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Special Coverage: Katrina's Legal Aftermath


This page contains a special series of columns from FindLaw's Writ addressing legal issues relating to Hurricane Katrina. For further information on hurricane relief, please visit FindLaw's Hurricane Katrina Recovery section. If you are an affected New Orleans resident, please visit

Hurricane Katrina: Will Insurance Cover the Damage? The First Trial Suggests the Answer is Yes and No

FindLaw guest columnist, Washington and Lee law professor, and U. Connecticut visiting law professor Adam Scales -- former chair of the AALS section on Insurance Law -- discusses an important recent decision on insurance coverage, and its limits, regarding damage wreaked to homes by Hurricane Katrina. Scales explains why one couple received a small amount of money themselves, but may have set a precedent that will significant aid others in receiving substantial settlements or verdicts from their insurers.
Friday, Aug. 18, 2006

Voting Rights Challenges in a Post-Katrina World:
With Constituents Dispersed, and Voting Districts Underpopulated, How Should New Orleans Hold Elections?
FindLaw guest columnists Kristen Clarke-Avery, a voting rights attorney, and M. David Gelfand, a former Tulane law professor, comment on the thorny practical and legal issues that are likely to plague upcoming New Orleans federal, state and local elections. With a potentially very large number of absentee ballots, as well as strong racial and political overtones if Congressional voting districts are redrawn, Clarke-Avery and Gelfand recommend ways in which the voting rights of both returned and temporarily relocated New Orleans citizens -- including those whose proof-of-identity documents may have been destroyed or lost -- can be honored.
Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2005

Did Houston Officials Learn Too Much from Katrina? The Salience Fallacy and What to do About it
FindLaw columnist and Columbia law professor Michael Dorf discusses examples of the "salience fallacy" -- decisionmakers' tendency to focus on risks that have been graphically illustrated recently, while ignoring other, potentially greater risks. Using examples ranging from Hurricane Katrina, to the Maginot line, to child airline safety belts, Dorf explains why focusing on recent events can mean policies are not based on a solid cost-benefit balance. He also explains how governments can avoid falling prey to the salience fallacy -- and make sure they are aware of, and properly weight, all the different risks and benefits related to a given policy.
Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2005

Including African-Americans in the Rebuilding of New Orleans:
Minority-Owned Businesses and Minority Employees Should Be Recruited, And Use of the Eminent Domain Power Must Be Scrutinized
FindLaw guest columnist and Florida A&M law professor Barbara Bernier discusses issues involving African-Americans' role -- or, she suggests, the current lack thereof -- in the rebuilding of New Orleans. She argues that evacuees' returns can be enabled, or smoothed, if rebuilding jobs are waiting for them. But she also notes that, given current plans for allocating rebuilding contracts, African-American-owned businesses will very probably be left out, while African-American workers, if hired at all, may legally be underpaid. Bernier also explains how, thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, New Orleans property owners may find that their property is taken against their will, and that they will receive only a pittance in exchange for it.
Tuesday, Sep. 20, 2005

The Need for Caution, Creativity, and Cooperation in Rebuilding New Orleans After the Flood Waters Recede
FindLaw guest columnist and Tulane law professor David Gelfand -- working now from Florida -- assesses important legal issues related to the process of rebuilding New Orleans. He argues first that the issue should be framed as restoration, not reconstruction; bulldozers, he urges, are not the answer. Then Gelfand offers specific suggestions on how communities and property owners can work to resist the aggressive use of the eminent domain power; insist on compensation for both property owners and tenants; make sure in-state residents receive their fair share of rebuilding jobs; and respect the need for, and place of, public transportation.
Monday, Sep. 19, 2005

How Will Homeowners Insurance Litigation After Hurricane Katrina Play Out?
The Key Dynamics, the Mississippi Lawsuit, and the Courts' Likely Views
FindLaw guest columnist, Washington & Lee law professor, and visiting U.Conn. law professor Adam Scales discusses how insurance coverage will likely be granted -- and denied -- in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Scales predicts how courts will confront thorny issues such as those that occur when a policy has a flood exemption, but flood is only one cause of property damage. He also focuses, in particular, on a Mississippi lawsuit brought by the state's attorney general against a number of insurers.
Monday, Sep. 19, 2005

Assessing Anti-Price-Gouging Statutes In The Wake of Hurricane Katrina:
Why They're Necessary in Emergencies, But Need to Be Rewritten
With a number of states not directly affected by Hurricane Katrina nevertheless taking action against alleged gas-price-gouging in its wake, FindLaw columnist and U. Washington professor Anita Ramasastry questions whether anti-price-gouging statutes are too broad. Ramasastry reviews different states' approaches to price-gouging, considers the costs and benefits of allowing prices to rise dramatically in emergencies, and suggests how state anti-price-gouging statutes should be revised to maximize benefits, and reduce costs.
Friday, Sep. 16, 2005

Why Hurricane Katrina's So-Called Looters Were Not Lawless: They Are Entitled to the Well-Established Defense of Necessity
Did New Orleans "looters" actually commit crimes? Florida A&M law professor and FindLaw guest columnist Lundy Langston argues that the answer is no, with respect to those who took, and had to take, necessities. In support of her argument, Langston draws on the well-established criminal law doctrine that necessity can be a defense to property crime. Langston outlines the requirements to assert this defense, and argues they all were fufilled in New Orleans by those who took what they needed. Langston also argues that had police realized that so-called "looting" was legal when necessary, and taken supplies to give them out, then they would likely have been able to keep peace more easily and decrease the instances of self-help, as well as futher helping New Orleans residents.
Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2005

In the Face of a CNN Lawsuit, FEMA Agrees To Allow Media Coverage Of Katrina's Dead:
If the Case Had Proceeded, Who Would Have Won, and Why?
FindLaw columnist, attorney and author Julie Hilden discusses the First Amendment issues that were raised when FEMA, first, officially asked journalists not to photograph the Hurricane Katrina dead, and then adopted a "zero access" policy with respect such photographs. These FEMA actions led to a lawsuit by CNN, and then to the policy being reversed. But if the suit had gone forward, would CNN have won? Hilden argues that -- despite concerns for the privacy of the deceased and the sensibilities of families that might see the photos -- CNN's First Amendment argument would very probably have prevailed.
Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2005

The Response to the Disaster In New Orleans:
Will There Be a Compensation Program Similar to the 9/11 Victims’ Fund?
With so many of the people of New Orleans dead, dying, or hurt, and allegations flying that the government could have done more to help them, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok asks, Will -- and should -- there be a Hurricane Katrina victims' fund, similar to the fund Congress created for 9/11 victims and their families? Sebok predicts there won't be such a fund, and gives several reasons why, deriving both from the contrast between Katrina and 9/11 and the background legal and political landscape. But he notes that from a moral perspective, some Katrina victims may have claims to compensation just as strong as those of some 9/11 victims.
Monday, Sep. 05, 2005

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