Thursday, September 01, 2005

The lawlessness won't end with the looting

With gas prices going up to anywhere to $3 to almost $5 a gallon in some areas, it's hard not to see the possible economic impact Katrina will have on our national economy. With daily images of the suffering, the human and psychological toll is just as inescapable.

But if you believe that the legal impact of this disaster will end once the looting stops, you're sadly mistaken.

Prof. Bainbridge reports on the legal impact Katrina has already had on the disaster. I've linked his blog entry so you can read it in its entirety. Consider:

  • 5,000 - 6,000 lawyers (1/3 of the lawyers in Louisiana) have lost their offices, their libraries, their computers with all information thereon, their client files.

  • Countless criminal and civil appeals pending in the state supreme court have likely been washed away as the state supreme court building is under water. And in most courthouses, records are kept in the basement or lower levels of the building.

  • The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals building is under some water - with the same effect. That one building houses all relevant records of every pending federal appeal in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. That doesn't include just attorney's legal briefs, but court records and evidence on matters on appeal. How can any inmate appeal a conviction when the entire record of their trial is washed away?

  • Locally, the city and district courts in as many as 8 parishes/counties are under water, as well as 3 circuit courts - with evidence/files at each of them ruined.

  • The law enforcement offices in those areas are under water - again, with evidence and investigatory filed likely destroyed.

  • 6,000 prisoners in 2 prisons and one juvenile facility are having to be securely relocated. We already have over-crowding at most Louisiana prisons and juvenile facilities. What effect will this have? And what happens when the evidence in their cases has been destroyed? Will the guilty be released upon the communities? Will the innocent not be able to prove their innocence?

  • The state bar offices are under water as are the state disciplinary offices - again with evidence ruined. How many complaints about unethical acts committed by attorneys will go unpunished?

  • Furthermore, and particular interest to me, there's the concern that the recent July bar exam tests were housed there. Prompting Prof. Bainbridge to ask, "Will all of those new graduates have to retake the bar exam?"
So, now you can see that the injustice and lawlessness will not end with the looters.

Simply beyond understanding.

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