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

March 11, 2019

MIAMI – The Legal Services Corporation’s (LSC) Disaster Task Force will hold its second field hearing on Friday, March 15, in Miami. The Task Force has more than 60 members, including emergency management experts, representatives from LSC-funded legal aid programs, members of the judiciary, and other leading stakeholders working to highlight and address the legal aid component of disaster response and recovery. 

Survivors of natural disasters often have pressing legal needs. They may require 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.

Disaster Task Force Co-Chair Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of New York and currently of counsel for Latham & Watkins LLP, will deliver opening remarks. Led by New York partner Rob Malionek of Latham & Watkins, Latham also serves as pro bono counsel to the LSC Disaster Task Force. Lippman will be joined by LSC Board Chair John G. Levi and Rick Schatz, managing director of Stearns Weaver Miller.

The task force plans to issue a report later this year with recommendations for improving legal services with respect to natural disasters.

The hearing will feature four panels, followed by a moderated discussion on next steps for improving legal outreach and services for low-income disaster survivors. The first panel, “Preparing for and Addressing the Aftermath of Hurricanes Irma, Michael, and Florence,” will examine the groundwork legal services organizations have laid and the hurdles survivors have experienced in the wake of disasters.  

The second panel, “Preparing Prospective Disaster Survivors,” will explore the multiple legal issues low-income families face in the wake of a disaster and ways to prepare for them.

The third panel will examine how court systems and legal services organizations can ensure continuity of operations following a disaster.

The final panel, “Providing Legal Services to Disaster Survivors in Remote Areas,” will explore the challenges of providing legal assistance to low-income disaster survivors in remote areas. Representatives from legal aid organizations in Alaska, Hawaii, Micronesia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands will share their experiences.   

The event will conclude with a discussion on the next steps needed to ensure effective disaster preparedness and response from the legal community, moderated by LSC Vice Chair and Disaster Task Force Co-Chair Martha Minow.

The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. EDT at the offices of Stearns Weaver, 150 W. Flagler Street, Suite 2200. It is open to the public, but seating will be limited.

The event will be livestreamed at the LSC Facebook page. The conversation can be followed on Twitter with #DisasterTaskForce.

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:

Welcoming Remarks
John G. Levi, Board Chair, Legal Services Corporation & Partner, Sidley Austin LLP
Judge Jonathan J. Lippman, Co-Chair, Disaster Task Force; Of Counsel, Latham & Watkins LLP; & Former Chief Judge of New York
Rick Schatz, Managing Director, Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A.

Panel: Preparing for and Addressing the Aftermath of Hurricanes Irma, Michael, and Florence
George Hausen, Jr., Executive Director, Legal Services of North Carolina
Michelle Luckett, Executive Director, Monroe County Long-Term Recovery Group
Will Polk, Assistant General Counsel, North Carolina Department of Public Safety
Leslie Powell-Boudreaux, Executive Director, Legal Services of North Florida
Monica Vigues-Pitan, Executive Director, Legal Services of Greater Miami
Moderator: Lynn Jennings, Vice President for Grants Management, Legal Services Corporation

Panel: Preparing Prospective Disaster Survivors
Kathleen Fox, Assistant Vice President for Safety & Security Strategic Operations, George Washington University &
Former Assistant Administrator for National Preparedness, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Barb Graff, Director of Emergency Management, City of Seattle
Daniel Homsey, Director, Neighborhood Empowerment Network
Moderator: Father Pius Pietrzyk, Co-Chair, Disaster Task Force & Department of Pastoral Studies, St. Patrick’s Seminary

Panel: Continuity of Operations Planning for the Courts and Legal Services Organizations
Joseph Baxter, State Court Administrator, The Supreme Court of Rhode Island & President-Elect, Conference of State Court Administrators
Gregory Cowan, Senior Management Analyst, Florida Justice Administrative Commission
Justice Jorge Labarga, Florida Supreme Court
Nikole Nelson, Executive Director, Alaska Legal Services Corporation
Laura Tuggle, Executive Director, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Chief Justice Paul Reiber, Vermont Supreme Court & President, Conference of Chief Justices
Moderator: Judge Jonathan J. Lippman, Of Counsel, Latham & Watkins LLP & Former Chief Judge of New York

Panel: Providing Legal Services to Disaster Survivors in Remote Areas
Hadassa Santini, Executive Director, Puerto Rico Legal Services
Shelby King Gaddy, Executive Director, Legal Services of the Virgin Islands
Nalani Fujmori Kaina, Executive Director, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
Nikole Nelson, Executive Director, Alaska Legal Services Corporation
Lee Pliscou, Executive Director, Micronesian Legal Services (participating remotely)
Moderator: Martha L. Minow, Co-Chair, Disaster Task Force & 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University

Wrap-Up and Discussion of Next Steps
Facilitator: Martha L. Minow, Co-Chair, Disaster Task Force & 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University

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 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.