Natural Disasters

Disaster response news from the ABA Journal, American Bar Association legal resources, volunteering opportunities and disaster helplines.

Hurricane Florence/Sasa Kadrijevic via NASA (

Afternoon Briefs: SCOTUS won’t review abortion ultrasound law; 9th Circuit edits its Taylor Swift decision

Supreme Court won’t review Kentucky abortion law requiring ultrasounds

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to hear a challenge to a Kentucky law requiring doctors to display fetal ultrasounds and…

Lawyers are unleashing a flurry of lawsuits to step up the fight against climate change

Traditionally relegated to the statutory realm of environmental and administrative law, a cadre of attorneys and legal scholars has given the climate change issue a creative facelift that may change the legal landscape—and, they say, could determine the fate of humanity.

Courts in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas announce closings for Hurricane Dorian

Several courts in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina already have announced closings as Hurricane Dorian approached off the coast.

You can find state court closings here in Florida,…

Florida Supreme Court posts court closures for Hurricane Dorian

The Florida Supreme Court is gathering information on court closures in advance of Hurricane Dorian hitting the state.

The court’s website indicates that courts in some counties were closing…

Alaska Supreme Court asks for pro bono help from around the country for earthquake survivors

On Nov. 30, Alaska residents experienced a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. While there were no casualties, there have been nearly 5,000 aftershocks since. This has resulted in ongoing damage coupled with…

ABA House OKs resolutions on criminal justice, LGBT rights, immigration issues

The policymaking body of the American Bar Association passed a slate of criminal justice resolutions, including ones on clarifying expungement procedures, tightening child abuse laws and ensuring female prisoners have access to toilet paper and feminine hygiene products.

Solos and small firms need to prepare for death and disaster
During a Thursday morning ABA Techshow panel, “Planning for Tomorrow, Today,” Peter Roberts, a private practice management consultant from Washington state, said that succession planning starts with hiring practices.
ABA House condemns government shutdown, opposes any diversion of disaster-relief funds
In two late resolutions, the ABA House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to condemn government shutdowns and oppose withholding or diversion of emergency relief funds.
Possible $30B tab for California wildfires spurs utility company to elevate GC, prepare for bankruptcy filing

The Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced plans to file for bankruptcy protection Monday as it informed the Securities and Exchange Commission that its possible liability for California wildfires in…

Trump considers using disaster aid for border wall; who will sue?
Lawsuits are being threatened as President Donald Trump reportedly considers using money for disaster aid or military construction projects to build his border wall without congressional approval.
Two high-profile law firms file class action blaming utility company for deadly Camp Fire

Two law firms known for their class action practices have filed a new lawsuit that blames Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for the November fire that killed at least 88…

New ethics opinion offers timely reminder of lawyers’ duties after disasters

ABA Formal Opinion 482 addresses rules that lawyers must consider. Lawyers must follow the duty of communication required by Rule 1.4 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires lawyers to communicate regularly with clients and keep them apprised of their cases. The duty of competency requires lawyers to consider the benefits and risks of relevant technology.

Federal judge orders utility company to explain any role it had in causing California wildfires
A federal judge has ordered Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to reveal what role, if any, it had in causing the Camp Fire that destroyed the California town of Paradise and killed at least 88 people.
ABA announces hotlines for California fire victims; state bar warns of fraud as first suits filed

The ABA has announced new legal assistance hotlines for victims of California wildfires in Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The number for fire victims in Butte County is 1-800-345-9491,…

Hotline for Hurricane Michael victims in Georgia is now operating

A legal-help hotline for survivors of Hurricane Michael is now available as a result of a partnership between the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division and other groups.

The number is 1-866-584-8027…

Disaster Response Resources
Volunteering Opportunities

Florida attorneys can visit the Florida Bar Foundation to find post-storm volunteer opportunities for legal aid and pro bono attorneys, or visit Florida Pro Bono Matters.

North Carolina attorneys can find info on volunteering on the North Carolina Bar's Hurricane Florence page.

South Carolina attorneys can volunteer for the South Carolina Bar's disaster relief legal service hotline by filling out this form.

Not licensed in those states but looking to donate your time or money? Check out

ABA Journal Coverage
Disaster Helplines

The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is a national hotline dedicated to providing year-round disaster crisis counseling. This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 via telephone (1-800-985-5990) and SMS (text 'TalkWithUs' to 66746) to residents in the U.S. and its territories who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural or man-made disasters.

For low-income individuals with disaster-related legal needs, the following phone numbers are available:
North Carolina residents: 1-833-242-3549
South Carolina residents: 1-877-797-2227 ext. 120
Virginia residents: 1-804-775-0808 in the Richmond area, or 1-800-552-7977.
Florida residents: 1-866-550-2929.