Back in 2010 for New Jersey Super Lawyers we spoke with plaintiff’s attorney Paul D’Amato of D’Amato Law Firm about lessons learned from handling more than 30,000 personal injury cases in his career. He had some fascinating insights, which you can read here.
Also fascinating were his comments about politics — why he threw his hat into the ring and why he snatched it back, and how that experience informed his decision to practice the law that he does. Below is a previouly unpublished excerpt from that interview.
My wife had been involved with the PTA of the grammar schools here in Lynwood and there were some frustration in the community as to whether the then-city government was really paying as much attention to what was needed for the young children in our schools, and I was looking for somebody that I could support to run for mayor because I thought it was time for a change. At that point I was a Republican and I went to the Democrats and said, Listen, if you have somebody who is going to run I will support her or him. But they didn’t have anybody. So then we couldn’t find a Republican to run. I finally decided that I was going to run but I went to the Democrats and said, Listen, I’m not doing this because I want a political career, I’m doing this because I think it’s time for a change. If I’m going to run you can’t put anybody up because I don’t want to fight over this. If you have someone that’s going to run, then I’ll support her or him. But they didn’t have anybody so I ran unopposed. I won and did that for two years, and that was probably the best time of my political career because you’re at the grassroots level, you’re in touch with every aspect of local government. It’s a lot more complex than the average person thinks, and politics did not dominate the decisions that were being made by all the elected officials. It wasn’t politics at all. But then I was asked to run for the state assembly and won and served for two years and that experience was on one hand exhilarating but also extremely disappointing. I was a moderate Republican and I was on various committees and when a fellow Republican could not make his or her hearing for a particular committee I would offer to substitute for them, and I attended these hearings with the goal to helping improve the quality of the legislation that was about to be voted upon, but then I was criticized by my fellow Republicans for helping the Democrats. There was a medical malpractice bill that I had worked on diligently with the Democrats, who were in the majority, the purpose of which was to help lower the insurance premiums for the physicians, and I was criticized by the Republican leadership because I was making the Democrats look good. I was told, quote, “Your job is not to make the Democrats look good, your job is to make them look bad.” And with that I decided that politics wasn’t meant for me, and I was reborn as a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney. I saw that that’s where I could best affect change in people’s lives.