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Impact of Katrina on the Lousiana legal system

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  • RSYOSH@aol.com
    This was written by a law professor in Lousiana - really lays out the stark reality of the impact of Katrina on life in that area. - Becky 5,000 - 6,000
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2005
      This was written by a law professor in Lousiana - really lays out the stark reality of the impact of Katrina on life in that area.
      - Becky
      5,000 - 6,000 lawyers (1/3 of the lawyers in Louisiana) have lost their
      offices, their libraries, their computers with all information thereon,
      their client files - possibly their clients, as one attorney who e-mailed me
      noted. As I mentioned before, they are scattered from Florida to Arizona
      and have nothing to return to. Their children's schools are gone and,
      optimistically, the school systems in 8 parishes/counties won't be re-opened
      until after December. They must re-locate their lives.
      Our state supreme court is under some water - with all appellate files and
      evidence folders/boxes along with it. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
      building is under some water - with the same effect. Right now there may
      only be 3-4 feet of standing water but, if you think about it, most files
      are kept in the basements or lower floors of courthouses. What effect will
      that have on the lives of citizens and lawyers throughout this state and
      this area of the country? And on the law?
      The city and district courts in as many as 8 parishes/counties are under
      water, as well as 3 of our circuit courts - with evidence/files at each of
      them ruined. The law enforcement offices in those areas are under water -
      again, with evidence ruined. 6,000 prisoners in 2 prisons and one juvenile
      facility are having to be securely relocated. We already have over-crowding
      at most Louisiana prisons and juvenile facilities. What effect will this
      have? And what happens when the evidence in their cases has been destroyed?
      Will the guilty be released upon the communities? Will the innocent not be
      able to prove their innocence?
      Our state bar offices are under water. Our state disciplinary offices are
      under water - again with evidence ruined. Our state disciplinary offices
      are located on Veteran's Blvd. in Metairie. Those of you who have been
      watching the news, they continue to show Veteran's Blvd. It's the shot with
      the destroyed Target store and shopping center under water and that looks
      like a long canal. Our Committee on Bar Admissions is located there and
      would have been housing the bar exams which have been turned in from the
      recent July bar exam (this is one time I'll pray the examiners were late in
      turning them in - we were set to meet in 2 weeks to go over the results).
      Will all of those new graduates have to retake the bar exam?
      Two of the 4 law schools in Louisiana are located in New Orleans (Loyola and
      Tulane - the 2 private ones that students have already paid about $8,000+
      for this semester to attend). Another 1,000+ lawyers-to-be whose lives have
      been detoured. I've contacted professors at both schools but they can't
      reach anyone at those schools and don't know the amount of damage they've
      taken. Certainly, at least, this semester is over. I'm trying to reach the
      Chancellor's at Southern and LSU here in Baton Rouge to see if there's
      anything we can do to take in the students and/or the professors. I think I
      mentioned before, students from out of state have beens stranded at at least
      2 of the other universities in New Orleans - they're moving up floor after
      floor as the water rises. Our local news station received a call from some
      medical students at Tulane Medical Center who were now on the 5th floor of
      the dormitories as the water had risen.&nbs p; One of them had had a heart
      attack and they had no medical supplies and couldn't reach anyone - 911 was
      busy, local law enforcement couldn't be reached, they were going through the
      phone book and reached a news station 90 miles away!! It took the station
      almost 45 minutes to finally find someone with FEMA to try to get in to
      And, then, there are the clients whose files are lost, whose cases are
      stymied. Their lives, too, are derailed. Of course, the vast majority live
      in the area and that's the least of their worries. But, the New Orleans
      firms also have a large national and international client base. For
      example, I received an e-mail from one attorney friend who I work with on
      some crucial domestic violence (spousal and child) cases around the nation -
      those clients could be seriously impacted by the loss, even temporarily, of
      their attorney - and he can't get to them and is having difficulty
      contacting the many courts around the nation where his cases are pending.
      Large corporate clients may have their files blowing in the wind where the
      high rise buildings had windows blown out.
      I woke up this morning to the picture of Veteran's Blvd which made me think
      of my students who just took the bar. My thoughts wandered from there to
      the effect on the Disciplinary Offices. Then my thoughts continued on. I'm
      sure I'm still missing a big part of the future picture. It's just
      devastating. Can you imagine something of this dimension in your state?"
      Professor Michelle Ghetti
      Southern University Law Center
      Baton Rouge, LA 70813
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