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Area soldiers get free legal services
News Staff Reporter
The Bar Association of Erie County has provided vital legal aid for 1,500 local residents serving in the armed forces.

With three members of the Bar Association serving in Iraq, a team of attorneys led by retired Brig. Gen. Richard S. Kwieciak and retired Capt. Glenn E. Murray are spearheading the effort. Erie County Clerk David J. Swarts also waived about $30,000 in filing fees on documents for the military personnel.

Because of their efforts, the Bar Association will be honored at the state Bar Association's 128th annual meeting in New York City Friday, with the presentation of the State Conference of Bar Leaders' Award of Merit.

Kwieciak, a Cheektowaga attorney and Army veteran of Vietnam, and Murray, a Buffalo lawyer who served as a paratrooper in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division and the National Guard, recruited veteran lawyers with military backgrounds for the volunteer effort.

They estimate that about 1,500 servicemen and women in the Army Reserve's 98th Division, based in Amherst, and the National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division, based in Buffalo, have been provided free legal services, including wills and powers of attorney.

Kwieciak said that last summer, officers of the 98th Division contacted the Bar Association seeking help.

Three Bar Association members serving in the Reserves - Robert C. Moscati, an assistant U.S. attorney; First Assistant Corporation Counsel David J. State and Drug Enforcement Administration attorney Edward Wisniewski - already were serving in Iraq.

Kwieciak and Murray said they soon had high-quality legal help from lawyers with similar military backgrounds, including Gordon Gannon Jr., Dennis Uminski, Steven Molik, John V. Millane and Roy Carlisi Jr.

"Those members of the Erie County Bar and Erie County Clerk Swarts . . . deserve the real credit," Murray said.

Murray also was credited with coordinating efforts to make sure all local residents deployed to Iraq were provided documents outlining their legal rights under both the federal Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and Veterans Re-employment Rights Act.