The Texas Supreme Court recently released a favorable emergency order that allows out-of-state lawyers to provide pro bono assistance to victims of the fatal Hurricane Harvey. The order has been enforced for the next six months and is applicable in two main ways. First, legal practice is legalized through a pro bono program that provides crucial services to Hurricane Harvey victims. However, interested lawyers must fill a temporary registration form outlining their intention to the bar.
Secondly, licensed lawyers are allowed to provide legal services to Texas if residents are displaced from their native home due to Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Supreme Court also enforced two other orders in line with Hurricane Harvey. The first order allows for radical changes to procedures and deadlines to courts adversely affected by the Hurricane. The second order focuses on suspending limitation in civil cases in the event claimants can prove catastrophic conditions resulting from Hurricane Harvey. In relation to this, Saundra Brown, a prominent manager at the disaster response unit at Lone Star Legal Aid, insisted that the legal assistance would be beneficial to thousands of victims in need.
While most lawyers from the firm work remotely, senior members from the team are stationed at Texarkana after the company’s Houston headquarters had been damaged in a deceptive fire explosion. In such a situation, lawyers have been tasked with reporting for disaster appeals with FEMA to ensure that people secure income for home repairs, deal with insurance claims and obtain temporary housing.
According to Saundra Brown, the newly drafted lawyers can play an integral role in assisting with the FEMA appeals, while also providing legal assistance to victims at the National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center. To promote service delivery, the Division has provided hotline numbers for both Louisiana and Texas as follows (800)504-7030 and (800)310-7029. The relief webpage contains precise information regarding volunteer recruitment.
As the Director of YLD’s Disaster Legal Service Program, Andrew VanSingel is tasked with selecting competent lawyers from the vast list of emails that has flooded his inbox. Each lawyer selected will be brought up to speed on how they should assist Hurricane Harvey victims.
Before selection can be done, interested lawyers must be referred to the State Bar of Texas to uniquely present their proficiency in handling pro bono legal aid. Furthermore, interested out-of-state lawyers can also donate money to groups such as the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and the Lone Star Legal Aid.