Last chance for 9/11 justice

“Our courts have our faults, like every human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal.”

This was the final argument presented by Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s timeless book “To Kill a Mockingbird.” As the story goes, it didn’t work out that way. Racism was too entrenched in our society.

This frustration is manifest today in many courts, where the fate is left in the hands of a very few.

This has been the sad truth for the loved ones of 9/11 who lost so much on that fateful day only to be rejected by the American justice system. As the Herald wrote, Federal Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein years ago thwarted attempts to allow a public trial over what went so terribly wrong on Sept. 11, 2001.

This article discusses the last wrongful death lawsuit related to the September 11 attacks, settled out of court. It was September 2011.

The Bavis family of Boston said they had no choice but to end their decade-long fight after Hellerstein ruled the trial would be limited to three weeks and focus on federal regulations possibly violated – not on a more serious wrongful death case.

“Make no mistake,” Mike Bavis added at the time, “my family’s change of position rests heavily on Judge Hellerstein’s decision and manipulation of the law.”

Mark Bavis, a Boston hockey scout and Mike’s twin, was 31 when United Airlines Flight 175 was hijacked from Logan Airport. Others, with loved ones aboard the other three planes and on the ground, fought for trial and failed one by one.

Most survivors of the nearly 3,000 people killed that day received compensation from Congress’ 9/11 victims’ fund – a pool of money still available to those now suffering from cancer for working on the toxic walls of the World Trade Center.

But there remains one last opportunity for justice and it belongs, once again, to a federal judge.

Judge George Daniels of the Southern District of New York – the same court as Hellerstein’s – now holds the key to the suit against Saudi Arabia, as the Herald reported over the weekend.

The plaintiffs – 10,000 people from Boston and elsewhere – want to sue Saudi Arabia for allegedly helping the 9/11 hijackers.

The Saudi government’s latest appeal indicates that no government official “high-ranking or otherwise” gave any “instruction” to Omar Al Bayoumi or Fahad Al Thumairy to “help”… the Saudi hijackers. September 11th. Any contact, the Saudis add, was “motivated by innocent motives…to help his fellow Saudis” new to San Diego.

These “comrade Saudis” were Nawaf Al Hazmi and Khalid Al Mihdhar – the first 9/11 hijackers to settle in America after landing in Los Angeles, according to multiple reports. Bayoumi and Thumairy, both Saudi officials, are accused of helping them, according to court documents.

That’s the crux of this latest case – with this final showdown decades in the making and focused on the former al-Qaeda cell in Southern California, as the Herald reported.

If the judge allows the case to continue, the families of the 9/11 victims will be able to expand discovery. This means that al-Qaeda cells in Boston, Portland, Maine, Phoenix, Florida, and New Jersey may also be fully investigated.

This time, it is the court that must be the great leveler.

Editorial cartoon of Joe Heller (Joe Heller)
Editorial cartoon of Joe Heller (Joe Heller)