The Justice Gap

If you care about equity, civil legal aid belongs high on the list of crucial disaster recovery programs.
News Story (Louisiana, NATIONAL)

Katy Reckdahl
August 24, 2015

Tags: Disaster Recovery, Hurricane Katrina

Organizations mentioned/involved: Voices for Civil Justice, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS)


That same week, a group of civil legal-aid lawyers displaced from New Orleans set up a toll-free crisis line for people who would be needing help navigating the disaster aid bureaucracy after the massive displacement.

“Katrina propelled us into being first responders,” says Martha Bergmark, founder of the Mississippi Center for Justice, who now leads Voices for Civil Justice, an organization that works on a national level to raise awareness of civil legal aid.

Bergmark notes that though civil legal aid is a “critical component” of disaster recovery, the first time it ever received federal disaster funding was after Hurricane Sandy, when it was a given a mere $1 million allotment. “It was a start,” she says, “but it didn’t even remotely touch the level of need.”