Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA
 

News Release

September 19, 2005
Southwestern Law School, Red Cross and L.A. Pro Bono Council Create Emergency Legal Clinic for Katrina Evacuees

In an unprecedented partnership, Southwestern Law School has teamed with the American Red Cross and the Los Angeles Pro Bono Council to create an Emergency Legal Clinic for Hurricane Katrina evacuees. More than 1,000 families have relocated to Los Angeles in the wake of the storm (with thousands more expected), and many, if not all, are in desperate need of legal assistance as they rebuild their lives.

Evacuees face numerous legal issues as they seek to collect assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); secure housing, education and employment; and handle insurance, immigration, social security, family and medical matters. "Hurricane Katrina is the largest domestic disaster relief operation the Red Cross has ever undertaken," said Roger Dickson, CEO of the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles. "The full number of victims is not yet known, but they will need every kind of assistance to recover, and this project to provide pro bono legal aid to those who have voluntarily relocated to the Los Angeles area will be absolutely invaluable."

An Emergency Legal Clinic at the Red Cross facility on Rampart and Seventh, just two blocks from Southwestern’s campus, will help them address these urgent legal concerns. "The Southwestern Law School community has an extraordinary, once-in-a generation opportunity to play a major role in helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina," said Dean Bryant Garth.

The Clinic will be staffed by Southwestern students as well as students from other law schools who are joining the Southwestern effort, under the supervision of faculty and volunteers from the Los Angeles Pro Bono Council – an umbrella group of nonprofit legal service providers and law firm pro bono programs. Working together at the Clinic, these groups will provide "first-line" legal assistance to evacuees, as well as long-term aid for those evacuees who require sustained legal attention.

"This cooperative effort of law students, public interest organizations and the private bar will result in justice and hope for hundreds of our new neighbors who have nowhere else to turn," said Dan Grunfeld, President and CEO of Public Counsel on behalf of the Council.

Representatives of the Council will lead training sessions for the volunteer law students and attorneys on Wednesday, September 21 at Southwestern. Additional training sessions will be offered at the campus and other venues. Volunteers will begin to provide services at the Clinic in the Red Cross facilities on Friday, September 23. About 220 volunteers, half of whom are from the Southwestern community, are expected to participate.

"With Southwestern so close to the Red Cross facility, it’s wonderful that the law school is playing a major role in providing these essential services to the victims of this tragedy," said Ed Anderson, Chief Programs and Services Officer for the Red Cross’ San Gabriel Valley chapter. Anderson, who recently began his first semester at Southwestern as an evening student, helped spearhead the effort to form the Clinic. Alison Kleaver and Linda Bradlyn, co-presidents of the law student Public Interest Law Committee also worked with Dean Garth to mobilize the Southwestern community.

"As a newcomer to the Southwestern community, I was amazed by the energy and creativity of students willing to take the question everyone has – 'What can I do?' – and invent possibilities that no one else had considered," said Dean Garth, who began his tenure at the law school this year.

Further information for law student volunteers is available via email at publicinterestlaw@yahoo.com, and for attorney volunteers at tzepeda@publiccounsel.org or mkamin@bettzedek.org.