9.01.2005

How many Lawyers Does It Take?

A lawyer's point of view on the New Orleans devastation:

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. 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 them!!

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?

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10 Comments:

Blogger gnomethang said...

Hell! - it must be shit being a lawyer!. Perhaps they could have whip around amongst the other homeless people who have lost loved ones in order to help them rebuild their businesses.
Whatever happened to 'contingency plans'?

1/9/05 15:52  
Blogger Worldgineer said...

Good reflection on one little piece of a large ruined community.

Certainly makes a good case for the paperless office and off-site backups.

1/9/05 18:53  
Blogger Lukas Abrhm said...

everything going on there...it's just a gross miscalculation...besides the city having 70 million dollars cut from the army corps of engineers, FEMA has basically been raped as well. so what's left? people on the sides of highways that have no food, no water, and no one will help them. screw the lawyers, there are thousands and thousands of people who are completely disheveled, and the government is not helping, in fact, put off helping until their vacation was over.
i'm just miffed, my apologies.

1/9/05 23:15  
Blogger charlene said...

The problem with contigency plans is no one ever believes how bad things can get.

I wonder if many of the buildings have basements being so far below sea level. Aren't most of the graves above ground?


It is said that Galveston, TX never totally recovered from the hurricane in 1900.

1/9/05 23:17  
Blogger k_sra said...

For those who are offended by hearing from lawyers, I have this to say: it's a perspective you rarely see when natural disaster strikes. You always hear from the firemen, the police, the "man on the street" so get your high and mighty heads out of your asses. I don't think the point of the piece was to make you feel sorry for lawyers, it was to calculate the damage of the flood to legal proceedings which of course affect everyone, not just lawyers.

I'm "miffed" too, lukas, by the superdome becoming thunderdome, by the whole Lord of the Flies mentality.

2/9/05 07:58  
Blogger k_sra said...

Rereading the essay I can see why people would lash out at the lawyers; the whole "our pensions are gone and our kids' expensive schools have been wiped out" so I apologize for being harsh. Truthfully, I posted it for the information it provides on the legal devastation which isn't covered in the major media.

2/9/05 08:49  
Blogger Worldgineer said...

Yay independant media! Google News still lists nothing for Cleaveland Tree Sweater. We heard it here first (and last).

2/9/05 09:54  
Blogger Lukas Abrhm said...

i took no offense, yr right, it is a perspective not often seen by the laymen. it's just that...
Everyday, i wake up, drink alotta coffee and watch the CNN.
i've never been so pissed off as i was yesterday when i listened to a thousand people chant "We Want HELP!".
god help them all.

2/9/05 10:08  
Blogger El Fid said...

Actually, young, able-bodied men are needed to help rebuild the several states devastated by storm. No need to get angry at your own impotence; join FEMA today.

I have a friend who said goodbye to her young husband just this morning. He will be gone for a full month, helping victims rebuild towns, distribute water and medicine, etc. It is a lucky man or woman indeed who can pack up and help others at the drop of a hat, or in this case, the drop of a sky.

2/9/05 10:24  
Blogger gnomethang said...

I know what you mean Sarah , and my response was probably a bit aggy as well.
I was just a bit peeved at the tone of the article (as you conveyed on your most recent post).

The whole situation is much more grave than can be expressed.

My apologies if you or anyone else have been offended by my peevishness.

Barry

2/9/05 14:27  

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