Given the tensions and misunderstandings that exist between Muslims and Americans, Bernstein was very concerned that his client's civil rights might be violated and he might not get a fair shake before a jury—particularly in the state of New York, where the controversy is raging over a proposed Mosque near the Ground Zero site in Manhattan.
What might have seemed like a straight-forward personal injury trial could get dragged into the weeds, thought Bernstein, by the fact that his client, Amro Elnakib, is a Muslim.
On a weekend morning in 2003, Elnakib was driving to the local mosque in Bay Shore, New York. "As he is driving through the intersection he saw, in a fraction of a second, a car to his left. It was flying through the stop sign."
A pair of Suffolk County police officers in a patrol car bashed into Elnakib's vehicle, leaving him with serious injuries.
On the morning of the trial, dozens of potential jurors at the courthouse sat waiting to be called. And as they waited, a TV in the room broadcast news and views about the controversial Mosque proposed for New York City near Ground Zero.
Bernstein was already concerned. Now he was alarmed. Could his client be treated fairly in this atmosphere?
"Because of the sensitive issues, we did something we do not ordinarily do," says Bernstein. "This process is usually reserved for medical malpractice cases."
"We took jurors into a screening room about 40 people at a time," says Bernstein from the Mineola firm of Sanders, Sanders, Block, Woycik, Viener & Grossman.
"We stood up and told everyone here's why we are here," says Bernstein. "This is a car accident case. It involves the Suffolk County police department and it involves a Muslim man who was on his way to a mosque when this collision happened."
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"The standard here is reckless conduct," says Bernstein."They had to find not just negligence, but that the police vehicle was travelling recklessly through this intersection."
The results renewed Bernstein's strong belief in the American system of justice.
"Ultimately that's what they did, they found the police vehicle was travelling recklessly and found 100 percent against the Suffolk County police department in favor of my client."
Mark Bernstein is a senior trial attorney with Sanders, Sanders, Block, Woycik, Viener & Grossman. Bernstein has won a number of six-figure verdicts on behalf of clients. He is an adjunct professor of the Hofstra University School of Trial Law Techniques program.