Wisconsin Lawyer: Inside the Bar:

State Bar of Wisconsin

Sign In

Top Link Bar

    WisBar.org may be unavailable July 23 from 5:30PM until 10:00PM for system maintenance.

    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer

News & Pubs Search

Advanced

    Inside the Bar

    Hurricane Katrina caused widespread devastation along the Louisiana gulf coast. Then came Hurricane Rita, bearing down on Texas and afflicting already devastated areas and their citizens as well. Wisconsin-licensed lawyers caught in the storms and hundreds of evacuees need our assistance.

    George Brown

    Share This:

    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 78, No. 10, October 2005

    The Twin Sisters of Death

    Hurricane Katrina caused widespread devastation along the Louisiana gulf coast. Then came Hurricane Rita, bearing down on Texas and afflicting already devastated areas and their citizens as well. Wisconsin-licensed lawyers caught in the storms and hundreds of evacuees need our assistance.

    by
    State Bar executive director

    George Brown

    After the winds from Hurricane Katrina finally subsided, the tide receded, and the levees broke, more than 20 State Bar of Wisconsin members lost much of what they had built in New Orleans or on the gulf coast. Files were ruined, exhibits lost, and computers destroyed.

    Of the 41 Wisconsin-licensed lawyers in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, 29 work in zones where the U.S. Post Office has cancelled deliveries. State Bar President Mike Guerin and Nonresident Lawyers Division President Joel Hirschhorn, who had experienced the early version of Katrina as it swept through Miami, communicated support to our Wisconsin colleagues in the ravaged areas. The letters were sent by email and regular post in the hope that one would get through eventually.

    Several email responses arrived, including one from the executive vice president of the New Orleans Saints from their temporary offices in San Antonio, Texas, expressing thanks and optimism for a reborn New Orleans. Another lawyer in Biloxi, Miss., whose home and office received heavy damage but are operational, described her experiences and those of her colleagues and neighbors, detailing the sharing of communal meals to use food from freezers before it spoiled, lawyers doubling up in some offices while other offices dried out, and the damage to the courthouse and the disruption of the state's judicial system.

    In addition to reaching out to our own members, the State Bar is working with organizations throughout Wisconsin to help hurricane evacuees put their lives back together. State Bar Pro Bono Coordinator Jeff Brown is leading this effort. He is working with the American Bar Association, the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, and the Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center to establish a single point of contact at the State Bar for coordinating pro bono legal services for evacuees coming to our state. He is working with local bar associations, including the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic, to aid evacuees housed at the State Fair Park fairgrounds in Milwaukee. In addition, he is providing referrals to pro bono attorneys for evacuees with legal issues, such as the couple who evacuated to a relative's home in Wisconsin after losing their home and their jobs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and were wondering if their only recourse was bankruptcy.

    At press time, Hurricane Rita has blown itself out, but people in Rita's path may need our help, too, even as Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana are just beginning long-term recovery efforts. When people from these areas no longer need to worry about food and shelter, the long-term legal issues will become more apparent. Already we know the physical infrastructure of the judicial system in New Orleans is in ruins. But the justice system survives. And for those evacuees in Wisconsin, many will need help.

    To encourage pro bono volunteers, the State Bar of Wisconsin provides first dollar malpractice coverage for attorneys who accept pro bono cases through the State Bar. In addition, Lexis-Nexis just renewed its grant to the State Bar to provide free research for volunteer attorneys.

    To help, contact Jeff Brown at the State Bar Center, (800) 728-7788, ext. 6177, org jbrown wisbar wisbar jbrown org, or read the information on WisBar at www.wisbar.org/probono.




To view or add comment, Login