New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

For Immediate Release

11/12/12

Kate Coscarelli

Sr. Director of Communication

732-937-7548

Free legal hotline for Hurricane Sandy survivors opens today

New Jersey State Bar Association, ABA Young Lawyers Division and FEMA help residents

 

New Brunswick- A toll-free legal aid line is now available for people facing legal issues due to Hurricane Sandy.

 

Residents who cannot afford to pay an attorney can call the help line to request free legal assistance at 888-541-1900, starting at 9 a.m. today (Monday, Nov. 12).

 

The New Jersey State Bar Association, American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have teamed up to provide help to residents. 

 

“Lawyers have a special obligation to give back to the community, and as the state’s largest lawyers group the New Jersey State Bar Association is dedicated to serving as a source of assistance to the public. As they have in other disasters, our volunteer attorneys are ready to help people whose lives have been forever altered by this storm,” said State Bar Association President Kevin P. McCann.

 

The hotline is open to residents who need legal help related to the disaster. Assistance will be available in connection with insurance-related claims, FEMA appeals, landlord-tenant matters and creditor-debtor matters.

 

The way the program works is:

  • Through an intake process, callers will be matched with a volunteer attorney who can provide assistance or general legal information regarding their issue.
  • Callers should identify that they are seeking legal assistance related to Hurricane Sandy.
  • The hotline will be staffed during normal business hours, but messages can be left at any time.

 

The helpline is part of a long-standing partnership between FEMA and the ABA, and is administered by the New Jersey State Bar Association through its Mass Disaster Response Program. The NJSBA's Mass Disaster Response Program volunteers will provide free legal assistance and guidance for immediate legal needs to members of the public arising form Hurricane Sandy. The program cannot handle complext legal matters. If long-term legal representation is needed to resolve legal issues, our staff will help members of the public contact a lawyer referral service program in their area.

 

In addition to the helpline, Volunteer Lawyers for Justice is partnering with the recovery efforts to provide on-location legal guidance. 

 

Legal Services of New Jersey and its regional offices are also providing assistance to lower income New Jersey residents with civil legal problems related to Hurricane Sandy. LSNJ is the state’s leading provider of legal aid to low-income people and is offering assistance through a toll-free hotline, website, and in-person at disaster recovery centers in hard-hit areas. In addition to providing representation, the agency will also study, with the help of a grant from the Robin Hood Foundation, information and data on patterns of problems, the effectiveness of responses, and the adequacy of long-term recovery planning, especially affordable housing related to Hurricane Sandy.

 

Residents can receive direct legal assistance through the hotline by calling calling 888-222-5765 or at lsnjlawhotline.org.

 

Background:

 

When the U.S. president declares a major disaster, FEMA, in cooperation with the ABA YLD, establishes a toll-free number for disaster survivors to request legal assistance. Funding for the toll-free line comes from FEMA under the authority of Section 415 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Public Law 100-107). The ABA YLD, in turn, partners with state bar associations and other legal organizations to recruit volunteer lawyers in affected areas to handle survivors’ cases.

 

Survivors should be aware that there are some limitations on disaster legal services. For example, assistance is not available for cases that will produce a fee (i.e., those cases where attorneys are paid part of the settlement by the court). Such cases are referred to a local lawyers referral service. To determine whether an issue qualifies for free legal assistance, individuals should call 888-541-1900 and report that they are seeking assistance relative to the declare FEMA disaster. Callers will provide information to staff and an attorney will contact the caller after reviewing the information provided by the caller.

 

Partnership members:

 

New Jersey State Bar Association - The NJSBA, incorporated in 1899, is dedicated to the continuing education of lawyers and the public, to reforming the legal system and to aiding in the administration of justice. Visit the Association’s website at www.njsba.com.

 

American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division – The ABA YLD, the largest national organization of young lawyers, provides leadership in serving the public and the profession, and promotes excellence and fulfillment in the practice of law. Its parent organization, the ABA is the national voice of the legal profession and the largest voluntary professional membership group in the world.

 

Federal Emergency Management Agency – FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether nature or man-made, including acts of terror. Through an agreement with the ABA, FEMA underwrites the costs of operating toll-free legal assistance lines for survivors in areas designated as federal disaster sites.

 

Volunteer Lawyers for Justice -- VLJ seeks to improve the lives of economically disadvantaged adults, children, and families in New Jersey by empowering them with tools, advice and pro bono representation with the goal of securing fair and equal treatment within the legal system.

 

Legal Services of New Jersey - (LSNJ), located in Edison, is the coordinating office for the state’s system of Legal Services programs, which provide essential legal aid in civil matters to low-income people in all of the state’s 21 counties. LSNJ has operated a statewide legal hotline, 888-576-5529, for over 15 years, which provides legal advice and representation to low income people in all types of civil legal matters. LSNJ also maintains publicly accessible websites where the general public can learn more about Legal Services and its work and to obtain information on a wide variety of legal issues. Please visit, lsnj.org and lsnjlaw.org.