July 08, 2020

Rule of Law in Times of Major Disaster Principles

The twin blows of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack and the August29-30, 2005, devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, clearly demonstrated that major disasters pose a multitude of challenges to the people and governmentsof the United States. The challenges not only threaten the lives of Americansbut the legal fabric that binds our society together. The Section of Litigationof the American Bar Association convened a Task Force to evaluate whether thelegal system operated effectively in these situations and whether changes couldbe recommended that would more completely insure adherence to the rule of law. Neitherthe Task Force nor the Section of Litigation considers ourselves to be expertsin disaster planning. An array of professionals, with substantial talentand expertise, has contributed valuable insights on how governments, businessesand families should prepare to respond to, and overcome, a major disaster.

It is the purpose of these Principles to preserve the rule of law in timesof major disaster. The Principles are intended to help insure that justicewill continue to be dispensed despite the damage and disruption caused by a majordisaster. The Principles are also intended to foster reliance on legalmechanisms when the effort is undertaken to restore a disaster-torn communitythrough programs designed to compensate for loss or render assistance in recovery.

Download the Principles for Rule of Law in Times of Major Disaster

These Principles are the product of a collaborative effort, led by the Sectionof Litigation. In the summer of 2006, Chair of the Section of Litigation,Kim Askew, established the Task Force on the Rule of Law in Time of Calamity. Itsassignment was to fashion a set of principles to help insure the preservationof the rule of law when a major disaster strikes – a matter the AmericanBar Association had not addressed in prior standards or principles.