Prof. Bainbridge reprints most of an e-mail that brings home the devastation that Hurricane Katrina has caused the legal system in and around New Orleans:
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 - possibly their clients, as one attorney who e-mailed me noted. As I mentioned before, they are scattered from Florida to Arizona and have nothing to return to. Their children's schools are gone and, optimistically, the school systems in 8 parishes/counties won't be re-opened until after December. They must re-locate their lives.
Our state supreme court is under some water - with all appellate files and evidence folders/boxes along with it. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals building is under some water - with the same effect. Right now there may only be 3-4 feet of standing water but, if you think about it, most files are kept in the basements or lower floors of courthouses. What effect will that have on the lives of citizens and lawyers throughout this state and this area of the country? And on the law?
And, of course, the law students, law professors, administrators, and staff at Tulane and LSU are also hit hard by the hurricane.
With regard to the status of cases, I'm reminded of the post-9/11 time frame. One of the cases that I was working on was a matter set for arbitration before the NASD. NASD sent out a notice to (I think) all litigants to the effect that a free continuance of several months would be granted upon request, the theory being that the destruction of the World Trade Center (and with it, offices, paperwork, etc. relevant to ongoing matters) might necessitate a delay in litigation to allow documents, etc. to be reconstructed.
Of course, that was just the litigants, whereas what the e-mailed quoted by Prof. Bainbridge is talking about is destruction on a much wide scale . . . .