Legal Services Corporation’s Disaster Task Force to Hold First Field Hearing

November 29, 2018

HOUSTON – The Legal Services Corporation’s (LSC) Disaster Task Force will hold its first field hearing in Houston on December 4. The event is not open to the public but will be livestreamed. The Task Force, with more than 60 members, is comprised of emergency management experts, representatives of legal aid programs that LSC funds, business leaders from LSC’s Leaders Council, and other stakeholders working to address the legal aid component of disaster response. 

Natural disasters have a disproportionate impact on low-income people, who often face daunting legal issues in the aftermath of a disaster. Survivors need help obtaining copies of important documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and Social Security cards to apply for or restore benefits and support. Low-income and other vulnerable people who need housing after an emergency are more susceptible to scams and price-gouging. Disasters also increase needs in the core areas of practice for legal aid, such as public benefits, domestic violence prevention, consumer law, and fraud prevention.

The Task Force’s hearing will feature four panels and a moderated discussion among local stakeholders (see full agenda below for more information about attendees). The first panel, “Relationship-Building and Integration of Legal Services into the Emergency Management Infrastructure,” will highlight the importance of community partnerships and collaborations to effective disaster response and recovery.

The second panel, “Providing Legal Services for Disaster Survivors,” will explore how legal aid and pro bono attorneys in Texas are addressing the legal issues that low-income survivors face in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

 Following the first two panels, a legal aid provider and a former chair of the Joplin Long Term Recovery Committee will discuss the legal community’s response to the 2011 tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri.

A third panel will focus on California’s deadly 2017 and 2018 wildfires and the legal aid issues that follow in the wake of such large-scale damage.

The final panel, “Legal Aid Lessons Learned from Preparing for and Responding to Disasters,” will feature leaders from legal aid organizations in five states affected by recent disasters: California, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas. The panelists will consider how legal services providers across the country should best prepare for, and respond to, future natural disasters.

The Honorable Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of the State of New York and Of Counsel in the New York office of Latham & Watkins, will conclude the hearing with a discussion of next steps that the legal community should take to ensure effective disaster preparedness.

Led by New York partner Rob Malionek of Latham & Watkins, Latham serves as pro bono counsel to the LSC Disaster Task Force. LSC formed the Task Force earlier this year.

Tim Fenn, Latham & Watkins partner and Houston Office Managing Partner said: “At Latham & Watkins, we feel privileged to be a part of the Houston community, so we are especially proud to be involved in this important Task Force. We look forward to listening and learning during the field hearing, as well as to continuing to provide pro bono support to the Task Force, to partnering with organizations doing tremendous work in our city, such as Lone Star Legal Aid, and to seeking out other opportunities to demonstrate our commitment to the underserved and the vulnerable.”  

The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. CT at Latham’s Houston office, 811 Main Street, Suite 3700. The hearing will be livestreamed via LSC’s Facebook page. Media wishing to attend in person should RSVP by contacting Jamie Zuieback, Director of PR and Communications at Latham & Watkins, at jamie.zuieback@lw.com.

Visit LSC’s Disaster Task Force page for membership information, videos, and other materials relevant to the Task Force’s work.

See the full agenda for the hearing below:

9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.
Welcoming Remarks

Martha L. Minow, Board Vice Chair, Legal Services Corporation & 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University
C. Timothy Fenn, Houston Office Managing Partner, Latham & Watkins LLP
Judge Jonathan J. Lippman, Of Counsel, Latham & Watkins LLP & Former Chief Judge of New York

9:15 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.
Panel: Relationship-Building and Integration of Legal Services into the Emergency Management Infrastructure

Saundra Brown, Directing Attorney, Disaster Legal Services, Lone Star Legal Aid
Rick Flanagan, Emergency Management Coordinator, City of Houston
Matthew Johns, Assistant Vice President, Disaster Recovery Communications and Compliance, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Mark Sloan, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Coordinator, Harris Count
Rene Solis, Senior Vice President of Public Sector Solutions Division, Baker Ripley
Moderator: Lynn Jennings, Vice President for Grants Management, Legal Services Corporation

10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Panel: Providing Legal Services for Disaster Survivors of Hurricane Harvey

Channing Guidry, Staff Attorney, Disaster Relief Unit, Lone Star Legal Aid
Ellyn Josef, Pro Bono Counsel, Vinson & Elkins LLP & Member, Board of Directors, The Association of Pro Bono Counsel 
Carla Krystyniak, Equal Justice Works Fellow, Lone Star Legal Aid
Liza Leal, Client, Lone Star Legal Aid
Doug Neagli, General Counsel, ExxonMobil Risk Management, Inc.
Moderator: Martha L. Minow, Board Vice Chair, Legal Services Corporation & 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University

11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m
Moderated Discussion: Preparing for and Addressing the Aftermath of the 2011 Tornado in Joplin, MO

Pamela Roychaudhury, Managing Attorney, Legal Aid of Western Missouri
Renee White, Associate Professor, Missouri Southern State University & Former Chair, Joplin Long Term Recovery Committee
Moderator: Father Pius Pietrzyk, Board Member, Legal Services Corporation & Chairman, Department of Pastoral Studies, St. Patrick’s Seminary

1:15 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
Panel: Preparing for and Addressing the Aftermath of the 2017 Wildfires in California

Dorothy L. Fernandez, Pro Bono Counsel, Morrison & Foerster LLP & Vice President, The Association of Pro Bono Counsel
Elizabeth Hom (participating remotely), Program Supervisor, Office of Access and Inclusion, State Bar of California
Ilene Jacobs, Director of Litigation, Advocacy, and Training, California Rural Legal Assistance
Angélica Millán, Managing Attorney, Ukiah Regional Office, Legal Services of Northern California
Genevieve Richardson, Executive Director, Bay Area Legal Aid
Moderator: James J. Sandman, President, Legal Services Corporation

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Panel: Legal Aid Lessons Learned from Preparing for and Responding to Disasters

Paul Furrh, Executive Director, Lone Star Legal Aid
Ilene Jacobs, Director of Litigation, Advocacy, and Training, California Rural Legal Assistance
Pamela Roychaudhury, Managing Attorney, Legal Aid of Western Missouri 
Laura Tuggle, Executive Director, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services 
Monica Vigues-Pitan, Executive Director, Legal Services of Greater Miami 
Moderator: James J. Sandman, President, Legal Services Corporation

3:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Wrap Up and Next Steps
Facilitator: Judge Jonathan J. Lippman, Of Counsel, Latham & Watkins LLP & Former Chief Judge of New York

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 133 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.