Guest Bloggers Rachel Piercey and Jesse George are the Executive Director and Oil Spill Case Manager, respectively, at The Pro Bono Project in New Orleans, LA.
Building upon lessons learned and relationships developed and strengthened by working through recent disasters, a coalition of pro bono and legal services programs across the Gulf Coast has come together to offer free legal assistance to low-income claimants navigating the sometimes arduous claims process.
We know from previous disasters that low income people often have the greatest need for legal assistance, and with minimum or no resources, it takes them longer to recover and rebuild their lives. The Gulf Coast has endured more than its share of calamities in the past decade: the twin punches of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005; the less remembered, but nonetheless devastating, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008 (Ike was the third-costliest hurricane ever to make landfall in the United States); and most recently, the BP rig explosion and oil spill in April 2010 that left 11 dead, and many more sick and out of work.
Recognizing the need to make whole those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the spill, a coalition of legal services providers formed shortly after the spill, and, nine months later, secured a grant funded by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and administered by the Mississippi Center for Justice. Legal assistance is offered independent of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Staff attorneys and pro bono volunteers from the five state network of civil legal services non-profit organizations advise claimants about documentation for the claims process, review settlement offers, and provide legal advice and assistance about other matters related to their claims. Collaborating with our Gulf Coast network of providers has been extremely rewarding, allowing all projects involved to play to their strengths and enhance programs and partnerships for the benefit of our region’s clientele.
Just as after Hurricane Katrina, my program and the others involved are drawing on the goodwill of those seeking to help in any way they can; we have expanded our work to encompass the current needs of the Gulf Coast community. Claimants and volunteer attorneys who want to access this network of resources should contact the appropriate project from the list below:
- The Pro Bono Project
- Louisiana Civil Justice Center
- Louisiana Justice Institute
- Moving Forward Gulf Coast
- Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
- Mississippi Center for Legal Services
- Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project
- Mississippi Center for Justice