The Katrina Docket Interview Project

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Over two and one half years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, New Orleans continues to emerge from a state of humanitarian relief as a locus of social justice work. Yet, as the process of rebuilding continues, justice-oriented attorneys and activists remain concerned about how such developments will change New Orleans in the long term. Particularly, they are concerned that the decimation of lower-income populations will result in the permanent displacement of New Orleans' historical populations and that the social institutions that do remain are insufficient to meet the needs of those victimized by loss and destruction. One recent project dedicated toward advancing justice-oriented initiatives is the Katrina Docket Interview Project.

The Katrina Docket Interview Project is run by New Orleans attorneys Mary Howell and Morgan Williams. The goal of this project is to draft a report on the state of justice-oriented litigation that has been brought in the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina. This report is intended to serve as a reference tool for attorneys and other professionals interested in the many social and legal issues that arose as a consequence of the disaster. Just to name a few, these areas include criminal justice (including police misconduct and the use of excessive force), housing, education, insurance issues, health care, environmental issues, voting rights, worker justice, immigration rights, litigation arising from the levee failure, and contract fraud. The breadth of the issues covered in the report indicate not only that there really is no aspect of life in the Gulf Coast that was not substantially impacted by the disaster, but also that the effects of Katrina are ongoing, meaning that two and one half years after Katrina, they still affect the lives of local residents who lived there at the time of the storm, of those who managed to continue living there despite the massive loss and destruction, and of those who have been displaced by the destruction.

During our week in New Orleans, we we were headquartered at Tulane Law School and worked in conjunction with St. John's and University of Seattle Law Schools conducting outreach and interviewing attorneys. For the purpose of compiling and synthesizing the information that we received from these interviews, we set up a data base so that future groups will be able to continue the important work of this project. Now that these organizational aspects are in place, the project is on its way toward its goal of keeping both the legal community and the public at large informed of legal developments in the Gulf Coast and of justice-related problems that continue to afflict victims of Katrina over two years after the disaster. As it stands, much work is left to be done.

Forty-three Brooklyn Law School students will spend their spring break volunteering in and around the Gulf Coast as part of the Student Hurricane Network. These are their stories.

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