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October 09, 2020

Virtual Disaster Symposium

September is National Preparedness Month. To bring awareness to the myriad of ways that disasters relate to the law and the legal profession, the ABA Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness put on a series of 5 webinars, one webinar per week during September. This Virtual Disaster Symposium is a free resource for everyone – please watch our sessions below!

Black Lives Matter (In Disasters, Too) – The Intersection of Race and Policy in Disasters [CC]

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Held Tuesday, September 2nd, 2020

While disasters do not discriminate, recovery does. Studies show that communities of color struggle to recover long after the natural disaster is over. This webinar provides a historical context of how segregation and discrimination as well as policies such as redlining isolated communities of color and put them in areas more susceptible to natural disasters, and explores ways in which attendees can advocate for change in their communities through grassroots advocacy. The webinar also examines how restriction of movement during a public health emergency impacts communities of color, balancing privacy rights and the need for collecting and sharing data during COVID-19, and how protests of shelter in place executive orders and protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement resulted in disparate treatment among minorities. Cosponsored by the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, the Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, and the Young Lawyer’s Division.

Moderator: Paulette Brown, Senior Partner & Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Locke Lord; Past President, American Bar Association


Patricia Lee Refo, ABA President, 2020-2021 (Opening Remarks)

Curtis Brown, Co-Founder, Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management (I-DIEM)

Abre' Conner, Staff Attorney, ACLU Foundation of Northern California

Junia Howell, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh

Monica Sanders, Associate Professor Sociology and Criminal Justice, Univ. of Delaware

Responding to a Natural Disaster During a Public Health Emergency – A State and Local Government Perspective

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Held Tuesday, September 8, 2020

While the nation is focused on its response to COVID-19, state and local governments are faced with new challenges in responding to natural disasters during this public health emergency. This panel will feature perspectives from state and local governments to discuss what they are doing to adequately respond to this added complexity of emergency management. The program will also feature an overview of the FEMA Public Assistance Program, which helps state, local, tribal, and territorial governments and certain types of private nonprofit organizations respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies. Cosponsored by the ABA State and Local Government Committee.

Moderator: Andrew VanSingel, Chair, ABA Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness

Brock Long, Executive Chairman at Hagerty Consulting, former FEMA Administrator

Christy Rojas, Emergency Management Deputy Director and Emergency Coordinating Officer, Volunteer Florida

Capt. Kevin Sweeney, Commander of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division

Vance Taylor, Chief, Office of Access and Functional Needs, California Governor's Office of Emergency Services

Hon. Lina Hidalgo, Harris County Judge

Michelle F. Zaltsberg, Shareholder, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC

Coming Together When We Can’t Be Together—How to Help Disaster Survivors During a Public Health Crisis

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Held Tuesday, September 15, 2020

After a disaster, recovery centers are stood up to bring together agencies that can provide assistance to disaster survivors. Recovery centers are an integral part for the legal community to provide outreach, education, and legal services, as it is an efficient means of finding disaster survivors. A public health emergency like COVID19 may prevent these recovery centers from standing up after a major disaster, which begs the question—How do we find, and help these survivors? This panel will discuss the new ideas and opportunities of helping disaster survivors during an overlapping public health emergency. Cosponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, the ABA Young Lawyers Division, and the Center for Pro Bono and Public Service.

ModeratorTed Howard, Chair, ABA Standing
Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants

Linda Anderson Stanley, Director, Disaster Legal Services, ABA Young Lawyers Division

Linley Boone-Almaguer, Disaster Assistance Attorney, Edinburg Branch Manager, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid

Mary DeWitt-Dia, Manager, National Partnerships, Disaster Cycle Services, American Red Cross

Miri Miller, Deputy General Counsel, Americas, Dentsu Aegis Network

Free Palmer, Chief, Disaster Recovery Centers Unit, Individuals and Households Branch/ Field Services, Section, Individual Assistance Division, DHS/FEMA

Leslie N. Powell-Boudreaux, Executive Director, Legal Services of North Florida, Inc.

Elizabeth B. Savage
, W. C. Dawson Fellow, Disaster Relief Project, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc.

Technology and the Courts: Bridging us Together, or Deepening the Divide?

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Held Tuesday, September 22

COVID-19 has forced court systems across the country to turn to remote hearings and trials. High-speed internet, multiple monitors and ring lights help make the transition, but many people do not have the technology for access to this remote justice. In this session we will look at the technological divide, additional challenges for those with a language divide and best practices to try and bridge the gap for all seeking to be heard in court.

Moderator: Hon. Rena Van Tine, Associate Judge, Circuit Court of Cook County, Law Division, Law Jury Section


Hon. Mark A. Drummond (ret.)

Quinten Steenhuis, Clinical Fellow, Suffolk Law School

Claudia Johnson, Program Manager, LawHelp Interactive

Who Pays for Disasters, and Who Recovers Fastest

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Held Tuesday, September 29

Disasters are costly, and even though money spent on mitigation can significantly reduce the money spent on response and recovery, disaster response in the United States seems to focus on the latter, creating a financial strain on the federal government. Many individuals lack adequate insurance, and governments can stand behind immunity laws, leaving a hefty price tag, which begs the question—who ultimately pays for disasters? This program will focus on who pays—and who should pay for natural disasters, as well as look into non-financial elements of recovery. The program will conclude with a preview of the ABA’s published Community Resilience Handbook. Cosponsored by the Young Lawyer’s Division.

ModeratorAndrew VanSingel, Chair, ABA Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness


Daniel Aldrich, Professor and Director of the Security and Resilience Studies Program, Northeastern University

Shelley Ross Saxer, Laure Sudreau Chair in Law, Caruso School of Law

Ed Thomas, General Counsel, Natural Hazard Mitigation Association