Louisiana legal system devastated by Hurricane Katrina

Louisiana legal system devastated by Hurricane Katrina

[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. Speaking Tuesday, Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti said that a temporary courthouse and detention facility [FT report] would be set up outside New Orleans to enforce law and order against looters. 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 [US Courts 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, perhaps Baton Rouge or Shreveport. The federal Speedy Trial Act of 1974 [US DOJ Criminal Resource Manual summary] currently does not allow district courts to operate outside of their set geographic area, despite recent judicial efforts to have the rules modified in emergencies [PDF proposal]. AP has more. Among the major federal cases being disrupted by Hurricane Katrina are the numerous Vioxx lawsuits [JURIST news archive] filed in federal courts across the country that were being consolidated in New Orleans [JURIST report] by Judge Eldon E. Fallon.

11:15 PM – The Association of American Law Schools has posted a list of law schools across the US ready to accept Tulane and Loyola-New Orleans law students and their relevant admissions policies.

Are you a Louisiana lawyer, judge, or law student affected by Hurricane Katrina? Tell us your story. E-mail JURIST@law.pitt.edu

  • I'm a New Orleans area attorney presently in Dallas with relatives, waiting for the time when I can go back.

    The statement that New Orleans lawyers have lost all of their files is utterly idiotic. As far as I can tell, that absurd remark and a lot of other hysterical drivel started with some Southern University law professor's email, and is irresponsibly being spread like wildfire. As far as I know, I haven't lost ANY of my files, and as soon as electricity is restored I'm going to be able to access everything in my office by a remote internet connection. My paper files are safe and I have redundant backup, with one copy of my entire server going home daily with my paralegal for offsite storage. Do your homework, please, instead of being an accessory after the fact to first-degree misinformation.

    Bill Cherbonnier

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