Natural Disasters

Lawyers licensed outside Texas can provide help to Harvey victims, Texas high court order says

  • Print.

Texas Supreme Court Building

The Texas Supreme Court building in Austin. Photo by WhisperToMe, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an emergency order allowing out-of-state lawyers to practice in the state temporarily to provide pro bono assistance to Hurricane Harvey victims.

The order (PDF) allows out-of-state lawyers in good standing to practice in Texas for six months in two situations, the Texas Bar Blog reports.

First, practice is allowed if the out-of-state lawyer is retained by a legal-aid or pro bono program or a bar association that provides services to victims of Hurricane Harvey. Lawyers who want to help should fill out a temporary registration form here.

Second, lawyers licensed in other jurisdictions are allowed to practice in Texas if they are displaced from their home jurisdiction due to Hurricane Harvey and they practice in Texas remotely as if located in their home jurisdiction.

The Texas Supreme Court has also issued two other orders in response to Hurricane Harvey. One allows for changes in deadlines and procedures in courts affected by the disaster. The other suspends statutes of limitation in civil cases if claimants can show disastrous conditions from Harvey prevented timely filing.

Saundra Brown, the manager of the disaster response unit at Lone Star Legal Aid, says the need for legal assistance “is going to be huge,” (sub. req.) reports. Brown spoke with the ABA Journal about her group’s work.

Many lawyers with Lone Star Legal Aid are working remotely, while many senior managers are working in Texarkana. The group’s headquarters in Houston was damaged on Monday in an apparent explosion and fire.

Lawyers will be needed for disaster appeals with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to help people secure temporary housing, to get money for home repairs, and to deal with insurance claims, Brown told the ABA Journal.

Out-of-state lawyers can help with the FEMA appeals, which are administrative in nature, Brown said. The group’s website is here. Additional help for legal aid and volunteer lawyers responding to disaster is at the National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center.

The ABA Young Lawyers Division is running disaster legal aid hotlines for both Texas and Louisiana. The Texas 800 number is (800) 504-7030, and the Louisiana number is (800) 310-7029. The division’s Harvey relief web page has information on volunteer recruitment.

Andrew VanSingel is director of the YLD’s Disaster Legal Services Program, which has operated in some form since the early 1970s. He tells the ABA Journal in the podcast that he has been bombarded with emails from lawyers across the country who want to help Harvey victims.

Texas lawyers who want to volunteer will be referred to the State Bar of Texas, which has links to lawyer information here. Out-of-state lawyers without practice-area expertise or the time to handle cases may want to consider donating money to groups such as Lone Star Legal Aid, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, VanSingel said.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.