WASHINGTON, June 29, 2018 — ABA President Hilarie Bass and President-elect Robert M. Carlson will tour the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on July 2-3 to see firsthand hurricane relief efforts and discuss preparations for this year’s hurricane season. They will be joined by Andrew VanSingel, director of the ABA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) Disaster Legal Services Program.
The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were hard hit by hurricanes Maria and Irma in September 2017. Working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local legal aid offices, the Disaster Legal Services Program provides legal assistance to disaster survivors. Disaster-related legal issues include landlord/tenant problems, insurance claims, FEMA claims and consumer issues such as contractor fraud.
On July 2, the ABA officials will attend a town hall at 10 a.m. with local bar leaders at the Virgin Islands Supreme Court in St. Thomas, where Bass will announce that the ABA Center for Innovation is developing USVI Flood Proof, a software app that assists natural disaster victims in accessing free legal assistance. Based on the successful launch of Floodproof Louisiana in 2017, it will be customized with U.S. Virgin Islands content on real property transfers, probate and estate law, landlord/tenant issues, FEMA regulations, contractor fraud concerns and VI-specific ethics issues.
Immediately after, the group will have a private meeting with Chief Justice Rhys S. Hodge to discuss plans for this hurricane season.
On July 3 at 10 a.m., the group will meet with Chief Justice Maite Oronoz Rodriguez at the Puerto Rico Supreme Court in San Juan, to discuss adopting the Katrina Rule, which would allow outside attorneys to represent Puerto Ricans in disaster matters. They will also discuss ongoing needs and challenges and identify long-term goals for disaster recovery.
Since September, hundreds of volunteer attorneys have resolved or referred to lawyers licensed in Puerto Rico more than 1,000 disaster-related cases for the citizens of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Since 2007, the ABA YLD has responded to more than 171 declared disasters in 44 states and 4 U.S. territories. You can see all of the ABA’s disaster relief efforts here.
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