from liability; that juries are free to determine the proper amount of compensation without arbitrary legislative interference; that obstacles are not placed in the way of litigating all meritorious actions. NYSTLA also supports proposals to increase available insurance. When needed, NYSTLA works at the federal level to assure that our clients’ rights are not limited by Congress. Furthermore, NYSTLA does not hesitate to use the courts to advocate on behalf of consumers.
Of course, when they seek civil justice, it is imperative that injured consumers have access to a well-trained trial attorneys. For this reason, NYSTLA has excellent trial lawyer continuing legal education programs in New York State through its New York State Trial Lawyers Institute. A number of unique programs are offered throughout the state on an ongoing basis featuring the strongest and most illustrious trial lawyers in New York.
In 1981, NYSTLA established the Big Apple Pothole and Sidewalk Protection Committee to give required written notice to the City so that an injured person can bring a civil action when the City is negligent in maintaining sidewalks and fixing potholes. Big Apple hires a professional mapping company to survey all City sidewalks and curbs annually. Trained observers map defects, and Big Apple provides this information to the City and to attorneys on behalf of injured individuals. Currently the City is trying to make the notice requirement so burdensome that it will be impossible to hold the City accountable for its negligence. NYSTLA has made it clear that the city must focus on fixing the problem, not on depriving people of their rights.
In September 2001, NYSTLA, along with the American Trial Lawyers Association, founded Trial Lawyers Care to provide attorneys at no charge to represent the victims of the devastating attacks on America on September 11 before the Victims Compensation Fund. NYSTLA is proud to be part of the largest pro bono effort in history and so far has recruited over 600 trial attorneys to participate.
NYSTLA’s membership and constituency continue to grow. NYSTLA communicates with its members regularly through the President’s weekly message in the President’s Post, its web site, www.nystla.org, NYSTLA’s Listserve and regular Action Alerts. Other distinguished publications, such as Trial Lawyers Quarterly and the Bill of Particulars, keep our membership up to date. We are working directly with growing portions of the trial bar through NYSTLA’s Younger Lawyers Network and through the Women’s Caucus.
NYSTLA will continue for many years to come to be the voice for the voiceless in New York State, seeing to it that it is wrongs that are reduced, not rights.