Firms compile report on lessons learnt from Hurricane Katrina

Jones Day, Kilpatrick Stockton and Faegre & Benson are among a string of law firms to have provided pro bono assistance with a report on the treatment of evacuees from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck last year.

Entitled ‘A Continuing Storm: the Ongoing Stuggles of Hurricane Katrina Evacuees’, the report was commissioned by Appleseed, a pan-US non-profit network of public interest legal research centres.

The report documents the assistance provided to the 700,000 evacuees by host cities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and federal agencies, and is intended to assist city planners across the US to prepare for future emergencies.

Minneapolis-based law firm Faegre assisted with writing the report, contributing 28 of the overall research team of 135 lawyers.

The other firms to assist included Jones Day, King & Spalding, Kilpatrick, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison and Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton.

Faegre litigation partner Kerry Bundy led the firm’s team researching the report, along with partners Mark Carpenter, David Gross, Holly Robbins and John Shively.

“We wrote the report to try to figure out what [the host cities] learnt for the purpose of trying to jump-start thinking about what they should do if they ever have 100,000 evacuees land on their doorstep again,” Bundy explained.

The report was prepared between April and August 2006 and involved more than 350 interviews with organisations and individuals.

The research examined the evacuees’ experiences during the relocation and subsequently, looking at the conditions in New Orleans and in the host cities of Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Houston and San Antonio.

“We saw this as an opportunity to help because we have such a big litigation practice,” Bundy added, “and this project was essentially about witness interviews.”

Appleseed’s project manager for the Hurricane Response Project James Howell said the report was the first comprehensive investigation into the evacuation to be conducted. He explained that, among other findings, the report revealed that NGOs and faith-based groups responded faster in helping evacuees than the government institutions, which were restricted by red tape.

“Hurricane Katrina was something that we’ve never seen before and was difficult to prepare for,” said Howell. “Our focus now is how to help those individuals that are left.”