Commitment to the Community…beyond the Courtroom
Members of the firm participate in various legal-oriented programs such as the American Inns of Court, Law Week, the Lawyers Club, Consumer Attorneys of San Diego, Friends of Legal Aid, Volunteers in Parole, the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, and other non-profits that benefit both the public and the profession.
The pro-bono legal project that has touched us most on a personal level is our staff’s work on behalf the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.
Our involvement began when partner Kevin Quinn, who was in New York on a case, personally witnessed the destruction of the Twin Towers. Later that day partner Mickey McGuire learned that his nephew, New York City fire-fighter Richie Allen, had been killed. Richie died, when ignoring orders to evacuate, he stayed behind to lead as many people to safety as he could in the remaining minutes before the tower collapsed. Richie’s uncle, Bobby McGuire (Mickey’s brother and also a New York Firefighter), suffered job-ending disabilities while participating in search and rescue operations. Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire was among the first law firms in the nation to volunteer as pro-bono representatives for the 9/11 victims before the Special Master. Elite firms across the nation have all agreed to represent the victims on a pro-bono basis, absorbing all the costs of doing so. 100% of the funds awarded go to the victims’ heirs. Partner Kevin Quinn obtained $5,640,000.00 for the family of David Berray. Partner Vincent Bartolotta negotiated $3,440,000.00 for the family of Joseph Amatuccio. Associate Jill Cleary obtained $3,265,000.00 for her clients.
Mickey McGuire eventually obtained $1,450,000.00 for the family of his nephew Richie Allen. Richie’s family later donated a portion of the funds to Richie’s high school and college to be used for scholarships for disadvantaged students.
Outside of the office our staff and lawyers find time to participate in projects that involve their hearts more than their legal skills. Organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Big Brothers of San Diego, St. Vincent de Paul Village, the Children at Risk Committee are some of the more than 36 social charities that we have supported financially and as volunteers.
There are two past projects that arose from our work in the courtroom that we are especially proud of — projects that allowed us to open our hearts and use our time and energy to make the future a bit brighter for some very unfortunate people.
At first glimpse, there seems to be very little in common between a children’s clinic in Rosarito Beach, Mexico and a program at Mercy Hospital in San Diego that performs free surgery on victims of cleft palates and orthopedic deformities. Yet both projects share a common bond in that they are underwritten by the attorneys and staff at Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire.
Through payroll deductions, matched by the law partners in the firm, the secretaries, paralegals, clerks and other staff members of the firm generate enough contributions to keep the Clinica del Niños in Rosarito open for business year-round. Children of impoverished families are treated for minor ailments at the clinic and referred to hospitals for more serious problems. Additionally, 300-400 children who live in the neighborhood near the clinic are invited each Christmas to a holiday party where they typically receive two presents: an article of clothing and a toy. The day of the party every available member of the firm attends to hand out presents. Involvement in the Clinica del Niños had its origin in the courtroom when Kevin Quinn won a large award in court for a Mexican client that far exceeded the client’s expectations or needs.
Our client asked us to find a good use for some of his unexpected fortune — an assignment that led Vincent J. Bartolotta, Jr. and other members of our firm to participate in the reconstruction of an orphanage in Primo Tapia near Tijuana, Mexico, close to the border with San Diego.
Once the Primo Tapia project was completed we received an invitation from the La Gloria orphanage to help perform similar repairs. As construction continued we began to hold a Christmas party for the needy in the area — including taking presents to the town dump and distributing them to the poor children picking through the trash. During one of our Christmas parties at the orphanage we heard about a clinic next door that needed help. Some of the partners made an inspection of the facility and it was decided on the spot that we would work to keep the clinic’s doors open.
Over the years, as word of our efforts got out, we became aware of the Mercy Outreach Surgical Team (MOST). MOST is a medical out-reach project through which doctors volunteer their free time to travel to cities and country villages throughout Mexico, seeking out and treating victims of cleft palates, burns and deformities.
Some of the victims being treated were children who earlier had been screened by Clinica del Niños. Because of the lack of facilities, and their grave deformities, they needed to go to San Diego for surgery. Even with Mercy Hospital donating a suite of operating rooms, and doctors and nurses donating their skills, the program had many other expenses.
For the program to be successful, someone needed to transport as many as 70 patients at a time across the border, and feed and shelter them before and after the surgeries. We saw an opportunity to support this project financially, and to become personally involved by taking on the task of providing a coordinating hand with the overall effort.
With our goal firmly in mind, we stepped in and made a commitment to help. We had forged a bond with the Marines at Camp Pendleton who had provided some of the labor and logistics to build the orphanage in Mexico. A close friend and ally was then Lt. Colonel Dallas Elliott who was in charge of a supply battalion at the Marine Base. We knew that it would take more than just money to make this program work. We needed more manpower than our firm could provide to run a recovery room for 5 days, and to care for up to 70 patients and sometimes an equal number of family members who traveled with them.
Lt. Colonel Elliott found volunteers among the Marines and Navy Hospital personnel who would donate their time and skill to what was rapidly becoming an international program of understanding and goodwill. St. John’s Roman Catholic Church donated its parish hall for use as a recovery ward and the Marines found the cots and supplies to run it. In a massive logistical effort which needs months of advance planning, the partners and staff of Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire volunteer to transport the patients, assist with their care in the hospital recovery room, cook their meals and entertain the children during the post-surgery recovery. In 2001 it became too difficult to bring the children to San Diego. The program continues on the Mexican side of the border.
In a recent interview one partner summed up our reasons for supporting projects like the Clinica del Niños and the MOST surgery: “A youngster in Mexico with a cleft palate or a cleft lip is often times considered ‘possessed’ and as a result doesn’t have the same chances that another child might,” he said. “So we are affecting their lives by taking away that malady…We had a situation one year of an 18-year-old man who had been sort of a pariah in Mexico most of his life. We were able to repair his cleft palate and cleft lip without removing his mustache.
“When he woke up, we were all standing around in the recovery room. When he came out of the fog of anesthesia, we put a mirror down to him to let him look at himself. We saw the haze from his eyes go away. He looked at the mirror and was watching himself and then he realized that it was his face in the mirror.
“This young man was literally movie-star handsome, and when he saw this, there were just giant tears coming out of his eyes. Everyone around the bed — myself, the doctor, some nurses and a few paralegals from our office — we were all crying.” Today our firm remains engaged in the cutting edge of the practice of law, but our roots will always be in the community we serve. We invite you to read more about us and should the time come, allow us to serve you and help solve your legal problems.