Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Out of state lawyers authorized to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina

September 9, 2005

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Friday, Sept. 9, authorized lawyers licensed in other states to practice in Mississippi if they are providing free legal assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The Mississippi Bar petitioned the court for permission to allow out of state lawyers to provide emergency legal assistance to hurricane victims through the Mississippi Bar Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Assistance Program.

The Supreme Court in an order signed by Chief Justice James W. Smith Jr. said, “Having considered the petition, the Court finds that the extraordinary circumstances faced by the victims of hurricane Katrina require emergency action and that the petition should be granted to the extent set forth herein.”

The legal services must be provided free. No fee-generating legal practice is permitted. Practice areas are limited to matters arising out of the hurricane disaster. Out-of-state attorneys volunteering their time must submit an affidavit to the Mississippi Bar showing that they are licensed and in good standing with the bar in another state and meet other required criteria.

Hundreds of lawyers from other states have volunteered to help, said Jackson attorney Amanda Jones, president of the Young Lawyers Division of the Mississippi Bar. But the Supreme Court had to enter an order to allow them to practice in the state.

Chief Justice Smith said after signing the order, “We are most grateful for the response we have received from the bar and the judiciary in our sister states. We have been inundated with phone calls and e-mails offering help. We are most grateful and humbled by these offers of help.”

Jones said offers of assistance have poured in, and much outside help is needed. “This disaster was of such magnitude that it may be difficult for our Mississippi attorneys to be able to provide all of the legal assistance to all of the folks who need it,” Jones said.

Hurricane victims have sought answers to questions about landlord-tenant matters, mortgage payments, consumer finance, insurance, unemployment benefits and school attendance, Jones said.

As of Friday, 370 Mississippi licensed lawyers had volunteered their time to staff Disaster Legal Assistance tables at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Recovery Centers and to answer calls on the Hurricane Katrina Disaster Legal Assistance Hotline. The hotline number is 1-866-255-4495.

Lawyers are answering the hotline now. Soon, law students at Mississippi College School of Law and the University of Mississippi School of Law are expected to begin helping do call intake on the hotline. The intake people will gather basic information about the caller and the nature of the problem, and a volunteer lawyer will follow up.

Volunteer lawyers are staffing Disaster Legal Assistance tables at three MEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in Jackson County. They are located at the old K-Mart building in Ocean Springs, at Pascagoula High School and at Pelican Landing in Moss Point, Jones said.

As many as 15 Disaster Legal Assistance tables are expected to be in operation by next week around the Gulf Coast.

For more legal updates related to Hurricane Katrina, visit the News page of the web site of the Mississippi Supreme Court at, and the web site of the Mississippi Bar at