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Thursday, September 01, 2005

The unseen costs of Katrina

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Louisiana legal system devastated by Hurricane Katrina
Jamie Cortazzo at 11:36 AM ET

[JURIST] Among many other things, Hurricane Katrina has devastated the legal system [AP report] in New Orleans, causing major disruption of legal services across the state of Louisiana and beyond. The storm has interrupted business in local courts [US District Court bulletin], including the state Supreme Court, although the extent of damage to its building on Royal St. in the French Quarter is unclear. Also ravaged by the storm, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is currently making plans to relocate [Texas Lawyer report] to a city close to New Orleans so business can continue. Its website contains instructions [PDF text] for attorneys and litigants to follow during the emergency.

New Orleans lawyers - approximately one-third of all the lawyers in Louisiana - have lost all their files and are unable to access their offices. The American Bar Association [group website] has offered the help of the ABA Young Lawyers Division and lawyers from several other ABA sections to assist Katrina victims [ABA press release] with insurance claims, home repair contracts, wills, and similar issues. Additionally, the Louisiana Committee of Bar Admissions is flooded and it is possible that the July state bar exams, scheduled to be reviewed in two weeks, have been destroyed.

In other law-related news, the two law schools in New Orleans have been severely disrupted and are struggling to maintain contact between students and faculty at what was to have been the start of their fall terms. Tulane Law School has set up a temporary emergency website under the auspices of Atlanta's Emory Law School to share information over the upcoming weeks. Read an official announcement from Dean Larry Ponoroff. Ponoroff has already authorized other US law school deans to accept any Tulane 3Ls who contact them as transient students for the semester. A post-hurricane blog has been established for the Loyola-New Orleans Law School community.

12:49 PM ET - A spokesman for the federal judiciary [official website] said Thursday that Congress must pass emergency legislation next week to allow federal courts based in New Orleans to move to a different location. Current law does not allow district courts to operate outside of their geographic area. AP has more.