New York: Several September 11 victims`
relatives who hope to get a New York City-maintained list of
next of kin for those killed in the attacks took their case
before a judge on Thursday.
The family members oppose a plan to put about 9,000
unidentified pieces of victims` remains underground in the
National September 11 Memorial & Museum. They want the list
compiled so families can be polled about the issue.
Family members were consulted and OK`d the arrangement,
city and memorial officials and some other victims` relatives
have said. And releasing the list would violate families`
privacy, the city has said.
The relatives also say they were never consulted about
the city`s plan to place the remains underground. The city and
memorial foundation have said they conducted an extensive
effort to include families in planning, and the plan for the
remains has been known for years.
"The argument that this is known is incorrect. If it was
well-known, we wouldn`t be here today," the families` lawyer,
Norman Siegel, said as about a half-dozen of the relatives who
are suing watched from the courtroom audience, some wearing
photographs and pins with their loved ones` names and images.
"And that`s the underlying issue here: Who decides where
the remains will go? Does the government decide, or do the
families decide," or what obligations does the government have
to consult them, he asked.
The lawsuit proposes releasing the list only to a retired
judge, who would send out a letter on the plaintiffs` behalf.
The city argued that under public-records law, the list would
have to be released publicly if it were released at all, and
that would invade victims` families` privacy and subject them
to a deluge of unwanted solicitations and communications.
"There` a great privacy interest in names, home addresses
of 9/11 victims` families," Thaddeus Hackworth, a city lawyer,
told the judge. The fact that the relatives were caught up in
the terror attacks "should not also mean that these
individuals have given up all rights to privacy," he said.