President's Message
by Alan S. Pierce, Esq.

WHO AM I?

WHY AM I HERE?

-         ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE, 1992 VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

Knowing that one of my first duties as President of MATA was to compose a President’s Message, I envisioned utilizing an appropriate legal quotation from the likes of Blackstone, Holmes or Brandeis. 

Admiral Stockdale, a mere footnote in the recent political history, was among the least likely of candidates to whom I would turn.

The questions he posed in a self-deprecating way several years ago, are ones that I perhaps ought to address at the outset of my term.

As an attorney whose practice and career has focused primarily on all aspects of Workers’ Compensation law, I am both honored and humbled to be elected to lead this group of talented civil trial lawyers.  Workers’ compensation practitioners are a small but active minority in our organization and I am proud to be among them.

All of which begs the question - Why AM I here?  One need only to look at how MATA and our parent organization, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, came into being.

In 1946, a small, committed and visionary group of workers’ compensation lawyers founded the National Association of Compensation Claimants’ Attorneys, otherwise known as NACCA.  These lawyers were devoted to representing victims of industrial accidents and their families.  Benefit levels were low, the influence of employers and insurers was strong, and most workers had been unrepresented and denied their benefits.  In Massachusetts, dedicated lawyers such as Samuel Horovitz, Laurence Locke and even Dean Roscoe Pound of HarvardLawSchoolhelped form, nurture and develop NACCA here and nationally.

NACCA’s formation is described in vivid detail in David vs. Goliath; ATLA and the Fight for Everyday Justice by Richard S. Jacobson and Jeffrey R. White, published by ATLA in 2004.

Jacobson and White set the scene in post-war America.  In late 1944, law professor Samuel Horovitz had just published Horovitz on Workmen’s Compensation and shined an “unwelcome spotlight” on the thousands of injuries and deaths in workplace accidents while the insurance industry, aided and abetted by legislators and industrial accident board Commissioners, denied claims and resisted the raising of benefits.

Ben Marcus of Detroit, Michigan, counsel for the United Auto Worker’s union, read Horovitz’s book and was inspired to meet Sam.  The vision of an organization of compensation attorneys began to take shape.

At the same time, an informal workers’ lawyers group had formed in Oregon and by coincidence, the 1946 annual IAIABC (International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions) convention was scheduled for Portland. 

Horovitz took a train cross country to Oregon and with eight other like minded workers’ attorneys, on August 16, 1946 at the Heathman Hotel, founded the National Association of Compensation Claimants’ Attorneys.

Horovitz with his law partner, Bert Petkun and their new associate Laurence Locke, started the NACCA Law Journal and they and others molded NACCA into an effective national organization.

In short order, admiralty and railroad liability lawyers joined and further expanded the scope and breadth of NACCA.

In 1948, Melvin Belli, the famed civil tort attorney from San Franciscocalled Horovitz and told him “My name is Melvin Belli, I want to join your organization.” 

At that time, there were approximately 300 members of NACCA, by 1956 with the influx of tort lawyers, its membership grew to 8,300.

In 1964 NACCA became the American Trial Lawyers Association, later changing its name to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.  ALTA’s headquarters were located in Cambridgeand had become a formidable, broad based, international coalition of lawyers, law professors, paralegals and law students committed to the promotion of justice and fairness, to the safeguard of victim’s rights, and to the strengthening of the civil justice system through education and disclosure of information critical to public safety.

Although Sam Horovitz died in 1985 (at the age of 87), I had the opportunity to have settled cases with him in my claims adjuster days and to have been inspired by him in law school.  A first edition of his book is among my most prized possessions.  I similarly had the opportunity to try cases against Larry Locke and his passionate advocacy knew no bounds.  His treatise Volume 29 of the Mass. Practice series remains the most utilized book in our library.  Still vital at 86, Larry is perhaps our last link to those whose commitment to protecting injured persons’ rights and to civil justice gave birth to MATA.  It is to champions like Sam, Larry and the others that I dedicate my year as President.  Because of them, I am who I am and they are why I am here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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