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A Lorenzo and Elia Mendoza PART II: CULTURAL DIFFERENCES Scene One: Interior, El Paso County Court of Law. Six and a half years later. It is late March, 1997, and Mendoza v. Contico is about to open in the El Paso County Court of Law No. 3. Lorena’s mother and fan .-;r, Elia and Lorenzo Mendoza, huddle at the plaintiff’s table with, a translator. Both are shrunken, grayhaired, and dressed in the \( ;.an but dated clothes of the elderly Mexican poor. They look spent, and for good reason. Shortly after Lorena’s death in 1990, the Mendozas went looking for a U.S. lawyer to sue Contico. They searched throughout El Paso and the rest of the country but could not find anyone willing to take the case. It’s hopeless, they were told over and over; U.S. law doesn’t apply, and even if that were to change, it’s impossible to subpoena witnesses from Mexico. Your case could never be proved. The Mendozas look bent and meek, but in reality they are ferociously single-minded. For two years they persisted in their search, and finally found El Paso personal injury lawyers Jim Scherr and Sam Legate. Scherr is a bantam-sized man with longish hair and wire-rim glasses. His family has been on the border ever since his Jewish grandfather immigrated to the Rio Grande to farm cotton Billy Calzado and run a store. Scherr is also ferociously single-minded. At age twenty-four he ran for El Paso City Council and ended up serving three terms. At age twenty-two he was the youngest lawyer in Texas. Before that, he was a self-described high-school hellraiser, particularly when he helped organize legal challenges to rules against long hair. Scherr’s partner Legate hails from Presidio, where he was a sometime lawyer, sometime school teacher, and sometime dropout who left everything behind to hang out in Guatemala and study Spanish. When they met the Mendozas in 1992 and heard what had happened to their daughter, Scheer and Legate were infuriated at what they call the maquiladora industry’s double standard for American and Mexican workers. They vowed to explore international tort law and figure out a way to take Contico to court. They recruited international law expert Russell Weintraub, of the University of Texas, to testify in 1994 that U.S. law should apply in the Mendoza case, and in that of Alfonso Jurado, the dead security guard \(the who heard the arguments agreed. But three more years went by as Contico’s lawyers bargained with Jurado’s wifewho had small JUNE 6, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13