Attorney John Barry Beemer has won verdicts in Environmental and Insurance law that have had a national impact. Barry and his wife and law partner, Diane, started The law firm of Beemer & Beemer in 1984. Barry had 17 years experience as a trial lawyer and Diane had served as an Assistant Attorney General with the Bureau of Consumer Protection in The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.
The Beemers were contacted by hundreds of residents of the Borough of Throop to represent them because they had been exposed to lead contamination from a battery crushing plant owned and operated by Gould, Inc., a multinational corporation.
The Beemers realized that representing hundreds of affected people against a multinational corporate defendant required, not only the advocacy skills of trial lawyers, but also the management skill to assemble a trial team that had the personnel and monetary resources to level the playing field in what would otherwise be a David versus Goliath situation.
Judge Richard P. Conaboy of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ordered a bell weather trial where five representative families would present their cases. Diane Beemer was stricken ill and died two months before the first trial, depriving her from participating in what would have been the crowning achievement of a career devoted to environmental justice. After plaintiffs won verdicts in two trials, a global settlement was achieved.
The Scranton Tribune reported the litigation was “The largest piece of environmental litigation filed in the U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania” and that the case “was cited by other Federal Courts throughout the United States and undoubtedly will serve as a legal foundation for future environmental cases.”
In 2011, Barry was a member of the five lawyer trial team that won a global settlement for hundreds of people living in the Abington area who were victims of contamination from tenants of The Ivy Industrial Park the largest settlement of an environmental toxic tort case in the history of Northeast Pennsylvania, Ginader, et al. v. Sandvik Steel, et al. (Lackawanna County);
In 2014 Barry and Attorney Gerald WIlliams won the first award in Pennsylvania against a fracking company for contaminating a water supply as a result of the fracking process, Place v. Chesapeake Energy.
In 2015, Barry was a member of the six lawyer trial team that won a global settlement on behalf of several hundred individuals and businesses for damages from toxic contamination coming from the International Business Machine Company’s operations in Endicott, New York.
The case involved ground water which was contaminated with toxins which seeped into domestic drinking water. The underground pollution resulted in vapor intrusion allowing invisible toxic gases to penetrate residences.
As a result of these achievements, Barry was named a Pennsylvania Super-lawyer in Environmental Law by Philadelphia Magazine.
Attorney Beemer represented the husband and son of Anna Nigrelli, who were beneficiaries on her life insurance policy. Mrs. Nigrelli died and Metropolitan Insurance Company refused to pay the death benefit because she did not die within the one year limit set in her policy for coverage of an illness beyond retirement. Judge Richard P. Conaboy held that it was against public policy to make it advantageous to die quickly to comply with an insurance policy. He referred to this possibility as a “gruesome paradox.” Metropolitan appealed the ruling on the ground the precedent would have a major effect on the insurance industry nationwide. “This question is of great substance for many insurance policies throughout the nation that contain provisions identical or equivalent to the one before the Court,” the company argued.
Both the Superior Court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the ruling and The New York Times did a feature article on the case because of the national impact the ruling had on the insurance industry. In 1986, The Scranton Tribune reported that Attorney Beemer won the first jury verdict of over One Million Dollars in a personal injury case in Lackawanna County history.
In the criminal arena, a front page article in The New York Times captioned:
“Illegal Dumping of Toxins laid to Organized Crime” alleged the grounds of Mount Airy Lodge in the Poconos have turned into “a vast organized crime toxic waste burial ground.” Mount Airy hired Barry Beemer to defend it.
Mt. Airy was an iconic Pocono Resort concerned not only with the potential criminal charges but also with the devastating impact the publicity would have on its resort business.
After conducting an investigation, which satisfied him of the falsity of the allegations, Barry adopted strategy of aggressive cooperation with the criminal investigation and the media in order to minimize the impact on Mt. Airy’s resort business.
He challenged the authorities to dig “anywhere at anytime on the resort property.”
The expedited investigation concluded with the exoneration of Mt. Airy and minimized the adverse impact on Mt. Airy’s resort business.
Barry defended Anthony Bruno in one of the most controversial homicide cases in Lackawanna County history. The case illustrates how inaccurate media coverage can contribute to misinformation which fuels hysteria greatly prejudicing a defendant’s right to a fair trial. Bruno was involved in a confrontation with another man in Old Forge.
Bruno struck the man a blow to the head; the man fell to the pavement, striking his head and died after being in a coma for several weeks. Bruno fled the scene. He was arrested six months after the incident.
In an editorial in The Scranton Times entitled “Justice Was Served in Whah Case” the paper observed:
The case had been plagued by false rumors from the very start. Initial reports told of the victim being beaten with a tire iron, of having been set upon by a gang of youths, all of which proved false.
The lack of headway in the police investigation caused agitation which kept the rumor mill going to the point that fear was generated in the Borough.
The talk, although unfounded, spread throughout the region. When Bruno was arrested and charged emotions ran high. When a District Magistrate threw out all but one of the charges, his ruling aroused considerable public questioning and speculation.
Naturally the community, which had been primed on several inaccurate articles and telecasts, took the Magistrate over the coals in a television editorial that said in part:
‘We would suspect that public confidence in our system of criminal justice took a sickening plunge when a local Magistrate decided a fatal beating ranked alongside spitting on the sidewalk in terms of seriousness.
It was almost beyond belief that Magistrate Thomas Hart could dismiss clear evidence of conspiracy and obstruction of justice and reduce a death dealing punch to a charge of simple assault.’
District Attorney Ernest D. Preate, Jr. refused to accept the Hart decision and had Bruno rearrested and prosecuted the case before another District Magistrate who bound over all charges.
At the trial, the jury acquitted Bruno of all charges but simple assault, the same finding as that made by Magistrate Hart in the first preliminary hearing. The newspaper concluded: The case was thus concluded in a Court of law, free of the hysteria which surrounded it at the outset.
The disposition of the case was based on what evidence the prosecution was able to present in Court, not on emotion or opinion . . . Justice was served.
A columnist for The Scranton Times wrote: “An awful lot of lessons should have been learned this week as a result of the Joseph Whah case tried in Lackawanna County Court. The news media should have learned something about accurate reporting. All of us should have learned not to convict a person before he is tried in Court . . . I can’t help feeling the news media contributed to fostering and spreading many of the ill-founded rumors that prevented resolution of this case much earlier.”
Barry Beemer was born September 4, 1941 in Scranton, Pa., to Ellis T. and Rosemary Costello Beemer.
He attended St. Paul’s High School where Barry discovered and developed talents for debating and writing. He competed on the School Debating Team and won The Voice of Democrary Broadcast Script Writing Competition. He was awarded a college scholarship for winning The Knights of Columbus Essay Contest and, as a result, came to the attention of State Senator Hugh J. McMenamin, who sponsored the scholarship. McMenamin was one of the top trial lawyers in Northeastern Pennsylvania and when Barry entered the private practice of law in 1968, he joined the law firm in which McMenamin was a partner.
Barry graduated from the University of Scranton in 1963, where he was on the Debating Team and taught debating at The Jewish Community Center. In his senior year, he and several buddies went to a poliltical rally in Minooka because they knew at any political rally in Minooka there would be free beer. The main speaker at the rally was the Democratic Candidate for State Senator Robert P. Casey. Barry was so impressed by Casey that he asked Casey to be his preceptor. At that time, Pennsylvania required law students to have a preceptor, a lawyer who would give the student guidance and work with the student for three months after graduation on the practicalities of law practice. Casey agreed.
At Bob Casey’s suggestion, Barry attended Casey’s law school - The George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. There he met a fellow law student, Diane Fletcher, and they married after concluding their first year of law school. In law school, Barry was on the school Moot Court Team that competed in The National Moot Court Competition and was the Student Bar Association representative to The American Law Students Association. He clerked at the Washington law firm of Ross, Marsh & Foster. There he was given the opportunity to help prepare an argument before the United States Supreme Court and sit at counsel table during the argument. After graduating from law school in 1966, and serving his three month apprenticeship with then State Senator Casey, he was admitted to the Bar on Casey’s Motion that same year.
He returned to Washington where his wife was finishing her legal studies and clerked at The United States Court of Claims. In 1967, he and his wife, who had graduated law school that year, moved to Scranton where Barry was Law Clerk to United States District Judge William J. Nealon.
In 1968, Barry joined the law firm of Warren, Hill, Henkelman & McMenamin. The firm had an extensive trial practice and under the guidance of Hugh J. McMenamin and Walter L. Hill, Jr., two outstanding trial lawyers, Barry learned how to become a trial lawyer. The trial work of the firm consisted of defending insurance companies, railroads and corporations.
While this was excellent training in the art of advocacy, Barry decided he wanted to represent plaintiffs and, therefore, in 1972, at the age of thirty, Barry was a founding partner in the Scranton law firm Beemer, Brier, Rinaldi & Fendrick. In 1977, he became the President of the successor firm Beemer, Rinaldi, Fendrick & Mellody, P.C. These firms were plaintiff oriented.
In 1984, Barry and his wife formed the law firm Beemer and Beemer and practiced law together until Diane’s death in 1999. In 2010, Barry was joined in law practice by his son, Bruce, who had spent fourteen years in the Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) District Attorney’s Office.
In 2011, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly named Bruce her Chief of Staff and he took a leave of absence from the firm.
Subsequently, Bruce headed the Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s Office and then became First Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania. Governor Wolfe appointed Bruce Pennsylvania’s Inspector General on July 5, 2016. Governor Wolfe stated: Bruce Beemer has earned a reputation across the Commonwealth as a tough Prosecutor, effective Administrator and thoughtful legal mind.
Wolfe said: Beemer will further the mission of the Office of Inspector General to fight waste, fraud and abuse across state government. Governor Wolfe nominated Bruce to be Attorney General of Pennsylvania and the State Senate confirmed him unanimously on August 30th of this year.
Attorney Beemer is Board Certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by The National Board of Trial Advoacy. He is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, as well as all other Pennsylvania Courts.
Attorney Beemer served on the Board of Directors of the Lackawanna Bar Association and was Chairman of the Association’s Civil Rules Committee for three years.
He taught law as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Scranton and lectured lawyers on evidence and environmental law topics. He is a member of the American, Pennsylvania and Lackawanna Bar Associations.
In the community, Attorney Beemer chaired the Committee which drafted the Constitution and Bylaws of The Lackawanna United Fund; chaired the Professional Group Division of The Cancer Drive; coached several years in The Abington Little League and officiated and coached in The Abington Basketball League. He was Annual Fund Co-Chairman for the University of Scranton National Fund Raising Effort in 1972.
He was married to Attorney Diane F. Beemer for thirty-five years until her death in 1999. He is the father of two sons, David and Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Bruce, and grandfather to two grandsons, Brett and Jackson, and two granddaughters, Brooke and Jordan.