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March 23, 2011

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION COMMENDS COURT OF APPEALS FOR ADOPTING 'KATRINA RULE'

Rule allows lawyers to cross state lines to provide pro bono services in a disaster

Should disaster strike in New York, a new judicial rule allows out-of-state attorneys to offer pro bono services to disaster victims in New York.

New York State Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger today commended the state Court of Appeals for acting on the State Bar's recommendation and adopting the so-called "Katrina Rule," named for the devastating hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. 

"When a disaster occurs, it is imperative that citizens have access to critical legal services," said Younger of New York (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP). "I applaud the Court of Appeals for adopting this rule which protects the public and legal system while supporting efforts of lawyers to provide legal services during a time of crisis."

The rule permits out-of-state lawyers to volunteer their legal services in New York when the Court has determined an emergency exists affecting the justice system.
In addition, the rule allows out-of-state attorneys displaced by a disaster in their home states to temporarily practice in New York, enabling them to continue to serve their prior clients. While physically working in this state, they must be affiliated with a New York attorney. The out-of-state attorneys, however, could not appear in court in New York unless otherwise allowed by existing rules. 

The "Katrina Rule" was adopted as an amendment to the Court's pro hac vice admission rule (Rule 520.11).  It is formally known as Model Court Rule on the Provision of Legal Services Following Determination of Major Disaster.  Link: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/CTAPPS/news/nottobar/MajorDisaster.pdf

In February 2007, the American Bar Association (ABA) adopted a similar model rule after Hurricane Katrina.  In June 2007, the House of Delegates of the State Bar Association approved a report by the Association's Committee on Mass Disaster Response recommending that New York adopt a version of the ABA rule.