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American Bar Association and FEMA Announce
A New Memorandum of Agreement To Enhance Legal Services
CHICAGO, Nov. 15, 2007—The American Bar Association, on behalf of its Young Lawyers Division, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced today that a new Memorandum of Agreement was signed on Nov. 8 that will increase the reach of legal services delivered to low-income victims of major disasters.
Under the agreement, the YLD has “authority to coordinate and manage the delivery of legal services to disaster victims” by collaborating with other qualified organizations such as the Legal Services Corporation, law firms, not-for-profit legal services providers, state and local bar associations, and pro bono organizations.
“This 2007 agreement represents a significant step forward in the systematic and coordinated delivery of legal services to victims of major disasters in America,” said ABA President William H. Neukom. “We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with other groups in these efforts.”
“Offering easily accessible legal services is a key part of FEMA’s mission to offer the best level of support to individuals affected by disasters,” said Carlos J. Castillo, assistant administrator for disaster assistance at FEMA. “Coordinating with partners such as the ABA expands the range of assistance FEMA provides in support of our most important mission — helping people recover from disasters as soon as possible.”
“The Legal Services Corporation is proud of its delivery of civil legal services to victims who have suffered from major natural disasters. Since the fall of 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf region, LSC has helped coordinate disaster legal services efforts throughout the country, along with LSC programs, the ABA, and members of the private bar. We are especially pleased to have played a role in the negotiation of the current agreement,” says Helaine M. Barnett, president of the Legal Services Corporation
“Serving others in need is one of the ABA’s primary functions,” says Craig Cannon, national coordinator of disaster legal services for the ABA YLD and a member of the ABA’s Special Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness. “For nearly 30 years, members of the ABA have responded when disaster strikes to ensure that those who are victims of major disasters have the legal resources they need to help them rebuild their lives.”
Beginning with a 1978 agreement between FEMA and the ABA, volunteers working under the arrangement have coordinated the delivery of free legal assistance to disaster victims. When the president of the United States declares a “major disaster,” the ABA YLD recruits and coordinates volunteers to assist in providing legal assistance through telephone hotlines and at disaster recovery centers.
Services rendered include assistance with insurance claims, counseling on landlord/tenant problems, assisting in consumer protection matters, remedies, and procedures, and the replacement of wills and other important legal documents destroyed in a major disaster.
Under the new agreement, volunteer lawyers may also provide assistance in securing FEMA and other governmental benefits available to disaster victims
Over the past two years, volunteers working under the program have fielded more than 75,000 calls from 19 designated disasters, including the Southern California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina. Volunteers have also aided victims of numerous other disasters, including Hurricanes Andrew and Isabel, the Oklahoma City bombing, the San Francisco earthquakes, and the September 11 terrorist attacks.
To view the agreement in full, visit http://www.abanet.org/disaster/docs/fema_aba_agreement_11_07.pdf.
The American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division is the ABA’s largest entity, composed of approximately 147,000 members. The Young Lawyers Division, as the national organization of young lawyers, works to provide leadership in serving the public and the profession, and to promote excellence and fulfillment in the practice of law.
With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.